CU-Boulder Lecture To Focus On Colorado's Legacy As Tuberculosis Treatment Center

Published: March 1, 1998

From the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs to National Jewish hospital in Denver, several Colorado institutions can trace their history back to the early treatment of tuberculosis.

Dr. Charles Scoggin, a former University of Colorado professor and founder of the Boulder pharmaceutical company Somatogen, will discuss Colorado’s legacy as a tuberculosis treatment center in a program sponsored by CU-Boulder's Center of the American West.

"Go to Colorado and Get Well!" will be presented Thursday, March 12, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., in room 235 of the University Memorial Center at Broadway and Euclid Avenue in Boulder. The event is free and open to the public.

"I think it's a fascinating and in many ways underappreciated part of Colorado's history," said Scoggin, now co-founder, chairman and CEO of Rodeer Systems, Inc., a medical information services company.

"Many people think mining and agriculture are responsible for Colorado's development when, in fact, tuberculosis had a far greater impact in terms of the number of people who came here," Scoggin said.

At one time, 200,000 people a year were moving to Colorado because of tuberculosis, resulting in an extensive system of sanitariums popping up along the Front Range. The state's former sanitariums include such institutions as Lowry Air Force Base, the Colorado Springs campus of the University of Colorado, the Broadmoor Hotel, the National Jewish Medical and Research Center and the Mapleton Center of Boulder Community Hospital.

At the turn of the century it was estimated that as many as one-third of the state's residents had come to Colorado because the sunshine and high altitude held promise for helping them or a member of their family overcome the infectious disease.

Colorado also became one of the world's foremost research and treatment centers for diseases of the lungs -- a legacy that remains today. Many of the world's experts on tuberculosis can be found at National Jewish or the Webb Waring Antioxidant Research Center at CU's Health Sciences Center.

Tuberculosis is still the most deadly disease in the world, killing about 3 million people each year.

Drugs developed in the 1940s for the treatment of tuberculosis eventually resulted in conversion of the state's sanitariums for other purposes. But the emergence of drug-resistant strains of the bacteria coupled with the susceptibility of AIDS patients led to a resurgence of the disease in the 1980s.

Dr. John Sbarbaro, professor of medicine at the CU Health Sciences Center, says non-compliance with prescribed treatment has been a major contributor to the spread of tuberculosis worldwide. However, a recent change in philosophy, introduced in Colorado, to provide direct treatment of tuberculosis patients by a member of the medical profession holds promise with its recent adoption by the World Health Organization, Sbarbaro said.