Health & Fitness

Dr. Pioneering AIDS physician Joyce Wallace dies on the age of 79

Dr. Joyce Wallace, a Manhattan internist who treated prostitutes for AIDS, occasionally brought street runners home when they had nowhere else to go.

When her son Ari Kahn was around 12 years old, Dr. Wallace, who had to go to the hospital to see her patients, with a prostitute at home who was H.I.V. going positive and through heroin withdrawal. It wasn't clear who should take care of whom. Ari ended up making pizza for both of them. When Dr. Wallace returned, she took the prostitute to a drug treatment center. The woman eventually overcame her addiction and got a job at a research foundation that Dr. Wallace had started.

"On the one hand it was grossly irresponsible," said Mr Kahn in an interview about the incident. On the other hand, he said, it was typical of his mother's extraordinary ability to show empathy, and she had helped many people.

Dr. Wallace died in a Manhattan hospital on October 14. She was 79 years old.

Mr. Kahn said the cause was a heart attack.

Dr. Wallace wasn't a conventional mother. Nor was she a conventional doctor. As one of the first to report on the deadly disease known as AIDS, she tried to stop it from spreading to thousands of prostitutes in New York City.

The lower abdomen of the city was their clinic. She drove around in a white Dodge van offering tests for H.I.V., the AIDS-causing virus, handing out condoms, running a needle exchange program, and trying to get prostitutes off the streets into shelters.

"You are our responsibility," she told The New Yorker in 1993. "These are not throwaway women."

A writer for The New Yorker, Barbara Goldsmith, followed her for several months and produced a 17-page graphic representation of Dr. Wallace's encounters with street runners, many homeless and many drug addicts. At the time, AIDS was the city's leading killer of women between the ages of 20 and 29.

"Joyce Wallace tends to be viewed as an eccentric zealot who deals with an illegal, transitory, and often despised group of women," wrote Ms. Goldsmith.

"As in the early days of the AIDS crisis, when the establishment did not respond," she added, "the burden of activism fell not on the professionals or the organized, but on those who care."

After the New York article appeared, singer and actress Bette Midler bought Wallace's daughter Julia Query the rights to Dr. Wallace's life story. Ms. Midler wanted a film about Dr. Make Wallace and act, said Ms. Query, but the film was never made.

Dr. Wallace began practicing medicine in Greenwich Village, where many of her patients were gay men, in the late 1970s. In the spring of 1981, before AIDS was recognized, she was among a handful of doctors in New York and San Francisco who reported finding Kaposi's sarcoma, a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer, in their patients.

On July 3, 1981, she was among the researchers who published one of the first reports linking Kaposi's sarcoma to immunodeficient gay men. The disease would be a tell-tale sign for H.I.V.

Dr. Wallace was particularly interested in how AIDS affects women. Once a test was developed, she offered prostitutes $ 20 or a McDonald & # 39; s coupon so they could draw their blood.

Their studies found high correlations between H.I.V. and intravenous drug use. She planned to set up a drop-in center on the Lower East Side to provide street walkers with a hot shower, clean clothes, food, and, if drug-free, temporary shelter.

"I want to offer the girls a place where they can begin to shape their lives anew," she told the New York Times in 1991 when she was renovating a former brothel for the purpose.

Local residents were furious and blocked this proposal, just as other local residents blocked their similar proposals in the West Village and Washington Heights – even when Dr. Wallace has received awards for her work and grants to keep her projects going. In June 1994 Mirabella magazine appointed Dr. Wallace as one of her "100 Fearless Women" because she was determined to help prostitutes despite objections from neighbors.

Dr. Wallace was prevented from furnishing these homes and had to work in a mobile van from which she offered a range of social services. Her goal, she told The Times in 1992, was not to stop transactions between road runners and their customers, but to make them safer.

To that end, she also started the Treatment Readiness Program, an alternative conviction project at Manhattan Criminal Court that gave prostitutes condoms and literature on AIDS prevention and drug treatment instead of being sent to jail.

Joyce Irene Malakoff was born on November 25, 1940 in Philadelphia and grew up in Queens. Her father, Samuel Malakoff, was a teacher at a vocational school. Her mother, Henrietta Yetta (Hameroff) Malakoff, was a speech therapist.

Joyce was 12 years old in 1954 when one of her younger brothers, Lee, who was 8 years old, developed leukemia and died the next year. This trauma motivated her to become a doctor.

She graduated from Queens College with a degree in history in 1961 and then studied medicine at Columbia University's School of General Studies. In 1968, she received her medical degree from the State University of New York's Health Science Center in Brooklyn, known as Downstate.

A brief first marriage in the 1950s ended with annulment. Her 1964 marriage to researcher Lance Wallace ended in divorce in 1973. In 1979 she married the stockbroker Arthur Kahn. They separated in 1983 and later divorced.

In addition to her son and daughter, four grandchildren survive Dr. Wallace.

She completed her internship and residencies in New York City and Long Island. With the fantasy of becoming a country doctor, she started a private practice in North Conway, NH in 1973. It was barely a year, however, before she decided she was unsuitable for small-town living and moved to Manhattan, where she established her practice in the village.

In 1982 she founded the Foundation for Research on Sexually Transmitted Diseases and was its President until 2003 and then Managing Director and Medical Director. She has held academic appointments at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York Medical College, and the State University of New York Steiniger Bach.

Most of the awards that Dr. Wallace received, acknowledging her determination and determination against steep opportunities. One of them was the Brooke Russell Astor Award, a $ 10,000 gift to an unsung hero who "tirelessly" improves the quality of life in New York City.

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