Dr. Kristen M. Ries, a Salt Lake physician known for her compassion in caring for AIDS victims, has been chosen as one of Newsweek's 51 Unsung American Heroes to appear in the July 4 issue due on the newsstands June 27.
Newsweek selected one individual from each sate and the District of Columbia for its Fourth of July celebration issue. The majority of individuals profiled have gone largely unheralded outside their local communities.
Newsweek executives said Ries was an easy choice.
When she came to Salt Lake City in 1983, she thought she was going to move into a more relaxing lifestyle after two years of hard but rewarding work for the Indian Health Service on the Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation near Wounded Knee.
Instead, the internal medicine and infectious disease specialist has maintained a tireless pace, becoming a pioneering doctor in the treatment of AIDS patients in Utah. She is most respected for her compassionate care for her patients. Still one who makes house calls, Ries feels that by also helping family and friends of AIDS victims cope with the situation, they can in turn, assist with treatment.
"It's too easy to say it's a fatal illness and forget about it and them. Their time is important too," she says.
When not working directly with her patients or their families, Ries also helps develop policies designed to shape the community perception of and reaction to AIDS. A member of the Utah State AIDS Advisory Committee and head of the AIDS Task Force of the Utah Medical Association, she is working to get legislation passed that will make AIDS a compensable disease and provide workmen's compensation to emergency providers who contract AIDS on the job.