Get UNLV School of Medicine stories, events, and news everyday!
BREAKING NEWS...

Dean Atkinson and UNLV leadership scheduled to travel to Carson City this week to speak before a legislative budget committee.

Graduate Medical Education Department granted “continued accreditation” by Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. GME had previously received “initial accreditation.”

Two former resident physicians will return to the UNLV SOM.  Dr. Joshua Goldman and Dr. Ashley Pistorio will join the plastic surgery department. Both surgeons left Las Vegas after completing residencies to get specialty fellowship training, but are returning to become faculty physicians with UNLV School of Medicine.
MAKING THE ROUNDS WITH FOUNDING DEAN BARBARA ATKINSON
 Issue 179 - Jan 22nd, 2019
If a child has a recurring or persistent disease caused by an infectious agent such as those caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist has the training to understand the unique signs and symptoms of even the most complex infectious diseases in children. At the UNLV School of Medicine and our clinical arm, UNLV Medicine, we are honored to have Dr. David Di John in this very important role. Prior to his arrival in Southern Nevada in 2014, he taught clinical pediatrics for 18 years at New York University Medical center, served as director of pediatric infectious diseases at New York’s Flushing Hospital Medical Center and directed a pediatric AIDS clinic in New York City. I’m sure you’ll enjoy learning more about this man, whose vast experience and calm demeanor provide an extra measure of comfort to the people he treats.
Barbara signature, first name only
Dr. David Di John: Passionate About Serving the Underserved
Born and raised in New York City, Dr. David Di John is now one of the leading physicians in Nevada when it comes to treating children with infectious diseases including HIV
The son of a physician who worked at a VA medical center in New York City, David Di John listened carefully to what his father told him about his work, about how through the practice of medicine he was able to help the men and women who, often at great personal sacrifice, had served their country.

While Di John was immersed in the sciences at New York’s Stuyvesant High School -- the school specializing in science, mathematics and technology has been seen as a symbol of excellence in public education for more than a century -- his father’s observations gave a sense of direction to the idealistic young man who wanted to become a contributor, a builder, a genuine worker on behalf of humanity.

“With the help of my father and teachers, I could see how the sciences, how medicine afforded an opportunity to better people’s lives,” said Di John, who’s now been a physician for 37 years.

He did his undergraduate work in pre-med at Columbia, the Ivy League school in Manhattan where former President Barack Obama also earned a bachelor’s degree. It was at Columbia that Di John’s commitment to public service became pronounced. He headed a community service council that worked with students from humble backgrounds.

“We went into their households to work with them,” Dr. Di John said. “We got to know their families. What I tried to do with kids is show them what was possible in a great city, what could have an impact on them educationally. We would bring them around campus, took them to important places like museums that they had never been to. One time we took them to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where they boarded a submarine and were able to speak with the crew. They might have been from Harlem but they had never even been to Brooklyn or Queens, never ventured out of their own neighborhoods. I wanted to expand their horizons.”

That community work with young people, coupled with the fact that he enjoyed his pediatric rotations the most while at the George Washington School of Medicine in the nation’s capital, pushed him to specialize in pediatrics. During medical school, he had the opportunity to go overseas, to the west African nation of Gambia, to learn about tropical medicine. He saw patients with malaria and leprosy, and rural hospitals that were so crowded that children had to lie on blankets on the floor. Once he worked with a lethargic boy who had been left to die. “I was able to diagnose him with meningococcal meningitis and started treatment but I had to leave before I found out whether he lived or not,” Dr. Di John recalled. “The inadequacy of care was obvious.”
“You would see heartbreaking things -- a child who once was speaking and walking would become unable to talk or walk and be in a wheelchair or completely bedridden before they died.”
The work with infectious diseases while in medical school propelled Di John to pursue a fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases through the University of Maryland. In addition to learning how to treat immune deficiency diseases, he was trained to diagnose and administer appropriate treatment to youngsters who have viral, bacterial or fungal infections.

He also was trained to work with diseases that were complicated or atypical, including: illnesses that are of unclear cause, have prolonged fever, or are recurrent; respiratory infections; bo ne and joint infections; tuberculosis; acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); hepatitis, and meningitis.

During his fellowship, Di John thought seriously about working in international medicine, possibly working for the World Health Organization. At one point, while working with indigenous Indians in Venezuela, he was part of an effort to develop a malaria vaccine.

As it turned out, particularly with the explosion of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, there was plenty for a new pediatric infectious diseases specialist to do in the United States.

He returned to his hometown of New York City, becoming highly regarded not only as a clinician but as an academic for nearly 20 years. His research, often dealing with HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, was published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, Journal of Pediatrics, and Clinical Pediatrics.

In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Di John said there were many instances of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which led to children dying young. “You would see heartbreaking things -- a child who once was speaking and walking would become unable to talk or walk and be in a wheelchair or completely bedridden before they died.”

Seeing that loss of milestones in a child, Di John said, took a toll on him and his team. “It was a very difficult thing to see, when you couldn’t really treat them,” he said.”There wasn’t much to offer those patients back then.”

Fortunately, Di John said, with the passage of time “there has been explosion of new drugs” to deal with HIV/AIDS. “Some years ago, I treated a girl in New York who had been infected at birth with HIV, who later had a baby of her own who was not infected. While now much more common, that was quite remarkable when I first saw it.”

In 2014, in pursuit of a new opportunity -- “there was talk then of the opening of a new medical school in Las Vegas” -- Di John moved to Nevada, becoming the section chief of pediatric Infectious diseases with the University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine. In 2017 he took the same position with the new UNLV School of Medicine and later that year, when the need arose for new leadership, he became the program director for the UNLV Medicine Maternal Child Wellness Program, which is charged with caring for HIV infected and exposed infants, children and adolescents in southern Nevada.

“We’ve come a long way in treating pediatric infectious diseases,” said Dr. Di John, who enjoys teaching pediatric residents. “I’m excited to see what the future will bring to help even more children.”
MEDICINE BY THE NUMBERS
36.9 Million
There were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS in 2017.
About 5,000 new infections per day


MISSED A NEWSLETTER?
All previous issues of  Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson , are available on our website.
To become a subscriber to the UNLV School of Medicine newsletter, Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson click here .
Get UNLV School of Medicine stories, events, and news everyday!