Long-time Pitt Men’s Study data manager Carol Perfetti is retiring at the end of June. Carol has been the data manager at the Pitt Men’s Study since the spring of 1984, longer than any other current staff member. Though few of our clients have met Carol, she’s been behind the scenes all the while, handling the data gathered from clients during their visits. Below is an interview we conducted with Carol in 2009 on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. We wish Carol all the best in her retirement!
How did you find out about the job?
I heard about it from Larry Kingsley [co-principal investigator for the Pitt Men’s Study]. At that time I was working at the Graduate School of Public Health on a study of blood pressure in children. Funding was running out, and I had no idea where I was going to work next. Larry used to smoke in my office because he had a non-smoking office, and one day he mentioned that a data manager was needed for a new study that was starting up. And here I am, twenty-five years later.
What have you gotten out of it?
It’s been very educational. I came into it not knowing anything about gay culture. And if you’ve seen the questionnaires from the very beginning, the sexual practices section was really extensive. I was going to Tony [Silvestre, co-principal investigator] and saying, “What is this? Golden showers?” Tony, bless his heart, would explain all these things to me.
I’ve met some terrific people over the years. Ric Witt was one of them. A lot of people didn’t like him, cause he was a feisty little son of a gun. But a very good nurse. I can remember him getting ready to go to some dress-up occasion, and he’d gone to the thrift shop and got several frilly dresses and was trying them on for us. “What do you think about this one?” And there’s skinny little Ric with these big biceps in these frilly dresses.
Has the job changed over the years?
Things have changed a lot. At the beginning you’d see several death reports coming in every month, and then to watch HAART therapy come in around the mid-nineties and to watch that just stop…now we hear about guys dying and it’s as likely to be about something non-AIDS related as something AIDS related. I may not have known the guys, but I knew there was a guy behind this report that I was looking at, and I remember just feeling so bad that so many young guys were dying.
The few times when we’ve had the big celebrations, that’s been my chance to see the guys, and to look around and think, man, these guys have been coming in, giving their blood and answering these questions for years and years and years. That’s impressive. It gives a face to some of these numbers. Numbers can get old. When you see the faces, it makes it real. It did at the twenty-fifth anniversary for me. It made me feel like twenty-five years have been worthwhile.