For years, HIV/AIDS care was bleak business. In the absence of effective treatments, Donabedian could do little for his patients medically; for awhile he was losing three to four patients a month. But he did what he could in other ways, including serving on the board of a local charity called David's House Compassion that provided shelter and social services to patients. The Ohio Department of Health honored him with one of its AIDS Awareness Week service awards in 2005 for his ability to see "patients as people (not as their disease)" and also for the fact that "he recognized from early on, that the entire person might require care, not just treatment for their HIV," according to spokesman Kristopher Weiss.
What he's doing now: Treating people with AIDS is a very different matter now than it was in the 1980s. New antiretroviral therapies have made HIV/AIDS quite treatable—"a tremendous example of what the human intellect can do to convert fatal diseases to more manageable ones," he says. That meant seeing patients was "no longer really an infectious disease interaction. It was more of a social interaction" in which he cajoled patients to take their medicines and followed up to make sure they were doing so.
Perhaps, paradoxically, that made his work less compelling. "I didn't miss the dying part," he says, but "it got to the point that it was no longer that interesting." That, coupled with decades of working long hours, led him to retire this past August, at the age of 58. "I love sleeping every night and I love not going to work on weekends," he says, as well as swimming and catching up on movies.
He might go back to work at some point, he notes, "if I run out of foreign films to see."