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Dr. John Bartlett 1938-2021

John Bartlett, a visionary physician-scientist and pioneer in the study and treatment of HIV/AIDS who built the infectious diseases division at The Johns Hopkins Hospital into one of the nation’s premier centers in the field, died peacefully on Jan. 19 in New York at the age of 83.

Dr. Bartlett had a remarkable career. After earning his medical degree at the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Medicine (now known as SUNY Upstate Medical University College of Medicine) in his native Syracuse, New York, Dr. Bartlett spent two years in the Army Medical Corps in Saigon from 1965 to 1967. It was there that he became interested in infectious diseases.

Dr. Bartlett had a remarkable career. After earning his medical degree at the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Medicine (now known as SUNY Upstate Medical University College of Medicine) in his native Syracuse, New York, Dr. Bartlett spent two years in the Army Medical Corps in Saigon from 1965 to 1967. It was there that he became interested in infectious diseases.

After holding faculty positions at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Tufts-New England Medical Center (now Tufts Medical Center), he was recruited in 1980 to become chief of Johns Hopkins’ then-small infectious diseases division and the Stanhope Bayne-Jones Professor of Medicine. In the 26 years that Dr. Bartlett served as director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases, it grew from just three full-time staff members and a budget of $200,000 to one of Johns Hopkins’ largest divisions, with a roster of 55 faculty members, a staff of 177 and a research budget of $40 million.

At The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1984, Dr. Bartlett, along with epidemiologist B. Frank Polk of what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, co-founded the country’s second HIV/AIDS clinic, which has become one of the world’s preeminent HIV/AIDS treatment centers. By the time he stepped down in 2006, the division was treating more than 5,100 patients annually with the latest in medication protocols, many of which he helped validate through clinical trials. In addition to administering trials of potential medications for patients with HIV/AIDS, Dr. Bartlett will be remembered for the compassion he showed for these patients.

He was a brilliant researcher in more than one scientific area. Prior to his work with HIV/AIDS, Dr. Bartlett was renowned for his 1978 discovery of what he called “the bug” — Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile — which causes antibiotic-associated colitis, a chronic and debilitating diarrhea that sometimes afflicts patients on antibiotics. He also specialized in researching and/or treating community-acquired pneumonia, antimicrobial resistance, anaerobic infections and bioterrorism.

The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Bartlett was also a skilled speaker and writer known for teaching, lecturing, serving on national committees and organizations, and writing hundreds of scientific articles, books and chapters. Bartlett’s Medical Management of HIV Infection, first published in 1994 and now in its 17th edition, and A Pocket Guide to Adult HIV/AIDS Treatment (now called The Bartlett Pocket Guide to HIV/AIDS Treatment), written in the early 1990s and currently in its 19th edition, remain the definitive textbooks on HIV clinical care.

Dr. Bartlett retired from Johns Hopkins in 2014. That year, a symposium was held in his honor where immunologist Anthony Fauci and other renowned leaders presented state-of-the-art papers on infectious diseases that were published as a supplement to the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases that was dedicated to Dr. Bartlett. The journal’s cover featured a picture painted by Dr. Bartlett.

His legacy is cemented in The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s John G. Bartlett Specialty Practice, a multimillion-dollar 25-exam-room clinic opened in 2017 for patients with HIV, hepatitis and other infectious diseases.

Dr. Bartlett’s wife Jean passed away in October. We offer condolences to his five children and eight grandchildren.

We will remember Dr. Bartlett as a giant in the field of infectious diseases who anticipated all the most exciting developments and led the efforts to combat foes from HIV to antimicrobial resistance.

Sincerely,

Mark E. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Department of Medicine
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Physician-in-Chief, The Johns Hopkins Hospital

David Thomas, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Division of Infectious Diseases
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

 

 

 

A Few Words from Friends & Colleagues

“John meant many things to our division and to me personally. John was first of all an inspiration. His vision for what was important in medicine is well known, and we celebrate the major examples of C difficile colitis, pneumonia, HIV, biodefense, and anti-microbial resistance. What is more nuanced is the manner in which John mastered those topics, communicated why they mattered, and moved the field forward. John was an artist and, in my view, led science like he was painting. With a few well-placed comments, he captured a scientific landscape for audiences of thousands who had never quite seen it that way before. He was also other things: an outstanding doctor, a friend, and a mentor. But, more than anything else for me, John was an inspirational leader who showed me the important things in ways I had not seen them before.” – Dr. David Thomas

“A wonderful friend, colleague and mentor, John Bartlett, has passed away. I joined his Division of Infectious Diseases just 6 months after he became Chief in 1980 and I was only one of 5 faculty members. Over the next 25 years, he built one of the largest and successful Divisions of Infectious Diseases in the country. He dedicated himself to become one of the giants in the field, particularly in HIV care. He was one of the hardest working people I knew with hours that began at 4 am every day. Yet, he was also one of the most friendly and warm individuals one could ever meet. His loving wife was equally welcoming, gracious and fun individuals that complemented JB equally well. I actually met Jean first when I stayed at their home for a job interview, and she and John talked me into babysitting their children while they went out on a ‘date’. I thought that was part of the job interview (and Jean said I passed and that JB should hire me). Sadly, Jean died only 2 months before John died, illustrating the balance and love they shared for each other. They will both be missed but their friendship will endure forever.” – Dr. Thomas Quinn

“JB for me was brilliant–simply brilliant–at assimilating the vastness and complexity of ID, both at the bedside and from the literature, and integrating the two into consolidated ‘ID wisdom’. Whenever I had a tough case and my mind was on a seesaw trying to find the right balance for the patient, I would pop into his office and simply ask him his thoughts–and I always left with the balance I needed to try to take the right step for the patient. I was privileged to be given a chance by him to join the ID faculty nearly 33 years ago, privileged to have his support at some crucial moments and honored in the last several years to feel that he was my friend. We had some mighty laughs together–I will always cherish the times I found myself grinning and giggling with the wonderful John Bartlett and his soulmate, Jean.” – Dr. Cynthia Sears

“It was a pleasure working with JB back in the early 1980’s before we even knew what caused AIDS. He usually came to work at 4:30 AM and by the time I arrived at 7:30 AM he was ready for me to make him his second pot of coffee, which he consumed quickly. He routinely about that time called his children to chat. We were studying many causes of diarrhea in MSM who had and did not have AIDS. Because of JB’s inter-est in Clostridium difficile, it was on the list, as well as enteric diarrhea pathogens, other anaerobes like spirochetes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HSV etc. During the 3 years of the grant, of course the cause of HIV and AIDS became known , and there was great relief, especially when Abbott came out with the first HIV antibody test. I moved to working on chlamydia with Tom Quinn in 1987 and JB promoted me to assistant professor shortly after I finished my doctorate in Chlamydia pneumoniae research. JB was always kind, a fount of knowledge, and a world leader in HIV research as our great division chief.” – Dr. Charlotte Gaydos

Charitable Giving

The Michael Del Bianco Fund provides direct funding for HIV patient care needs not supported by other means, such as medications, housing, or other expenses.

Michael Del Bianco Fund

John Bartlett Specialty Practice Fund supports clinical activities for the entire ID practice, including patient and staff activities.

John Bartlett Specialty Practice Fund

Dr. John Bartlett HIV/AIDS Fund supports young trainees and junior faculty in the division, helping them transition to their independent careers.

Dr. John Bartlett HIV/AIDS Fund

Printable Charitable Giving Form