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IDWeek Is Alive With the Sound of Music

By Myles Helfand

October 18, 2012

If you asked 100 HIV clinicians and researchers what the Von Trapp family has to do with HIV/AIDS, 99 would probably stare at you like you're insane.

The 100th would be Trip Gulick.

Gulick -- more formally known as Roy M. "Trip" Gulick, M.D., a professor of medicine and the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Weill Medical College of Cornell University -- took the stage at the opening session of the inaugural IDWeek conference to accept the HIV Medicine Association's annual HIV Clinical Educator Award. He then promptly showed the audience of several thousand exactly why he'd earned that distinction -- and in so doing, set a bar (several bars, actually, as well as an octave or two) for medical conference speeches that will be awfully hard to meet.

"When you read, you begin with --" he said, gesturing to the crowd.

The audience, largely confused, sat in silence. A few people recognized the reference and tentatively responded, "A-B-C." Gulick repeated the line; more in the audience responded.

And then he broke into song.

"When it's AIDS, you begin with A-Z-T," he began. What followed was a two-minute, a capella tour-de-force in which Gulick boldly stood at his podium and belted a (mostly on-key) rendition of "Do-Re-Mi," the seminal song from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music:

AZT was first, you see,
ddI was hockey pucks.
ddC: neuropathy,
d4T -- man, that stuff sucks!
3TC was worth a try,
saquinavir -- the first PI,
ritonavir -- too much GI ...

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Every FDA-approved HIV drug had its line; when Gulick closed, a few verses later, with "elvitegravir -- don't call it quad / they're not just combos, they're a squad / and that brings us back to A (ZT)," the room erupted into laughter and appreciative applause. (Click here to listen to -- and read the full lyrics for -- Gulick's parody.)

It was an unconventional speech to help kick off a conference that bills itself as a new, unconventional breed of medical science meeting. IDWeek is the love child of four parent organizations: the Infectious Diseases Society of America (which normally held its annual meeting around this time), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society. Its existence is an acknowledgement of our evolving understanding of the manner in which many infectious diseases, including HIV, entangle and interweave throughout a person's life span, and the corresponding need for health care professionals from all areas of the field to develop a better understanding for how those diseases interact. "For HIV clinicians, this conference provides a unique opportunity to learn the latest science on preventing and treating the non-HIV-related infections that affect so many of our patients," said Judith A. Aberg, M.D., the current chair of the HIV Medicine Association. "It's also a way to have the broader [infectious disease] community keep up with the rapid pace of therapeutic advances we have made over this past year."

How successful the conference will be in that regard is to be determined; with conferences of this scale (IDWeek is being attended by more than 6,400 registrants and features more than 1,750 presentations stretched across six distinct-but-overlapping "tracks," or infectious disease subfields, including "HIV-STD-TB" and "Epidemiology & Infection Control"), attendees often tend to focus only on the specific areas in which they already have a professional interest. But it's an effort worth the attempt, particularly as various infectious and chronic diseases factor ever-more prominently into one another's prevention and treatment efforts.

TheBodyPRO.com will follow up throughout this week, as well as the weeks following it, with HIV-relevant highlights from this newest addition to the virology meeting family; stay tuned to our IDWeek coverage home page for the latest additions. Until then, so long; farewell; auf Wiedersehen; goodnight.

Myles Helfand is the editorial director of TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Myles on Twitter: @MylesatTheBody.


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