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Illustration by Andreas Samuelsson, courtesy New York Times Magazine


Former UAB Pathology hematopathology resident Forest Huls, M.D., was highlighted in a recent article in The New York Times Magazine, "Her Various Symptoms Seemed Unrelated. Then One Doctor Put It All Together." The piece highlighted the diagnosis by Huls and then-Internal Medicine resident Jori May, M.D. of a patient’s disease that had confounded physicians for years.

From the article: "It was part of May’s weekly routine to check the patient’s chart for any new consultant notes or test results. One afternoon she was surprised to see an 11-page note from a pathology resident who, as far as she knew, was not involved in the case. It was a meticulous summary of all the patient’s symptoms as well as the many tests performed so far. He went on to suggest that she had a disease May had never heard of — Schnitzler syndrome. It was, as the resident described it, a rare and poorly understood immune disorder."

That resident was Huls.

Schnitzler syndrome stimulates a type of white blood cell known as the macrophage, which instructs the body to act as if it is infected. The body responds with fever and chills, a loss of appetite, flulike body aches, hives and high levels of one specific type of antibody, IgM.

According to the article, Huls, who was still in training, sought out answers to tough cases. “When I see people suffering and I know that if I took the time and effort, I could figure it out,” the article quotes Huls as saying, “then I have to do something.”  

Huls used the database PubMed to look for a disease that matched the patient’s symptoms. He did a thorough review of her symptoms and abnormalities, and compared them with previously archived electronic medical records, going back more than a decade.

Comments from the article's readers praise Huls for his tenacity and attention to detail: "Dr. Huls saw this as a challenge instead of a burden," said one. "I heart Dr. Forest Huls. What if all doctors were like him?" asked another. And, "People like Dr Forest Huls are the reason why I want to go into medicine."

Selwyn Vickers, M.D., Dean of the UAB School of Medicine, called the article, "a testament to the care, compassion, commitment, and curiosity that our outstanding residents bring to their work."

Today Huls is completing a pathology fellowship at the University of Michigan.