Brady Allen, one of the first Dallas doctors to specialize in treating patients with AIDS, leaving to find new challenges in the field of HIV
When the AIDS crisis hit in the early 1980s, many medical practitioners refused to treat patients for fear of contracting the disease.
But not Dr. Brady Allen.
“Some of us weren’t really scared of casual transmission,” Allen said. “For some reason, I felt compelled to take care of people who were sick. I think it touched at the root of why I had wanted to become a doctor.”
Allen immersed himself, thriving on the intensity of what was going on around him, and he quickly became one of the area’s leading specialists in the field.
Twenty-five years later, Allen’s Uptown Physicians Group on Carlisle Street which also includes Dr. Robert Henderson, Dr. David Lee and Dr. Marc Tribble has some 1,500 patients.
On Nov. 30, the 53-year-old Allen will receive a lifetime achievement award from the North Texas HIV Service Providers Council. On Dec. 20, he will retire and move to Seattle with his partner of 10 years, Rich Matheson.
“I feel good about leaving a legacy here,” Allen said. “When you spend your whole life doing this kind of work, it’s nice to be recognized.”
A native of the Beaumont/Port Arthur area, Allen completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Texas in Austin before attending medical school at UT Southwestern in Dallas. He completed his residency at Yale University before returning to Dallas in August 1982, just in time for the onset of the epidemic here.
Unlike most of his peers, Allen said he found HIV/AIDS treatment rewarding and intellectually stimulating. It also provided an opportunity to confront death and dying. He immediately began attending conferences and researching the disease.
“You felt like you were doing something that mattered rather than taking care of colds and sore throats,” he said. “I always felt like I was involved in something deeper.”
Allen estimated he lost several hundred patients over the course of the next decade or so. He recalled the many days on which he would arrive home late at night after spending the day treating patients who were hooked up to ventilators in the hospital. Allen and a handful of others launched a support group which continued to meet until about two years ago for HIV specialists.
“Psychologically, I depended a lot on the support group to help get me through those difficult years,” Allen said.
Since then, HIV has evolved into a chronic, manageable disease, Allen said, which he called a “pretty amazing feat.”
“Most patients are in complete remission with a normal life expectancy,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been a part of something that’s gone from total devastation to as close to a cure as you can get.”
It’s one of the reasons why Allen has chosen to leave Dallas. He said he feels that in the educated, white gay community of Dallas where people have access to medication his work is done.
“You feel like hey, am I still being useful? Am I still making a difference? You just don’t quite feel as useful,” he said.
After taking six months to a year off, Allen envisions himself traveling internationally to train health professionals in the Third World, where HIV treatment is similar to how it was in the U.S. in the 1980s.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “Our global response, while improved, is far from adequate.”
Allen said he knows his patients will miss him. He’s been treating some long-term survivors for two decades or more.
“I’ve been feeling a little separation anxiety for leaving them as well,” he said. “I’m excited and sad at the same time.”
Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms Inc., said Dallas’ AIDS services community also will miss Allen.
“He really is one of the pioneers in HIV medical care,” Nobles said. “In the early days of the epidemic, there just weren’t a whole lot of people willing and able to take care of what was happening to our friends and family. He was one of those who stepped up. I’m very sad to see him go.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007.