PULLMAN, Wash. — Dr. Merle A. Sande, one of the country’s foremost authority on infectious disease and AIDS, received a Washington State University Alumni Achievement Award Sept. 11 at a private reception prior to the WSU-Colorado football game in Seattle’s Qwest Stadium.

He spent 16 years as professor and vice chair of internal medicine at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine and chief of medical services at San Francisco General Hospital. When he was recruited away in 1996 by the University of Utah School of Medicine to be a professor and chair of the Department of Medicine, SFGH’s chief resident told The San Francisco Chronicle, “We’ve lost one of our greatest teachers, one of the greatest advocates for the poor in San Francisco.”

In 2002, he stepped down to follow his passion. He and Pfizer Pharmaceutical Co. CEO Dr. Hank McKinnell conceived and funded the Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention in Africa. This was an alliance between five professors of medicine/infectious diseases in North America and nine professors from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

With Sande as president, a foundation was established to ensure the sustainability of the program, now the Infectious Disease Institution, a part of Makerere University. More than $25 million has been raised for the model program to attack the uncontrolled HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Sande began working in infection diseases in 1969 and has treated AIDS longer than any doctor in the United States. During his years at SFGH, he established a compassionate, cost-efficient treatment program for AIDS patients, including the first hospital ward devoted solely to the care of AIDS patients.

The Mount Vernon native and WSU honors graduate (’61 zoology) earned a medical doctor degree at the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1965. After four years as an Air Force officer, he devoted his career to teaching, clinical research and mentoring young clinical scientists during their training and early professional work.

Sande has written 250 articles and edited 20 books. His textbook, “The Medical Management of AIDS,” is considered the definitive treatment guide for the disease.