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Winter 1999

The Scientist and the Cure
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For Giorgi, this visit to Santa Fe is something of a spiritual journey -- a coming together of her past and present lives. She was invited here a year ago by Ellen Goldberg, an engaging scientist who is the institute's director. Goldberg was one of Giorgi's mentors at the University of New Mexico, where the bright young graduate student was one of just six women in the microbiology and immunology program. The two have remained close ever since. At the lecture, Goldberg's introduction of her former student was lavish with pride and praise. "She's a remarkable scientist and her work has resulted in, and will continue to result in, insights into this terrible disease," she told the audience.

Giorgi has also brought along some of the people she treasures most in the world. There is her longtime partner, Duane Keith, a research specialist in the biochemistry of narcotics addiction, and three members of her staff and a longtime friend. Unlike many top researchers, Giorgi is exceptionally close to those with whom she works. Every Christmas, she throws a lavish party at the airy, Eichler-style Woodland Hills home she shares with Keith, cooking everything herself, from the turkey crepes to the cheesecake. It's her way of thanking her staff for their long hours and devotion. "Her enthusiasm is inspirational," says Mary Ann Hausner, who runs the scientist's immune function laboratory. "She has a way of reaching out to people. Everybody in the lab strives to meet her requirements."

Giorgi lived in New Mexico for nine years and she loves the Southwest. The high mountains and open blue sky with its huge cottony clouds are like a tonic to her. On this visit she went fly fishing for the first time, standing in a cold stream in waders, a hat and fishing vest. She didn't catch a single trout, but she was radiant nonetheless. "It was like being home again," she says of New Mexico, after returning to Los Angeles.

A year ago, Giorgi couldn't have imagined such a journey. A year ago, she could barely get out of bed. In a perverse roll of the dice, Giorgi, who has spent the better part of her professional life determinedly searching for the kind of answers that could conquer HIV, was battling her own deadly disease: uterine cancer.

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