Scientific Discovery: How Meningitis Was Conquered


Scientific Discovery: How Meningitis Was Conquered



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Janet Gilsdorf, MD, presented at the 13th annual Richard B. Davis, MD, PhD, History of Medicine Lecture on April 22 from noon to 1 p.m.

Dr. Gilsdorf shared stories based on her book, “Continual Raving: A History of Meningitis and the People Who Conquered It.” The book tells how scientists across the 19th and 20th centuries defeated the deadly brain infection meningitis — not through flawless research but through a series of serendipitous events, misplaced assumptions and flawed conclusions. The result shows not just how a disease is vanquished but how scientific accomplishment can sometimes occur where it is least expected.

Dr. Gilsdorf, an alum of the UNMC College of Medicine, is the Robert P. Kelch Research Professor Emerita in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics. She is an infectious diseases physician at C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she participates in the diagnosis and management of pediatric patients with complex infectious diseases and in the clinical training of medical students, pediatric residents and pediatric infectious diseases fellows.

She has published more than 100 articles of original research, most centering on the epidemiology, molecular characteristics and pathogenesis of Haemophilus influenzae. She is a past president of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and received the PIDS Distinguished Physician award in 2012.

She also is the author of “Inside/Outside: A Physician’s Journey with Breast Cancer” (U of Michigan Press) and “Ten Days” (a novel from Kensington Books). She has published several personal essays in the Journal of the American Medical Association Emerging Infectious Diseases, Health Affairs and The Examined Life. In 1999, she was awarded the Journal of Internal Medicine Award for Prose.

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History | Infectious Disease

Scientific Discovery: How Meningitis Was Conquered