Sometimes called “the medical detective,” or “Dr. House,” Dr. Donald Vinh ’92 made the news recently for diagnosing a 30-year-old patient with a rare disease that had caused chronic illnesses all the man’s life. An infectious disease specialist, Donald, along with his staff at the McGill University Health Complex Research Institute made their second such diagnosis late last year by proving that these patients’ conditions had a genetic cause.
Don labelled the disease CID, or combined immunodeficiency. It is a less-severe version of that of the so-called “bubble boy” born in the US in 1971. Some of the symptoms are similar to those suffered by patients with Down’s syndrome.
Don and his team are already on the path of a cure, developing a molecule that could, we hope, correct the genetic error that compromises a victim’s immune system.
Born in Montreal, Don attended elementary school in TMR before starting at Selwyn House in Grade 7. He showed no early signs of being drawn toward a career in medicine. “Math, chemistry and biology were definitely among my favourite classes,” he recalls, but he also enjoyed his English classes. “Pat Shannon was one of my more inspirational teachers.”
Don also gives kudos to his wrestling coach, Rob Moore, for inspiring him to do his best when he was captain of the wrestling team. “He taught me a lot about perseverance and mental fortitude,” Don says.
After Selwyn House, Don went to Marianopolis and then to McGill for Med School, starting with an undergraduate BA in Honours Immunology. He spent two years in research in Winnipeg and worked for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland for three and one-half years before returning to McGill in 2010, working on recurrent infections that don’t respond to therapy.