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Adventures of a Female Medical Detective

In Pursuit of Smallpox and AIDS

"A rip-roaring read."—Nature

Fresh out of college in the 1960s, Mary Guinan aspired to be an astronaut—until she learned that NASA's astronaut program wasn't recruiting women. Instead, Guinan went to medical school and became a disease detective with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Epidemic Intelligence Service. Selected to join India's Smallpox Eradication program, Guinan traveled to remote villages to isolate smallpox cases and then vaccinate all uninfected persons within a ten-mile radius. By May 1975, the World Health Organization declared Uttar Pradesh smallpox-free.

During her barrier-breaking career, Dr. Guinan met arms-seeking Afghan insurgents in Pakistan and got caught in the crossfire between religious groups in Lebanon. She was one of the first medical detectives on the ground in San Francisco at the start of the AIDS crisis. And she served as an expert witness in a landmark decision that still protects HIV patients from workplace discrimination. Randy Shilts's best-selling book on the epidemic, And the Band Played On, features her AIDS work, as does the HBO movie of the same name.

In Adventures of a Female Medical Detective, Guinan weaves together twelve vivid stories of her life in medicine, describing her individual experiences in controlling outbreaks, researching new diseases, and caring for patients the world over. Occasionally heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, Guinan's account of her pathbreaking career will inspire public health students and future medical detectives—and give all readers insight into that part of the government exclusively devoted to protecting their health.

About the Authors

Mary Guinan, PhD, MD (INCLINE VILLAGE, NV), is the founding dean emerita of the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She was the first woman to serve as the chief scientific advisor to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anne D. Mather (HOSCHTON, GA) was the managing editor of the CDC newsletter, the MMWR, during the years when smallpox was eradicated and AIDS was discovered.

Reviews

"A rip-roaring read. As a 'medical detective,' Guinan presents a series of case studies in explicit homage to super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes."

- Nature

"A frank and illuminating look at how scientists—female scientists in particular—actually work to combat disease."

- The Washington Post

"Author Mary Guinan is a true pioneer, and the stories she tells of her early career are jaw-dropping. In every job-related battle she fought, Guinan's tenacity is impressive and empowering."

- Bookworm Sez

"A punchy whodunnit."

- Times Higher Education

"Light-hearted and easy to read. Guinan's stories embody the modesty and humor inherent in the culture of epidemiology as practiced by the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

- Emerging Infectious Diseases

Endorsements

"Adventures of a Female Medical Detective is a must read.  Bold, informative, and heartfelt, it recounts important events from the career of Mary Guinan and the mission of the CDC.  Her adventurous works demonstrate curiosity and compassion, and her courageous dedication to scientific integrity and action reflects the best in public health."

- James W. Curran, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

"If you want to hear what a real-life public health hero is truly like, pick up the story of Dr. Mary Guinan, who has simultaneously overcome gender-based discrimination and literally improved the health of millions."

- David Holtgrave, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

"Imagine Sherlock Holmes tracking diseases instead of criminals. Dr. Mary Guinan's sharp and humorous account of the frontlines of many of the key public health mysteries of the last few decades is that and more as she confronts the scientific, moral, and political challenges of keeping the nation healthy."

- Nicholas Freudenberg, School of Public Health / Hunter College, City University of New York

"From the back of an elephant tracking smallpox to the bedside of a dying patient tracking AIDS, Mary Guinan shows the detective work required to understand and control infectious diseases around the world. Sometimes funny, often scary, these stories inform, educate, and leave us appreciative of the people on the front lines protecting the public's health."

- Don Francis, MD, DSc

"In this valuable memoir, frontline public health heroine Mary Guinan shares poignant and often hilarious tales, many privy to her only as a woman with an open mind and heart. Informative, insightful, and compassionate, the stories from this inquisitive, gloriously successful disease cowgirl are a delight to read."

- Joel G. Breman, MD, DTPH, FIDSA, FASTMH
Johns Hopkins University Press
2016
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