Claire Panosian Dunavan,
MD, FIDSA, DTM&H (London)
UCLA School of Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases
10833 Le Conte Ave, CHS 37-121
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1688

Division office: 310-825-7225
Voicemail: 310-794-6053
Facsimile: 310-825-3632

A Past Infection Haunts A Woman’s Health

Discover, June 2008

Sela Miller was perplexed—and so was I. She had just emerged from our clinic restroom, specimen in hand. But her urine was far from the bright yellow most people produce.

“So this is what it looks like,” she said, staring at the milky sample. “For weeks I thought something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell for sure.” Then Sela, a Polynesian woman with long, dark hair—the wife of a custom car builder and mother of several youngsters—gave a tiny shrug as if to say, Oh, well.

For a moment I remained quiet. Like Sela, I had never seen anything quite like the opalescent urine now sitting in a sterile screw-top jar on my desk.

Sometimes doctors are secretly grateful when patients underreact. Over my years of practice, specializing in tropical medicine, I had certainly seen patients at the other end of the spectrum. Creative people with fertile imaginations seemed especially prone to panic. Sela—her sci-fi urine notwithstanding—was different.

And so I focused on the job ahead. “I’ll walk this to the lab,” I said, holding the jar in one hand while reaching for a requisition slip with my other.

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Claire Panosian Dunavan, MD, DTM&H (London), 2008 President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, received her education at Stanford University, Northwestern Medical School, Tufts-New England Medical Center, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. First as Chief of Infectious Diseases at LA County-Olive View Medical Center, then as Director of Travel and Tropical Medicine at UCLA, she has been a UCLA professor, clinician, and teacher since 1984. She has also worked overseas in Haiti, Taiwan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Albania, Armenia, and Tanzania, among other countries.

Dunavan’s second career as a print and broadcast journalist includes 6 years as a medical editor, reporter, and co-anchor for Lifetime Television. In 1997, her interview with a dying physician won an international “Freddie” Award. In 2000, with her husband Patrick Dunavan—an 8-time Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker —she produced a television program on hepatitis B which has reached 300 million international viewers. In recent years, she has written regularly for national newspapers and magazines. She currently writes a weekly column called “The Infection Files” which runs in California newspapers. Her journalism spans issues in infectious diseases and public health affecting everyone on the planet to global health policy and economics.

© 2010 Claire Panosian Dunavan