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Message from the Chief

The Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine (IDGM) at UT Southwestern Medical Center has a rich history and tradition of excellence, beginning with the legacy of the founding division chief Dr. Jay Sanford, one of the ‘fathers’ of modern Infectious Disease practice. The institution continues to take pride in its strong tradition of clinical excellence and impressive depth in both basic science and clinical translational research.

Strategically positioned in Dallas, Texas, we are the home to the country’s 4th busiest airport, our state serves as a gateway to Central and South America, and we rest on a geographic crossroads that encompasses infectious diseases pathology associated with both the East Coast and West. In this unique environment, the IDGM Division promotes excellence in clinical care, research and innovative discovery, and teaching and education. The clinical cases we see never cease to amaze, and our team of dedicated physicians treat an astounding breadth and diversity of patients in the hospitals and clinics of Parkland, Clements University Hospital, and the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System.

For this reason, it should surprise no one that Dallas and UT Southwestern has the pride of place for hosting many “firsts in IDGM”:

  • 1952: A patient was admitted to Parkland Hospital with rabies, acquired by a bat. This case represented the first case of rabies transmitted by North American bats.
  • 2009: The influenza pandemic strain H1N1 hit hard and early in North Texas
  • 2012: Dallas experienced the largest outbreak of West Nile Virus Infection in North America.
  • 2014: A local Dallas hospital provided care for a case of Ebola, and two subsequent health care workers developed Ebola. The patients were transferred to NIH and Emory for additional care only after the virus was eliminated from the patient’s blood.
  • 2016: The first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus was described in Dallas.

Robert Haley, M.D., current UT Southwestern faculty and Chief of Epidemiology, is largely credited with founding the modern US hospital infection surveillance system, NNIS, and establishing the importance of hospital infection control from the landmark SENIC study. Beth Levine, M.D.—current Director of the Center for Autophagy Research (and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator), as well as a former Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases—has made landmark contributions to the field with her discovery of the mammalian autophagy gene, beclin 1 and the description of its role in tumor suppression, longevity, and antimicrobial host defense. Today, our faculty’s research contributions include: the epidemiology of Saint Louis encephalitis and respiratory diseases in healthcare workers, novel mechanisms to prevent prosthetic joint infectious, the pathogenesis of diabetic skin and bone infections, strategies to improve the care of patients living with HIV and prevent their admissions to hospital, diagnostics for Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, and the pathogenesis of M. tuberculosis, just to name a few. Beyond the division, we have rich collaborations with our partners and colleagues in the nationally-recognized Departments of Microbiology, Immunology, and Biochemistry, with wide-ranging expertise in the intestinal microbiome, host-pathogen interactions, viral pathogenesis, and malarial drug design along with many other exciting ID-related areas of scientific discovery.

The future—given the rich history and bright future of the Division and our city—offers limitless opportunities. At the confluence of so many geographic, social, scientific and cultural influences, Dallas will likely remain at the forefront of emerging Infectious Diseases. Our Division, with its remarkable strength in the biological sciences and clinical medicine, will continue to lead in both discovery science and novel translational platforms for the study and management of infections, while training the future thought leaders and influencers who will change the global face, understanding and treatment of infectious diseases.