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Vital Signs

Investigator Insight

In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.

Timothy Lahey, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine and of Microbiology and

Lahey studies how the immune system protects people with HIV from tuberculosis and protects against early sexual transmission of HIV infection. He joined the DMS faculty in 2005.

How did you become interested in your field?
I've always been intrigued by how the immune system and some diseases (infections and cancer) evolve in response to each other in real time. It's a wonderful, dynamic biological battle. When I realized I could join that battle by caring for poor and marginalized populations afflicted with infectious diseases, and doing research, I knew I had found my mission in life.

What does your research involve?
One of my projects is a trial—led by my great mentor, Ford von Reyn—of a new tuberculosis vaccine. We're conducting thousands of immunological assays to help shed light on which immune responses to TB are just bystanders and which are really needed to win the war against TB.

What are some recent books you've read?
Paul Harding's Tinkers was like eating a big, fat piece of chocolate cake; each sentence was so delicious. And Jonathan Franzen's Freedom was an addictive whirlwind.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
I love to hang out with my wife, Jessica, and the two lunatics we created, Ben, 11, and Finn, 6. They give meaning to my life. And once in a while, a dim bulb of creativity blinks weakly above my head, and if I find the strength to put pencil to paper, I will bring forth what can loosely be described as poetry.

Where would you most like to travel?
I want to go to India and eat. Yes, the centuries of accumulated culture would be fascinating, too, I know, I know—I'm an ingrate. But, I confess, it's the food that draws me there.

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn?
It's difficult for me to accept the role of luck in scientific success. I try to do good work and to represent it persuasively in grant applications, but in the current funding climate, even if the work and the grants are good, the whole kit and caboodle can come crashing down without luck. So should I go do something that pays better and doesn't have the potential to fall apart at the end of each grant cycle? For good or for bad, I meant what I wrote on my medical school application about saving the world; until that big hook pulls me off the stage, I'll keep on trying.

What makes your field hot right now?
Both HIV and TB kill millions of people every year. Any new insight has the potential to help prevent suffering on a global scale.

What has been your best idea or theory?
I think it's important to believe that your next idea is the best idea yet.

What is your most memorable accomplishment?
Being awarded the Clinical Science Teaching Award this year. It was an incredible honor to hood our newly minted graduates and to call them "Doctor" for the first time.

What is a talent you wish you had?
To be able to sing without cracking windows.

What kind of concerts do you enjoy?
My six-year-old loves Dartmouth Gospel Choir concerts so much that he dances in the aisles with complete strangers. It's like attending two performances, of their music and his freedom.

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