Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Michael Saag, M.D., went into medicine with the intent to become a cardiologist. But in 1981, as the first cases of AIDS were being described in Los Angeles and New York City, Saag found his way to his specialty in infectious diseases because of an interest in solving medical mysteries.
In the more than three decades since, this director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for AIDS Research has become an internationally renowned expert in HIV and in treating patients with AIDS and is widely recognized for helping turn the most deadly virus in human history into a manageable chronic disease.
To both chronicle his journey and shine a light on a broken health care system, Saag is releasing his first book, “Positive.” From stories of his childhood as a young Jewish boy whose mother knew he would be a doctor to the harrowing tales of his patients and the valiant fight against HIV/AIDS, “Positive” tells all from Saag’s life on the front lines of this disease. The result is a behind-the-scenes look at how the research happened and was rapidly translated into practice.
“I wanted to tell the story of the AIDS epidemic and how, by people pulling together for a common cause, we converted HIV from a near-certain death sentence into a chronic, manageable condition,” said Saag, a professor of Medicine in the UAB School of Medicine.
While “Positive” is a book for people affected by HIV/AIDS, Saag says it is also for anyone impacted by the U.S. health care system — everyone.
“I wanted to shine a light on our current health care system in order to point out the cracks and crevices that exist there, as well as to create a dialogue,” Saag said. “We need to look at the big picture of who we were before the Affordable Care Act and where we want to be in the long run when it comes to health care.
“Through the book, I use as many patient stories as I can to illustrate both the suffering and the triumph,” Saag said. “Just as with each HIV patient I encountered, similar but unique situations exist for every person who encounters our health care system today. The parallel of those stories — patients with HIV, and people experiencing our system without HIV — sets up a contrast that hopefully will change the system.”
Saag says he would like to help spark that change and see more uniformity and less fragmentation in a system that is much more accountable to those who are paying for it than those who are served by it.
“We need a system that is predictable in terms of knowing what we’re going to get when we walk in the door,” Saag said. “It’s a fairly compelling personal story of how people suffered, and people responded in a way that created pretty fabulous outcomes. My hope is that, through experiencing that story in the book, we will be motivated to pull together in a similar way to change our health care system for the better.”
Published by Greenleaf Book Group, LLC, “Positive” will be released April 14 and is available through http://www.uab.edu/medicine/cfar/outreach/positive-the-book.
About Michael Saag, M.D.
A world-renowned expert in his field, Michael Saag, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the UAB Center for AIDS Research, performs clinical, translational and outcomes research in the areas of HIV and HCV. Saag, who came to UAB in 1984, made seminal discoveries in the genetic evolution of HIV in vivo and directed the first inpatient studies of seven of the first 25 antiretroviral drugs for HIV. Saag also envisioned an HIV outpatient clinic dedicated to the provision of comprehensive patient care in conjunction with the conduct of high-quality clinical trials, basic science and clinical outcomes research. In April 2014, Saag will publish his first book, “Positive,” which traces his life studying HIV and treating patients with AIDS. More than a memoir, “Positive” also shines a light on what Saag describes as the dysfunctional U.S. health care system, proposing optimistic yet realistic remedies drawn from his distinguished career. For more information, visit http://www.uab.edu/medicine/cfar/outreach/positive-the-book or positivethebook.com.
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees and an economic impact exceeding $5 billion annually on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission deliver knowledge that will change your world: the education of students, who are exposed to multidisciplinary learning and a new world of diversity; research, the creation of new knowledge; patient care, the outcome of ‘bench-to-bedside’ translational knowledge; service to the community at home and around the globe, from free clinics in local neighborhoods to the transformational experience of the arts; and the economic development of Birmingham and Alabama. Learn more at www.uab.edu.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all subsequent references.
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