David's New Book

Saturday, October 19, 2013

John P. Quinn - In Memoriam

Fishing on Long Island Sound
It is with the utmost regret that I write today of the death of my good and great friend John Quinn who passed away at the age of 62 last night, October 18, 2013.  While I want the world to know what an important contribution John made to the fight against antibiotic resistance, today I want to share a more personal view of this wonderful individual who I will greatly miss. John, like me, was a professor at a great school of medicine in the Midwestern United States. He dedicated himself to the study of antibiotic resistance and to the care of his patients.  Like me, he realized that to make an even greater impact on the lives and health of patients, a turn to the dark side – the pharmaceutical industry – was going to be the best way to bring new and needed therapies forward.  So he accepted a position at Pfizer in 2008. 
Breakfast before wine tasting - France

I knew John as a colleague.  We would run into each other at meetings and advisory boards and we even collaborated on papers from time to time. But we were not really friends. At the 2008 ICAAC I ran into John and saw that his name badge showed him to be from Stonington, Connecticut.  Of course, John spent his whole life and career in Chicago – so I was surprised to say the least.  I live in Stonington.  Stonington is small. It turns out that John was living about a mile away from us in a small rented house on the Long Island Sound shoreline. From that moment on, John was a frequent visitor at our house.  He would come once or twice a month for dinner, wine and cigars – not necessarily in that order.  My wife, children, grandchildren and even the dog fell in love with John.  His quiet humor, his modesty and his ability to listen seduced all of us. We would sit on the deck watching the sunset while enjoying cigars and wine and talking.  We spoke about our families, our work, the pharma industry, academia, and all those things we had in common and not so much.

Pretty soon, John’s family began to arrive.  We had the opportunity to get to know and love Virginia, John’s wife, and his children – especially Chris and Veronica. They became part of our own family. We traveled to Columbia to spend time with them around a CIDEIM meeting in Cartagena.  John and Virginia came to visit us in France where we engaged in a favorite activity – wine tasting.

Then, in early 2011, John noticed difficulty swallowing those Columbian steaks.  He was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.  Being John – he quickly became an expert on the disease and went to Mass General/Harvard for therapy.  After almost dying from his first round of chemotherapy, he was able to undergo surgery to remove the tumor.  He knew that his chances were 40/60.  A year later – when the tumor recurred – he realized he had lost the coin toss.  By that time, Pfizer had shut down their antibiotic research program and John had accepted a position at Astra-Zeneca.  After the recurrence, John left AZ to live his life.  He moved to his home in Cali, Columbia to be with Virginia. He traveled extensively to Chicago, Dallas and New York visiting children.  And he packed in as much living as he could.  John went salmon fishing in Alaska, scotch tasting in Scotland and wine tasting with us in France. He kept busy in Cali helping Virginia and her students with their research programs.
All this time, John calmly and pragmatically faced the inevitable.  He managed his own illness with the help of his physicians, but studiously avoiding therapy that would further sicken him and diminish his chances of fully living the time he had left.   He did well until suddenly last month when he began having severe loss of appetite, weight loss and pain. After that, things went quickly.

John was an inspiration to all of us.  In his professional life, he was dedicated to bringing therapies to patients with resistant infections. And in his struggle with death, he faced his fate head on. He led the way for us all to live with him and put aside thoughts of what we all knew was to come.