David Adams: Infectious Diseases Alumnus

David Adams studied MSc Infectious Diseases by distance learning in 2009 and now he has the position of Instructor in Social and Natural Sciences at Point University in Savannah. He is an active member of the alumni community and has recently released a textbook on the fundamentals of infectious diseases from a public health perspective. Here he describes his experiences as a distance learning student and his reasons behind writing the book.

Describe your time at LSHTM.

One of my colleagues, an Australian, was the one who recommended the LSHTM. He said to me, “Adams, the LSHTM is looking for people like you with backgrounds in public health, epidemiology, medical sociology, and history of medicine. You should apply.” I must have given him a puzzled look because he—I should add that he was my boss—said he would repeat himself. “Adams, you’re not hearing me. You should apply.” I quickly realised that I really should apply—and I did.

I enjoyed being a distance learning student. I tend to be very task-oriented and self-motivated, so working through the courses was easy for me. With that said, I was a product of an American-style educational system. Although I had done some post-graduate work at McGill University in Canada, acclimatising myself to the British system (more formal in comparison with the American – and even Canadian – ones) took some time. The infectious diseases courses were wonderfully arranged; their curricula were clearly written.

My most memorable story occurred during my first year of studies. When I arrived at my first alumni reception, I was introduced to Sir Andrew Haines (at that time, Director of LSHTM). Well, I had never met someone with a title. I said, “Sir Andrew, it is an honour to meet you.” He shook my hand, grinned, and said, “You can call me Andy.” I paused – trying not to look to much like a bumpkin – and said, “Well, Andy. Please call me Dave.” We talked for a few minutes, sipped our drinks, and went about the rest of the evening. When I returned to my hotel room, I penned a “thank you” note to Sir Andrew for his hospitality at the reception. I thought that would be the end of it. Not so! Several weeks later, I received a letter in the mail from Sir Andrew. He had invited me to be on some sort of “student representative” on a committee named American Friends of the LSHTM. I accepted and served for several years. I was deeply honoured!

LSHTM allowed me to integrate my interests in history and sociology of medicine, epidemiology, and infectious diseases. I am now as active as possible in the Atlanta, Georgia LSHTM Alumni Chapter. I have also attended several receptions at the British Consul’s residence in Atlanta; these events are usually well attended by local alumni.

Where has your career taken you since leaving LSHTM?

Shortly after I graduated from LSHTM, a major publisher contacted me to ask if I had ever thought about doing an infectious disease textbook. Frankly, I had never really thought about it. I’m glad that person called! I had already published two monographs, one on penicillin rationing on the American home front during WWII (“The Greatest Good to the Greatest Number”: Penicillin Rationing on the American Home Front, 1940-1945) and one on the American Board of Family Practice (American Board of Family Practice: A History) but never a textbook. I will say it has been an interesting experience.

My textbook is on the fundamentals of infectious diseases from a public health perspective. The text is by no means comprehensive. Nonetheless, it highlights the field of infectious diseases from an interdisciplinary perspective that incorporates the key areas of public health, e.g., epidemiology, the socio-historical contexts of infectious diseases, and global health perspectives.

I’ve had a wonderful career teaching undergraduates, post-graduates, and medical students. I am most proud, however, of my studies at LSHTM. I am unsure at this point what I hope to achieve in the future. I would like to write more on the socio-historical contexts of infectious diseases.

My advice to current students would be to take full advantage of the wonderful opportunities afforded by studying at LSHTM.

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