A Conversation with Moshe Arditi

In every issue of The Bridge, we aim to introduce a member of our diaspora.  These individuals touched the lives of many by their research, teaching or service activities. They are mentors who train the next generation of scientists, they are innovators whose innovations make our lives better, and they are teachers who educate hundreds of students. But they all have one thing in common; they make a difference. Our guest on this issue of The Bridge is Moshe Arditi, Professor of Pediatrics, Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and the Director of the Infectious and Immunological Diseases Translational Research Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.

The Bridge:  Could you please give us a brief summary of your background?
Moshe Arditi:  I grew up in Kadikoy and Moda in Istanbul. I attended Saint Joseph French Highschool. My academic career started in Istanbul, where I attended Cerrahpasa School of Medicine (Istanbul University) and graduated in 1981.  After that I came to the United States and worked in the Neonatology lab at Yale University Department of Pediatrics for two years until I took and passed all my Medical Board exams.  In 1983 I started my internship and residency training in Pediatrics at the University of Chicago Children’s Hospital. Following my residency training, I was trained five years in Pediatric Infectious Diseases Fellowship at Northwestern Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.   After completing my fellowship training, I became an Assistant Professor at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital (USC) in 1991, and I went trough the ranks and became Associate Professor in 1997. Subsequently I moved to UCLA as Director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. I became a Professor at UCLA School of Medicine in 2002, and currently I am the Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and the Director of the Infectious and Immunological Diseases Translational Research Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. My basic immunology laboratory has been funded by the NIH continuously for the last 20 years.

T. B.:  Could you also summarize your studies/research?
M.A.: My research area is the investigation of host-pathogen interactions, and focuses on the role of Innate and adaptive immunity in various infection-induced host responses that lead to chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis and allergic asthma and chronic lung diseases. My research interest has always been in translational work, bringing clinical problems from bedside to the bench, use relevant experimental mouse models to answer the questions, and than translate the discoveries back to the patients.  Major focus areas in the lab include role of infections in accelerating atherosclerotic heart disease, allergic asthma and the pathogenesis and novel treatments for Kawasaki Disease. Kawasaki Disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease among children in the US and developed countries. Another major area of discovery and interest in my lab is the role of mitochondria in Innate immune activation and inflammation, particularly the role of oxidized mitochondrial DNA (and the DNA repair enzymes) in inducing inflammation and inflammatory diseases. In recent years my laboratory has also been investigating the role of innate immunity, and gender differences in tumor immunology and metastasis using various animal models.

T. B.: Where do you see studies of your area of specialty in Turkey? What are your suggestions to improve the research in Turkey in this area?
M.A.:  There are relatively limited amount of funding and opportunities in Turkey for conducting strong basic immunology research. I am very happy that during the last several years I have been invited and have been participating to the Turkish Society of Immunology Meetings (MIMIC) in Turkey. These meetings have allowed me to meet several very talented colleagues in Turkey and allowed me to interact and collaborate with them, and also allowed PhD students in Turkey to know about our laboratory. In my opinion, one of the best ways to improve research in this area in Turkey is to increase interaction with US-Turkish Immunologists and Turkish Immunologists, scientists and PhD students. Most promising students and young faculty should be encouraged to come and be further trained in top Immunology labs in the US that are run by Senior Turkish Scientists as Principal Investigators.

T. B.: Would you please tell us about the current status of collaboration between the US and Turkish research institutions in your field? What can be done to increase the collaboration and strengthen the bridge between Turkey and the US? And how can TASSA, in your opinion, contribute to it?
M.A.:  A comprehensive program should be set up to bring in the most promising students and young faculty to the top Immunology labs in the US with Principal Investigators that are Senior Turkish American Scientists. This starts by having an accurate list of these individuals and listing their areas of expertise and accomplishments. The best way to improve the research in basic immunology in Turkey, would be fundraising by TASSA to create special Immunology Research fellowship funds and bring the most promising and talented young PhD students and immunology investigators to these top US labs, but without any strings attached. This will have the dual benefit of training the next generation of research leaders in Immunology research in Turkey and create long lasting bridges between the US mentor and the trainees.  Also, TASSA can perhaps help organize specific Immunology meetings even to bring all the Turkish-American Immunologists in the USA together, as many don't even know each other, and than open it to both US and Turkish immunologists.

T. B.:  You have been mentoring many international scientists and scholars and also graduate students  throughout your career. What would you advise young scientist for a successful  scientific career? 
M.A.:  I always remind my students and young investigators and faculty and my lab members the quote attributed to Sir Winston Churchill: “ Success is the ability to go from one failure to another one with undiminished enthusiasm”. Students should not fear failure or rejection, they should never give up and they should know that success is always built upon failure. A key factor is to know how important is to choose a good mentor. A good mentor always thinks about the student and the young investigator first before his or her interest. A student should ask this question: “Is my mentor thinking for my benefit before his or her interest?” If the answer is “ no” or “I am not sure”, than the student should look for a new mentor. I also encourage students to be very careful when they choose the labs they want to go based on this mentor criteria. Students also should know that they is no fast track to success, many successful PI spent 20-30 years of hard work to achieve the position they have. Nothing can replace hard, and dedicated work. I encourage all students to learn and speak English very efficiently if they want to be successful in biomedical research.  

T. B.:  Could you please tell us about your life outside of your work? Do you have hobbies? What are your favorite activities? If you recommend a book, what would that be and why?
M.A.:  My life outside work and seeing patients, revolves around spending time with my family, listening to jazz and watching my beloved soccer team Fenerbahce every weekend. I am a very avid jazz record and CD collector, and a frustrated upright bass player. I love to travel to Japan not only because they are extremely strong in basic Immunology research, but also because I love their culture and food as well as their appreciation for jazz music.

A book I would highly recommend to students is “ The Pleasure of Finding Things out” by Richard P. Feynman. It is a fantastic book of short works, interviews and speeches of Richard Feynman (Nobel Laureate 1965, Physics) showing how science really works and the joys of scientific discovery. He is also a master storyteller.