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Risk

STD King

By Jonathan Zenilman

Back in the 1980s, there was this idea that practicing public health with a city and practicing in an academic setting were completely different things, and "ne'er the twain shall meet."

David Glasser, who then was assistant commissioner and directed the Baltimore City Health Department's Bureau of Disease Control, disagreed. And he set out to re-create a different model, more like the way things were in public health in the 1930s.

It wasn't easy. I mean, when you go into some health departments even today and start talking about doing research, some of them look at you as if you're going to steal their babies. But these are real concerns they have: time, money and training. And folks wonder: Are you using our data and our patients to climb on our back and get famous?

So when I got here in 1989, I found this partnership. We were working hard on both sides to get past all that stuff and work together. We've had our ups and downs over the years in some of those discussions with the Health Department, but they're always good discussions. And we've done good work together, too. We did the first program in the city to provide HIV counseling and testing in the 1980s. We did the first program to deliver HIV care in sexually transmitted disease clinics. We've done groundbreaking stuff with syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections. In fact, I would argue that the uniqueness and productivity of this relationship is much better known outside of Baltimore than it is here in town. People in other cities really want to know what's the secret to making it work.

Jonathan Zenilman, MD, is a professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

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