Infectious disease specialist Paul Arnow, 1946-2005

Infectious disease specialist Paul Arnow, 1946-2005

April 1, 2005

An authority on hospital-acquired infections, prevention of infections in transplant and ICU patients, and Legionnaires' disease, Paul M. Arnow, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago from 1979 to 2002, died from a heart attack at his vacation home in Wisconsin on March 28. He was 58.

Known for his diligence in preventing and treating infections in settings ranging from the most advanced academic medical centers to pre-industrial third-world villages, Arnow had a reputation for encyclopedic knowledge of the microbial world, tireless commitment to patients, novel insights into the causes and spread of infections, and relentless efforts to keep contagious diseases in check.

"Paul was a Viking, a warrior who fought against infectious disease with every tool he could muster," said William Chamberlain, MD, a professor of medicine and chief medical officer of the University of Illinois at Chicago and a close friend of Arnow's since medical school. "He was extremely bright, and a warm genuine friend, but he kept up his tough guy image on the job. Like every good infectious disease doctor he was compulsive. He knew what needed to be done and he rode people until they did it."

"There was no one more conscientious," said Alan Leff, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "He was a super physician who worked extremely long, hard hours. He was always available for a patient or a consult despite the fact that he had to deal constantly with the sticky, difficult, politically charged issues that grew out of emerging infections such as HIV and the spread of antibiotic resistance, and he did it all well, with a quiet kind of authority and a subtle sense of humor."

"Paul Arnow as a character and a half," said Mindy Schwartz, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "He was quirky, prickly, opinionated and demanding, but always a resource. He rounded forever. Residents rounding with him went home well after 6 p.m., but they always learned a lot. You could always call Paul and get an answer to any clinical question."

Paul Michael Arnow, was born in Chandler, Arizona, on December 16, 1946. He earned his A.B. degree from Princeton University, where he was captain of the wrestling team, and his M.D. from the University of California at San Francisco in 1972. He did his internship, residency and fellowship in infectious disease at the University of Illinois at Chicago between 1972 and 1978, interrupted by two years (1974-76) as a medical epidemiologist at the Hospitals Infections Branch of the Centers for Disease Control. He spent part of that time in Guam, working with Vietnamese refugees.

Arnow came to the University of Chicago as a postdoctoral research fellow in 1978 and joined the faculty as an assistant professor and hospital epidemiologist in 1979, becoming an associate professor in 1985 and a professor of medicine in 1994. He served as acting chief of infectious disease at the Hospitals from 1987 to 1993 and chief from 1993 to 2002.

While at the U of C he met Hilary Caldwell, whom he later married. They had a son, Saul, born in 2004. "Life changed for him a lot when he met Hilary," Chamberlain said. "He mellowed."

The author of about 70 original research papers, review articles and textbook chapters, Arnow lectured around the world on infectious diseases and outbreak investigations. He was a member of the major infectious disease and epidemiology organizations, a fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and president from 1994 to 1996 of the Chicago Area Infectious Diseases Society.

During this time he maintained his professional wanderlust by spending one month a year working on health assessment and public health projects in Cambodia and later in Kenya. In 1990, Arnow befriended a Cambodian war-lord turned politician who would smuggle him into the country for annual projects, ranging from designing a new hospital to assessing the nation's AIDS risks. Although politcal developments put an end to these visits after 1995, Arnow kept a poster listing Cambodian prison camp rules in his office.

In May 2002, he decided to focus full-time on international health issues and left academia to work with the Boston-based Management Sciences for Health, where he was involved in projects in Haiti, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Uganda, India and elsewhere.

The joys of family life, however, convinced Arnow to return to the more geographically stable lifestyle of research and teaching. After a vacation in Wisconsin, he was to become professor of medicine and hospital epidemiologist at the University of Indiana later this spring.

Arnow is survived by his wife, Hilary, and their son, Saul, and a sister, Eleanor Gerst of Pasadena, California.

The funeral will be held at 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, March 31, at the Salem Jewish Memorial Park in Colma, California. A memorial service will be held in Chicago at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 3, at Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 North Broadway.

In lieu of flowers donation should be sent to Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, at MSF delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters.