As 2019 winds down

As 2019 winds down, I have a few thoughts. First, I’m so grateful to have a job as an infectious diseases doctor. Our field is fascinating and rapidly changing, from HIV and tuberculosis to other pathogens. For example, a recent report on the emergence in Australia of shigella that is resistant to all commonly used oral antibiotics. The increased prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections is a major public health threat.

As a practicing physician, I’m also frequently reminded of the importance of the social determinants of health such as housing, food insecurity, transportation, and employment. That was highlighted by a tour of Boston I participated in in April, where we saw a young woman on a city sidewalk being revived from an overdose. A “moral budget” is urgently needed to prevent more suffering.

Finally, on a personal note, my Aunt Mary Ann died in April at the age of 77. From her obituary:

Mary Ann Lederer was born on the Fourth of July in 1941. Degreed from the University of Cincinnati in sociology and community planning, she began her career as a social worker. In the early 1960s, she became active in the civil rights movement, picketing a public swimming pool that denied admission based on race, and participating in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

In 1976, she survived a life-threatening injury that left her paralyzed for life from the waist down. Although not expected to ever be able to live alone again or even live many years, she managed to do both. Rather than surrender to the injury, she intensified her commitment to peace and social justice, and to painting about those issues. Although untrained as an artist, many of her paintings have been exhibited at various public venues and sold in Cincinnati.

My aunt had strong beliefs, and once wrote:


I want to live in a world where all the food is freshly grown; where meals are works of Nature’s generous abundance and perfection and this is available for everyone; where every living being is cherished and respected; where air is clean and soil is rich; where every house, chair, blanket, rug, pot and article of clothing is comfortable, useful, and wonderfully beautiful; where every child has trees to climb and time to spend on mountains, lakes, and river banks; where parents raise their own children, where they have children because they want to raise them; where neighbors care and share; and where every landscape makes one gasp with excitement for the loveliness of it. I want to live in a place where people love life, because life is so precious and enjoyable, and people are grateful to be alive. This is the world I paint.


Extensively Drug-Resistant Shigellosis in Australia among Men Who Have Sex with Men, NEJM 12/19/19

Boston’s Truth and Poverty “Spill the Tea” Tour, 2019, Mass Peace Action, 5/3/19.

Call grows for moral budget to see to human needs, Boston Globe 8/23/19

Screen Shot 2019-12-21 at 9.05.55 PM
One of Mary Ann’s paintings

2 thoughts on “As 2019 winds down

  1. Thank you very much for keeping us informed. I’m sorry, Phil, for you and your family, in the passing of your aunt. I believe we, too, lost a wonderfully thoughtful and gifted woman. Seasons blessings, this year and always.

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