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Preventing the spread of infectious diseases

by jmaloni

Editorial

Fri, Aug 2nd 2013 06:25 pm

by Rajinder Pal Singh Bajwa, M.D.

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

Since the 1970s, some 40 infectious diseases have been discovered, including SARS, HIV, Ebola, avian flu, and swine flu. In fact, the World Health Organization has warned that infectious diseases are emerging at a rate never previously seen.

My job is to help prevent the spread of such diseases and to give patients who are infected the care that is best suited to their needs.

My name is Rajinder Pal Singh Bajwa, M.D., and I am excited to be joining your community. I am an infectious disease specialist - a doctor of internal medicine with additional training in immunology (how the body fights infection), epidemiology (how infections spread) and infection control. I will begin working at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center on Sept. 4.

The passion I have for practicing medicine and my motivation to become an infectious disease physician are rooted in my experiences growing up in Punjab, a picturesque province in northern India. It was a beautiful place but was compromised by an abundance of communicable diseases and limited by scant resources. Life was rich with experience but tough at the same time.

The shakes and body aches I experienced when I came down with malaria are indelible marks on my bones. The bitter taste of quinine is still fresh in my mouth. I grew up in a population where polio was still common and it wasn't unusual to see young children crippled by polio.

From my youthful perspective, the field of medicine was equated with the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. That was all I knew. At school and at home we habitually washed our hands to prevent the spread of disease. During the rainy season, we drained standing water or poured mineral oil on stagnant water to prevent the growth of the malaria parasite.

After graduating from medical school at Government Medical College, Patiala, India, I did my first residency training in diagnostic radiology. To pursue the specialty of infectious diseases, I relocated to the United States and served a second residency in internal medicine at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh.

In June, I completed advanced fellowship training in infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo. My experience there was very rewarding and I was able to learn from faculty of national fame.

It was during my fellowship that I experienced how much this area has to offer in terms of wonderful people, food and activities and toward the end of my fellowship I decided to stay here to pursue my career.

While exploring practice opportunities, I got in touch with people at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and instantaneously got the feeling that I belong here. This thought was solidified after I met Joseph Ruffolo and his team. His vision for the community and medical center impressed me a lot and I feel proud to be part of this growing health care facility.

My wife, who is a physician in training, will join me at Niagara Falls Memorial after completing her residency. We look forward to raising our family here in Western New York.

Not everyone who contracts an infectious disease needs an infectious disease specialist. An internist can properly treat most infections. But sometimes, specialized expertise is needed.

Treating bacterial infections is becoming more and more complex as more drug resistant bacteria like MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) are emerging. Opportunistic infections can happen with inappropriate use of antibiotics, for example clostridium difficile infection causing serious diarrhea in patients on antibiotics.

As certain infections are more prevalent in specific regions of the world, seeing an infectious disease physician to discuss how to prevent infections like malaria and Hepatitis A before international travel can be very helpful.

As an infectious disease physician, I will be seeing patients both in the hospital and its primary care center. I will give the nursing staff and other clinicians input and guidance on infection prevention strategies and then proper utilization of antibiotics. And, I will participate in Memorial's community outreach and education efforts.

I look forward to getting to know you and I am ready to go to work.

Rajinder Pal Singh Bajwa, M.D., is board certified in internal medicine and holds professional membership in the American College of Physicians, Infectious Disease Society of America, Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America, American Society for Microbiology and the Medical Council of India. His research has been published in several peer-reviewed journals.

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