Master Clinician: Harry Lampiris, MD

An Educational Legacy

harry lampirisAs a first-year medical student at UCSF in 1981, Harry Lampiris (pronounced "lam-PEER-us"), MD, began hearing about a puzzling new disease that would later be identified as AIDS.

"Witnessing the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in San Francisco and UCSF's response to the epidemic was career-changing," says Lampiris, now an expert in HIV medicine. He also serves as acting chief of the Infectious Diseases Section at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC), and associate program director of the UCSF infectious diseases fellowship program.

Lampiris provides care and supervises trainees at the SFVAMC and the Parnassus HIV Clinic. When confronting a difficult case, he scours the medical literature, consults with other experts and applies scientific intuition. "For many years HIV treatment was rapidly changing, and many of our treatment decisions were not evidence-based," he says. "Clinicians who inspired me confronted the limitations of the data, and rapidly changed their practices as more information became available. In addition, the community of patients with HIV/AIDS has always helped to keep clinicians and researchers honest about the limitations of our knowledge."

Lampiris is also well-versed in the broad spectrum of infectious disease and directs the inpatient infectious disease consultation service at the SFVAMC. "Part of why this field is fascinating is because patients' behaviors and exposures have a significant impact on what is going on for them," he says. "There are often details of a patient's history that could lead you to a diagnosis, but can also be misleading." He recalls discovering that a patient with a mysterious fever was a lizard handler who fed live rats to his charges. Lampiris eventually diagnosed him with leptospirosis, a rare bacterial infection sometimes caused by exposure to rodent urine.

He considers his greatest legacy to be training medical students, residents, and infectious disease and HIV specialists over the last 20 years. Lampiris also traveled several times to Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa as a clinical faculty mentor with the UCSF Project ASPIRE, an international HIV/AIDS education and training program run by the Positive Health Program at San Francisco General Hospital.

"Dr. Lampiris has an encyclopedic knowledge of infectious disease and HIV medicine, which he is always willing to share with colleagues and trainees with great clarity and enthusiasm," says Paul Volberding, MD, chief of the medical service at the SFVAMC.

A biochemistry and comparative literature major in college, Lampiris speaks French, German and Greek, and is also a classical pianist. He and his partner, Paul Lee, live in San Francisco.