Global Health Chronicles

Dr. William Darrow

David J. Sencer CDC Museum, Global Health Chronicles
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1:52 - Introduction and education

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Partial Transcript: To begin our conversation, let’s talk a little bit about your background. Could you tell us where you grew up and about your early family life?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow describes his early education at Norwich Free Academy which kindled his interest in history and the social sciences. Dr Darrow explains that after getting his degree in economics an advertisement at a placement office led him to interview with New York City Health Department effectively beginning his career in public health.

Keywords: 685 series; J. Giordano; J. Kennedy; New York City; Norwich, Connecticut; PHA [Public Health Advisor]; Public Health Advisor series; social scientist; Venereal Disease Program; Washington [DC]

Subjects: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]; Communicable Disease Center; Great Depression; National Syphilis Eradication Program; New England; New York City Health Department; NFA [Norwich Free Academy]; syphilis; University of Connecticut [UConn]

6:54 - Public Health Advisors

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me a little bit more about what is a Public Health Advisor?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow explains the history behind the job of Public Health Advisor the important roles and specific tasks the PHA’s fulfill.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Chelsea Clinic; J. Kennedy; Public Health Advisor; syphilis patients; W. Watson; Washington, D.C.; World Forum on Syphilis and other Treponematoses

Subjects: Department of Treasury; Virginia; World War II

10:50 - Chelsea Clinic

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Partial Transcript: What would a typical day be like for you operating out of the Chelsea Clinic?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow describes a typical day working at the Chelsea Clinic in Manhattan as a Public Health Advisor interviewing patients with syphilis and get information about people who had been exposed, try and find those people, refer them to a clinic for testing and if infected, be treated.

Keywords: A. Kinsey; bisexual men; Chelsea Clinic; gay; New York City; west side of Manhattan

Subjects: syphilis

13:39 - Interview techniques and memorable adventures

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Partial Transcript: Much of your work throughout your entire career has really been underpinned by your skills in interviewing people to elicit pretty sensitive information…For you, was it sort of a trial-and-error thing?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow explains how interviewing did not come naturally to him, it was difficult at first to develop the skills. Observation of other interviewers, personal experience, and a trip to the library helped him understand how to ask better questions so people would feel more comfortable talking about themselves. Dr. Darrow recounts some memorable experiences working in New York City with some reluctant patients and how to be respectful and carefully listen to all people.

Keywords: A. Kinsey; Atlanta; “Bum on the Beach”; “Red the Painter”; blood-testing kits; carving knives; E. Allgeier; east side of Manhattan; New York [City]; P. Gebhard; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; prostitutes; secondary syphilis; sex; sex partners; Sexual Behavior in the Human Female; Sexual Behavior in The Human Male; Sheppard tubes; Venereal Disease Control Division; W. Hosking; W. Pomeroy; W. Watson

Subjects: Indiana University in Bloomington; Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality; syphilis; World War II

23:37 - Recruiting for the VD program.

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Partial Transcript: After a year or so, you left New York City to work in Atlanta.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow talks about his years as a recruiter on college campuses for the Syphilis Eradicatio Program and his eventual move to Atlanta, Dr. Darrow discusses the influence CDC's first social scientist, Ray Forer had on furthering his education through the Public Health Service and how he got his PhD in Sociology while also working at CDC.

Keywords: Atlanta; “American Social Hygiene”; B. Webster; Behavioral Research Activities Unit of the Venereal Disease Branch; Broadway; Buckhead; C. Picklesimer; community mobilization for eradication [CME]; D. Coughlin; D. Scheer; E. Lippencott; East Paces Ferry Road; F. Kingma; J. Cutler; J. Giordano; New York City; PhD; Ponce de Leon; Public Health Advisors; R. Forer; R. Swank; recruiter; segregated city; T. Parran; T. Richmond; Venereal Disease Branch; venereal disease program; W. Schwartz; W. Watson; Washington, D.C.; World Forum on Syphilis and other Treponematoses

Subjects: American Social Health Association; CDC; Cornell; Delaware; Emory University; Guatemala Study; New Jersey; New York; Pennsylvania; Public Health Service [PHS]; State University of New York, Albany; Storrs; Syphilis Eradication Program; Tuskegee Study; United States; University of Maine; University of New Hampshire; University of Pittsburgh

34:26 - The condom

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Partial Transcript: I think that even extended to your doctoral dissertation.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow recalls how the associate director for science in the venereal disease program asked him to design a study on the effectiveness of the condom in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted disease [STD]. Dr. Darrow found that people who did use condoms had a lower rate of STDS, but acceptance of this study was difficult and not many people used condoms correctly if at all.

Keywords: condom; contraception; J. Harrison; J. Lucas; Sacramento, California; the pill; venereal disease prophylactic; W. Ketterer

Subjects: California; Trojans; World War I; Youngs Drugs Company

40:22 - Demanding for Darrow

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Partial Transcript: Again, it sounds like you’re a pretty rare commodity, being a research sociologist, so I’m curious if people were eager to have you on board for various projects, because we’re now in the ‘70’s, I guess the early-mid ‘70’s?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow describes working out west on hepatitis B and venereal disease programs that are now seen as indicators of AIDS.

Keywords: Associate Director for Science; bisexual men; Chicago; Colorado Springs; Columbus, Ohio; D. Francis; Denver, Colorado; gay; hepatitis laboratories; HIV test; Howard Brown Medical Clinic; J. Curran; J. Potterat; Los Angeles; National Gonorrhea Control Program; P. O’Malley; P. Weisner; PHA; Phoenix; R. Henderson; R. Rothenberg; San Francisco; Seattle King County; St. Louis; T. Peterman

Subjects: AIDS [acquired immunodeficiency syndrome]; CDC; Emory; hepatitis B; HIV [human immunodeficiency virus]; San Francisco City/County Health Department; Sexually Transmitted Diseases [publication]; The Venereal Disease Control Strategic Planning System [VDCSPS]; United States

47:03 - A Gay Disease?

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Partial Transcript: Prior to that first publication that came out in June of 1981 in the MMWR, did you or others through your work, through your contacts with gay physicians and others, did you have any inkling as to the occurrence of unusual diseases or symptoms among homosexual men in the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow discusses how doctors in San Francisco had been seeing all different types of unknown diseases and elevated levels of hepatitis B in the late 1970’s and how he formed a relationship with author Randy Shilts.

Keywords: Berkeley; E. Braff; Eugene; Gay Bowel Syndrome; gay men; H. Milk; hepatitis B study; P. O’Malley; R. Shilts; R. Stempel; S. Dritz; Sacramento; San Francisco; The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

Subjects: Florida International University; HIV/AIDS; India; Robert Stempel School of Public Health and Social Work; San Francisco Chronicle; the Advocate; University of Oregon

52:39 - Task Force/case-controls

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Partial Transcript: How is it that you came to work on the task force?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow discusses how intense being on the Task Force for Kaposi’s sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia was in the beginning, how they began surveys of homosexual men, and the initial case-control study.

Keywords: A. Young; Bay Area Physicans for Human Rights [BAPHR]; case definition; Chicago; D. Auerbach; D. Ostrow; F. Siegal; gay men; gay physician; Gay Report on STDs; H. Jaffe; J. Curran; K. Jay; Kinsey studies; M. Guinan; M. Rogers; New York City; P. Thomas; P. Weisner; R. Bolan; San Francisco; the San Francisco Chapter of the Physicians for Human Rights

Subjects: American Journal of Public Health; Canada; CDC; Harvard; New York; Northwestern Medical School; United States

60:58 - M.D. to PhD

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Partial Transcript: I’m just curious: you’re doing a crash course on interviewing with all of the people that you’ve named, [who] are largely physicians, certainly that don’t have any real sociology background. How did that go?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow discusses training MD’s on how to be PhD’s because he was to monitor the interviews with cases, not give the interviews and how technology aided in the interviewing process.

Keywords: “And the Band Played On”; centralized computer; D. Auerbach; D. Francis; H. Jaffe; M. Rogers; monitor; P. Thomas; SPSS [Statistical Package for the Social Sciences]

Subjects: Archives of Sexual Behavior

68:36 - LA Cluster Investigation

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Partial Transcript: Let’s move on, Bill, to talk a bit about the study that became known as the LA Cluster Investigation, the Los Angeles Cluster Investigation.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow delves into his participation on the LACI, and how a flight attendant lead became a vector.

Keywords: A. Friedman-Kien; Atlanta; “Out-of-California” case; bars; bathhouses; Bethesda, Maryland; case-control study; clubs; cocaine; D. Auerbach; discos; EIS Officer; flight attendant; gay men; H. Jaffe; J. Curran; L. Laubenstein; Los Angeles; M. Guinan; New York; nitrite inhalants; nitrous oxide; poppers; R. Shilts; receptive anal intercourse; San Francisco; sexual partners; SPSS; West Hollywood; West Hollywood Clinic

Subjects: AIDS; Air Canada; California; drugs; Kaposi sarcoma; Los Angeles Cluster; National Cancer Institute [NCI]; New York; New York Medical Center; Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia; stimulants; VA Hospital

81:35 - Only a flight away

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Partial Transcript: But when you pursued this, didn’t it extend beyond LA?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow discusses his interactions with the flight attendant, how he used sexual networking to find partners, and how the politics of New York affected the study.

Keywords: A. Friedman-Kien; Atlanta; “And the Band Played On”; black book; Canadian flight attendant; cancer; chemotherapy; Commission of Health; consent forms; D. Sencer; E. Koch; Epi-Aid [epidemiologic assistance]; Fire Island; Grand Central Station; GRID [Gay Related Immune Deficiency]; J. Coleman; J. Monroe; L. Kramer; L. Laubenstein; LA cases; M. Chamberland; M. Levin; N. Scherzer; New York cases; P. Thomas; PHA; R. Reiss; San Francisco cases; sex partners; sexual networks; sexually transmitted diseases; social networks; St. Marks Bathhouse; Taxes cases; Toronto

Subjects: Emory University; Homophily Index; human papillomavirus [HPV]; IRB [Institutional Review Board]; Kaposi’s sarcoma; Native; United States; University of Chicago

99:29 - Sexually transmitted

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Partial Transcript: Again, as we talked about earlier, sexual transmission hadn’t been nailed down yet as a way in which whatever it was, was being transmitted. Your paper did provide pretty good evidence for that?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Darrow explains how they got the article out that shows sexual transmission.

Keywords: D. Auerbach; H. Jaffe; J. Curran; R. Gallo; R. Shilts; S. Fannin; serologic test.; special issue

Subjects: American Journal of Medicine; CDC; HIV; Journal of the American Medical Association; MMWR; National Cancer Institute; Pasteur Institute