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One year ago: Dr. Joel D. Weisman

July 18, 2010 |  7:00 am

WeismanDr. Joel D. Weisman was one of the first physicians to detect the AIDS epidemic and became a national advocate for AIDS research, treatment and prevention. He died one year ago.

Weisman, who was a general practitioner in Sherman Oaks at the time of his discovery, collaborated with UCLA immunologist Michael S. Gottlieb in his AIDS research. In the early 1980s, both of them began noticing a trend: clusters of gay patients who exhibited illnesses that seemed to stem from immune system defects.

Recognizing that these were not isolated cases, Weisman and Gottlieb wrote a report that appeared in the June 5, 1981, issue of the Centers for Disease Control's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That report signaled the official start of the epidemic of what the federal agency later named acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Weisman, who was gay, began pressing for services to AIDS patients, helping to found AIDS Project Los Angeles in 1983. He also helped organize the first dedicated AIDS unit in Southern California at what is now Sherman Oaks Hospital and Health Center.

Randy Shilts, in his definitive AIDS chronicle, described Wiesman as "the dean of Southern California gay doctors."

For more on the physician and his AIDS research, read Dr. Joel D. Weisman's obituary in The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Dr. Joel D. Weisman. Credit: Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR)