Dr. Anthony Scarsella, chief of research at the Pacific Oaks Medical Group (POMG) where he helped pioneer health care for gay men and people living with HIV, has died. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, Scarsella, 77, passed away from injuries suffered in an accident Friday, May 6, at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood. He was the last surviving original member of the 40-year-old medical group, which was instrumental in focusing on the general healthcare needs of gay men in addition to research on HIV.
“Time and fate changed and shaped my career as an M.D. and gave my journey new meaning as a pioneer and first-generation Doc in AIDS care-giving,” he was quoted in a statement from POMG announcing his passing. “Eventually, I was able to poke my head out from the AIDS mountain and I could take care of people who were gay and not HIV+. It was clear that the gay community, my community, had some ordinary medical problems and some unique ones having nothing to do with AIDS. That condition was always in the background, but for many of my patients there was and is a lot related to being gay.”
Originally a primary care physician who also cared for folks living with HIV and other infectious diseases, Scarsella joined POMG and helped grow the group as a leader in the early field of providing health care for gay men and folks living with HIV. POMG opened AIDS units at Sherman Oaks Hospital and Midway Hospital in Southern California. As new drugs greatly increased both the length and quality of life for folks living with HIV, though, POMG eventually closed its AIDS units and instead innovated long-term care for folks living longer and more productive lives. The group continues to conduct clinical trials and research new HIV treatment modalities.
Scarsella is survived by his partner of 44 years, Terry Williams. The couple was renowned for their support of non-profit organizations including Being Alive and Angel Food amongst others.