View Full Version : Help with medical doctor vocation.

03-17-2007, 03:45 AM
I need to know the name given to a doctor who studies infectious pathogens. You know, disease. I've googled and missed it. I need the title--the best of the best. Where would the most prestigious doctor of this vocation most likely hail from? John Hopkins? Some other institute?

Thanks in advance,


03-17-2007, 04:09 AM

Tish Davidson
03-17-2007, 04:41 AM
He might work at one of the high security labs at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. (High security both so that the pathogens don't spread to the general public and so that they don't get stolen by terrorist types).

03-17-2007, 04:51 AM
Ah, that sounds like the study. Yes, I thought about the Center for Disease Control. Would the top dog also carry a title, like Director?


03-17-2007, 04:54 AM
In addition to Johns Hopkins, Harvard Medical and Mayo.

03-17-2007, 05:26 AM
for infectious pathogens: a microbiologist. the degree would be a PhD.

03-17-2007, 05:30 AM
If you want your doctor to work for the government, he could be a director of one of the National Institutes of Health - maybe director of NAIAD (http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/about/directors/biography/director.htm) or even the whole NIH (http://www.nih.gov/about/director/index.htm).

03-17-2007, 05:33 AM
You could make him Surgeon General too, in addition to his specialty.

Silver King
03-17-2007, 05:42 AM
I need to know the name given to a doctor who studies infectious pathogens.
Two members who may be able to help narrow your choices, Tri, are DrSpork and ColoradoGuy. They seem to know their stuff when it comes to questions dealing in specific medical fields.

Tsu Dho Nimh
03-17-2007, 05:18 PM
I need to know the name given to a doctor who studies infectious pathogens. You know, disease. I've googled and missed it. I need the title--the best of the best. Where would the most prestigious doctor of this vocation most likely hail from? John Hopkins? Some other institute?

What is this doctor going to be doing in your plot? The days of the solo doctor fighting an epidemic died with Noguchi.

The doc's med school is less important than where they are working now.

Microbiologist or Virologist (non-MD) (isolates the germs)
Pathologist (after the peple are dead, studies what the germ did to them)
Epidemiologist (studying the spread, preventing the spread)

There are also a swarm of other specialties involved - molecular biochemistry, genetics, immunology, pharmacology

Tish Davidson
03-18-2007, 02:55 AM
The guy could be an MD, a PhD, or an MD/PhD (yes, there actually are people who to school so long they get both degrees). His title would depend on what you wanted him to do. Is he and administrative type or a hand-on lab scientist?

This link describes the levels of security in the biohazzard labs at the CDC


This link describes the titles and jobs of the top people at the CDC

This link gives you the titles and job responsibilities of scientists farther down the food chain

03-18-2007, 03:22 AM
I agree with the posters above: it all depends upon what you want the character to do. Formally, infectious diseases is a subspecialty of the specialties of either pediatrics or internal medicine. The pathway for someone who wants to be a clinician doing that, a physician (as opposed to a medical microbiologist who works in a lab, who is generally a Ph.D. but may be a clinical pathologist, who is an M.D.) is as follows:

Medical school: 4 years (after college)
Residency (pediatrics or internal medicine): 3 years (take a certifying test)
Fellowship in infectious diseases: 3 years (take another certifying test)

Virtually all medical centers have physicians trained like this. For comparison, the TV character in House went this pathway. They don't have a special handle like gastroenterologist, cardiologist, etc. -- mostly we just call them the "ID specialist." (or the bug guy)

04-02-2007, 12:15 AM
The correct term is Infectious Disease as in: ID doctor or ID specialist. The poster above is spot on about the training requirements. This actually happens to be my specialty. What exactly is it that you want to know?

A few random possibly helpful things:

This is a very small field. There are only 110 adult ID fellows that graduate every year in the US. About 15 in pediatric ID. So we pretty much all know one another or have friends in common.

The training programs tend to cluster in large medical centers. Hopkins, Mayo, Baylor, and UCSF are all very highly respected. If your character wants to have an interest in HIV they might come from UCSF or New York City. For a listing of all training programs in the country by stats and specialty check out the AMA website database:

This is a low paying subspeciatly (lucky me :) but I love my job) so the folk in it tend to be... how to put this... we are the geeks of medicine. If the surgeons are the football players and the dermatologist are the prep school crowd, we're the chess club. That means that you tend to meet some real characters, and that in general we are doing what we love because if we didn't love it we would all have gone back to do a radiology residency.

We don't do proceedures (thus the low-paying aspect of the field). So if you want your character to be sticking needles into people make sure they have some training in interventional radiology. There are very few real ID emergencies. I think I've had to go in to the hospital at night once in the past year. We tend to drive small fuel-efficient cars and vote democratic ;)

Hope this helps!

04-02-2007, 02:11 AM
Thank you very much Arien. I have a paranormal thriller, or fantasy, take your pick, in where a character is a healthy carrier. Though, he carries every conceiveable infectious disease known to man in one massive soup within his body. Don't ask me to explain that, it's a generational thing, Hah! Any way this carrier has become a hit man, and farms himself out. All he has to do is touch someone or exhale near them for them to be infected. The touch is nearly instantaneous death. As a reward for a hit that he must perform, he tells the source that he wants the greatest specialist in world to find a cure for him so he can be rid of this dreaded condition. As it is, he can't even have a kitten nuzzle his ankle without killing it. So, I was looking for the top gun specialist who might see this man and ATTEMPT some kind of treatment. Although I'm quite aware now that it would be a small team effort to accomplish this.

I've worked all of this out and have made it biological feasible--at least in a fantasy setting.

This dastardly character is called Wax Man.



04-03-2007, 05:06 AM
Neat concept.

Sounds like your expert would need to the head of an ID department at a big academic medical center. A lot depends on the needs of your story. If you want a well-known big shot in the field have him head up a division at the CDC or the NIAID (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NIAID). If you are going for a more low key, under cover type of expert make him the chief of medicine at any of the big academic centers. Put him at the end of his career with his own research lab. This would give him the standing within the institution to go off and do random stuff like help out your protagonist and a place for him to do it.

04-03-2007, 08:03 AM
Oh, great idea. This would have to be done covertly. An ID specialist would be totally agog at finding such a patient with this affliction, and it would have to be kept under raps.