Dr. Loren Miller, an infectious disease specialist at the Lundquist Institute in Torrance, is using his detective skills on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

“A lot of times we see things in medicine we can’t explain,” he told Danielle Gersh for CBS2’s series on STEAM careers.

Miller cares for patients sick with all kinds of infections, including coronaviruses.

“COVID-19 is kind of diabolical in a way in that it spreads like the common cold,” he says. “And common colds are very transmissible, they’re very contagious, but at the same time it can also cause some very serious disease.”

Miller also researches germs to find out how they spread, why they spread and what we can do to stop them.

“We take care of patients who have infections but we don’t know the cause, so we do some detective work,” he says.

Miller always asks three questions in his disease detective work: where did you go, who were you with and what did you eat.

He explains one of the biggest dangers of COVID-19 is the unknown.

“It’s a combination of two things that really hasn’t been seen before in living memory for all of us,” Miller says. “Common colds travel all year around. they rarely kill people. Deadly viruses are usually confined to small geographic areas and are contained. So for example, Ebola is largely contained in areas and doesn’t spread out. So here you have this combination of two things that we just haven’t seen in living memory.”

Of all the STEAM disciplines — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — infection fighting relies most on science, math and art.

“We study human behavior,” he says. “It’s really important to understand what people do everyday. Where do they go. What do they eat. Who do they have contact with.”

Miller said he decided to become a doctor in his junior year of college after his own run-in with the medical system.

“When I became ill, I had lots of interactions with the medical system. And I saw how important it was to be a good communicator between healthcare workers and persons who are sick and I saw some many good examples and some many less good examples and I thought I can do this.”

Miller said he’s prepared to work long hours in the weeks ahead battling COVID-19.

“Probably the thing that gives me the most joy is taking care of people and figuring out what sort of infections they have, alleviating their concerns and their fears to me gives me the most professional satisfaction.”

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