Pioneering AIDS doctor to bring his story

By Alexis Schulz

One of the first physicians in the United States to treat AIDS patients is coming to Rider on April 15 in conjunction with a new minor in Health Communication.

In the early 1980s, at the UCSF Medical Center, Dr. Marcus Conant identified Kaposi’s sarcoma, a tumor based skin disorder, as a key indicator of HIV infection. He opened one of the largest private AIDS clinics in San Francisco.

Julia Ernst, who teaches health communication, said Conant can give students a real-world perspective of how AIDS can affect their lives.

“He was in the trenches at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic,” said Ernst.  “He can speak to 30-plus years of history because he has seen it all.”

Ernst met Conant when she was writing an article for a dermatology journal about the skin complications of HIV.

“Nearly 90% of AIDS and HIV patients are affected by skin symptoms, so it’s a really big issue for dermatologists,” said Ernst.  “When I was writing the article, I called him and we ended up talking about the article, and what I hoped to do with my career.”

Conant has been an advocate for AIDS patients since the start of the epidemic, and his work has contributed to the development of top HIV medications.

“He is very pivotal in the epidemic, but he is very kind-hearted and humble despite that,” said Ernst. “I think it’s a great opportunity for students to hear about a really huge event in history that had a lot of impact and continues to have impact from someone who worked through it.”

Ernst said that every student can take away something from this lecture.

“AIDS is spread through human contact and that’s a big part of sociology,” Ernst said. “For the biology department, this is a huge opportunity for them to hear about an ongoing issue in health. For communication and journalism majors, it’s a constant conversation in the health communication field. And in general, it’s useful for business majors who want to get into pharmaceuticals or work within the business of a large hospital or large health organization.”

“I’m excited for this event because I think it is great that Rider is able to have a doctor come to speak and enlighten students about AIDS and developing treatments,” said Carlee Adams, freshman accounting major.

The Department of Communication and Journalism will be hosting the event in North Hall 202. Light refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m., with the lecture starting at 7 p.m., followed by questions from the audience.

“Student will learn what the issues were then, what they are now, and what steps we still have to take to deal with this disease,” said Ernst.


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