Eric G. Pamer

Born: June 4, 1955 | Los Angeles, CA, US

Eric G. Pamer was born in Los Angeles, but went to school in Europe and Cleveland, Ohio. Pamer attended Case Western Reserve University, where he obtained his BA in biology, initially studying hydra in Georgia Lesh's lab and working summers at the Cleveland Clinic. When he entered medical school he worked in Adel Mahmoud's lab, working on immune defense against schistosomiasis. During his fourth year he spent three months working in a Kenyan hospital. He obtained training in internal medicine and infectious diseases at UCSD Medical Center and completed fellowships in parasitology and cellular immunology at Scripps Research Institute and the University of Washington. In 1992, Pamer became an assistant professor at Yale and in 2000 he moved to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to lead the infectious disease service. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0538
No. of pages: 97
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Helene L. Cohen
24-26 July 2000
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Abstract of Interview

Eric G. Pamer was born in Los Angeles, California, where he spent his first several years. His father, who came from Austria, was an engineer with Cleveland Crane; he was transferred to Luxembourg to open a company branch, and the family stayed there for five or six years. Then they returned to Cleveland, Ohio, where Pamer senior became president of Cleveland Crane. Eric's mother had come from Russia and ended up in Los Angeles, where she met and married Eric's father. Eric has a younger sister as well, who has ended up living in Hamburg, Germany. Eric started first grade in Luxembourg in an international school; Eric's classes were in German, but he also studied French, and the family spoke English at home. Just before sixth grade the Pamers returned to Cleveland. Junior high school did not have good teachers or classes and was, in fact, dangerous. High school was better; there Eric had John Hurst as a biology teacher as well as cross-country and track coach. Eric had always liked nature and ecology, and he became very interested in biology. He loved collecting and cataloguing; eventually he studied daphnia as his senior project. He also loved to take long bike rides. Eric completed his BA in biology at Case Western Reserve University, initially studying hydra in Georgia Lesh's lab and working summers at the Cleveland Clinic. Deciding he wanted to go to medical school, he became a good student and finished in three years. He worked on hydra in Georgia Lesh's lab and worked summers at the Cleveland Clinic. He spent a month in Europe, liking it so much he worked as a technician for a year to earn money to travel around the world. He applied to Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and, granted deferment, he spent a year traveling around the world. When he entered medical school he began in Abdel Mahmoud's lab, working on immune defense against schistosomiasis. During his fourth year he spent three months working in a Kenyan hospital. His surgery internship was at University of California at San Diego; he switched to medicine, first as an intern, then as a resident, and finally as chief resident. During this time he met and married his wife, Wendy, and they began their family. Next came three fellowship years in Charles Davis' lab at UCSD. During his first year Pamer worked on African sleeping sickness. He became interested in the study of infectious disease and immunology. He moved his cysteine protease research to Magdalene So's lab at Scripps Research Institute when Davis' lab became too small. From there he and his family moved to Seattle so that he could work on immunity in Listeria in Michael Bevan's lab. After two years and a strong paper, Pamer was offered an assistant professorship at Yale University; he has been there since. He is, however, about to move to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he wants to build up the infectious disease service. His own work continues to be the study of the interface between the immune system and microbes. His lab has mice whose response to Listeria has been to build immunity rapidly and completely; Pamer wants to study how to use that response in humans to protect such diseases as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV. Pamer has had a number of grants and published many papers. He teaches; he has some administrative duties; he manages his medium-sized lab; he is attending physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Veterans Administration Hospital two months each year; he continues to publish; he is preparing to move himself and his lab to New York City. Most important, he attempts to balance all this with his life with his wife and two children. If he could not be a scientist he would travel and write books about his experiences. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1977 Case Western Reserve University BA
1982 Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine MD

Professional Experience

University of California, San Diego

1982 to 1983
Resident, Department of Surgery
1983 to 1985
Resident, Department of Internal Medicine
1985 to 1986
Chief Resident, Department of Internal Medicine
1986 to 1989
Fellow, Division of Infectious Diseases

The Scripps Research Center

1989 to 1990
Research Fellow

University of Washington

1990 to 1992
Acting Instructor, Department of Immunology and Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases

Yale University

1992 to 1996
Assistant Professor, Infectious Diseases Section, Department of Medicine
1994 to 1996
Assistant Professor, Immunobiology Section
1996 to 1999
Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases Section, Department of Medicine
1996 to 1999
Associate Professor, Immunobiology Section
1999 to 2001
Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases Section, Department of Medicine

Honors

Year(s) Award
1989

National Institutes of Health, Clinical Investigator Award

1993

Arthritis Investigator Award

1994

Smith-Kline Beecham Young Investigator Award

1994 to 1998

Pew Scholar Award in the Biomedical Sciences

1998

American Society for Clinical Investigation

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Parents' immigration to United States. First years in Los Angeles. Move to Luxembourg. Return to Cleveland, Ohio. Junior high school violence. High school biology class. Cross country and track teams. Biking along country roads. Developing interest in biology.

College Years
23

Naïve about colleges and application. Matriculated at Case Western Reserve University. Majors in biology, minors in philosophy. Worked in Georgia Lesh's lab. Decided to go to medical school. Summers working in the Cleveland Clinic. Became very good student. Finished in three years.

Interim Years
28

Worked for a year as technician. Earned money to travel around the world for a year. Accepted at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine but deferred for a year.

Medical School Years
30

Pass/fail made medical school fun. Worked on schistosomiasis in Abdel Mahmoud's lab. Worked in Kenyan hospital for three months in last year. Senior thesis.

Post-Medical School Years
40

Accepts surgical residency at University of California, San Diego. Spends next year in medical residency at UCSD. Becomes chief resident. Meets and marries wife, Wendy. Accepts fellowship in Charles Davis' lab. Interested in African sleeping sickness. Begins studying ubiquitin; switches to cysteine protease. Moves to Madeleine So's lab at Scripps Research Institute. Accepts postdoc in Michael Bevan's lab in Seattle, Washington. Studies immunity in Listeria.

Faculty Years
50

Accepts assistant professorship at Yale University. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award. Arthritis Foundation grant. Infectious Disease Society of America grant. NIH grant. Managing his lab. Teaching. Administrative duties. Tenure. Attending physician. Competition and collaboration. Ethics. Patents. Goals. Balancing work with family life.

Moving to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
79

Has accepted job as new head of infectious disease department atSloan-Kettering. Process of moving lab and home. Expects more administrative and clinical work. Hopes to rebuild department with excellent faculty and researchers. Hopes to learn mechanism of immune response studying T-cell population in people who have had bone-marrow transplants.

Index
94

About the Interviewer

Helene L. Cohen