- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- Charlotte LGBTQ+ oral histories
- Joseph G. Jemsek oral history interview, 2017 January 25
Joseph G. Jemsek oral history interview, 2017 January 25
Dr. Joseph Jemsek, infectious disease specialist in private practice in Washington DC and former infectious disease specialist with the Nalle Clinic in Charlotte North Carolina, discusses his experiences treating HIV/AIDS patients in the Charlotte region between 1983 and 2010. He recounts how and why he chose Charlotte as a place to practice medicine in 1979, noting that the field of infectious disease was relatively new, and that the Nalle Clinic already had two infectious disease doctors who would become his colleagues. He describes how as a young doctor he was anticipating AIDS cases in the Charlotte area, but was not prepared for the crescendo of death that occurred during the early to mid-1990s, and which had a profound effect on him psychologically. Dr. Jemsek recounts the stigma and discrimination that AIDS patients encountered in Charlotte hospitals at the onset of the disease and admits to his own homophobia, but also notes that this negative attitude was short lived among most medical staff in the hospitals where he worked with HIV/AIDS patients, (Presbyterian, Mercy, and Carolinas Medical Center). Nevertheless few doctors would accept AIDS patients and Dr. Jemsek soon had a reputation as a "gay" doctor, despite the fact that he was heterosexual. Dr. Jemsek describes his extensive involvement in clinical trials that began in 1989, the good reputation his practice earned as a center for these trials, and the benefits that his patients had resulting from this. He relates the story of perhaps his most famous patient, LaGena Lookabill Greene, a beauty queen and actress who contracted HIV from NASCAR driver Tim Richmond and who became an advocate for women with AIDs. Dr. Jemsek describes how Ms. Greene was close to death when she was part of a clinical trial testing protease inhibitor ritonavir, which saved her life. Dr. Jemsek also discusses the many conferences he attended on a national and international scale, including the AIDS Clinical Trials Group meetings in the 1980s. He describes the AIDS foundation, the Jemsek Charm Project that he founded in Charlotte in 2003, and his independent HIV/AIDS clinic, Jemsek Clinic, (also known as Rosedale) in Huntersville starting in 2000. Dr. Jemsek concludes with a description of his work with Lymes borreliosis, and the controversial nature of treating this disease.