Lee W. Riley

Born: October 15, 1949 | Yokohama, JP

Lee W. Riley was born in Japan and raised near Tokyo and in Bangkok, Thailand. He attended Stanford University and University of California, San Francisco. After deciding to pursue medicine, he completed his internship and residency at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Riley then accepted a fellowship position as Epidemiologic Intelligence Service officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and then as postdoc at Stanford to study enteropathogenic E. coli using molecular biology technology. After time spent studying TB in India, he accepted an assistant professorship at Cornell University Medical College in New York, where he worked on devising a technique to diagnose primary and reactivation TB. Riley's interest in public health led him to work on developing a Salmonella vaccine for chickens. Now, he is the Director of the Fogarty International Center Global Health Equity Scholars Program at University of California, Berkeley, where he continues to work on TB pathogenesis, drug-resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections, and global health focusing on infectious diseases of urban slums. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0549
No. of pages: 113
Minutes: 450

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
29-31 December 1997
University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California

Abstract of Interview

Lee W. Riley was born Hiroshi Satoyoshi: he spent his first ten years with his mother in Yokohama, Japan, then lived for a short time in a Japanese orphanage before being adopted by the Riley family, at which time he moved to Tachikawa, outside Tokyo, Japan. The family moved to Bangkok, Thailand, in time for Riley to attend high school there. Like his biological parents, his adoptive father was African-American and his mother Japanese; Riley has two sisters who were adopted as well. In Riley's early years his Japanese, schoolteacher grandfather had a great influence on his schooling, encouraging his questioning nature; living in Japan in the aftermath of World War II impacted Riley's perspectives on life, as well as his Buddhist heritage and being multiethnic. Riley attended an international high school in Bangkok, about which he talks at length, and had several influential teachers who stimulated his early interest in physics. Riley decided not to attend a Japanese university, but Stanford University instead; he wanted to become a physician and practice medicine in Bangkok. Aware during the sixties of the countercultural movement and anxious about the draft at Stanford, Riley found his perceptions of the American presence in Southeast Asia changing. His growing interest in public health led him to spend a year in Japan after college. Riley chose to enroll the University of California, San Francisco, to pursue his medical degree; during his first year he undertook a clinical rotation in a missionary hospital in Thailand. After deciding to shift from clinical medicine to public health he completed his internship and residency at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He found interesting the differences between the types of medical conditions encountered in New York and those encountered in Thailand, and he entered the Epidemiologic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he used enteric pathogen fingerprinting technology to identify strains of Salmonella and identified E. coli 0157:H7 as the cause of an outbreak in Oregon. Riley then accepted a postdoc in the Gary Schoolnik lab at Stanford to study enteropathogenic E. coli using molecular biology technology. Next he studied tuberculosis (TB) for two years in India and published a paper in Science identifying the invasion gene for TB. He then proceeded to an assistant professorship at Cornell University Medical College, where he worked on devising a technique to identify primary and reactivation TB. Through his understanding of the molecular basis for disease transmission he identified why a high percentage of drug users in New York City had a particular strain of tuberculosis. Riley's interest in approaching biological questions from the standpoint of public health led him to work on developing a Salmonella vaccine for chickens. From Cornell Riley accepted a position as professor of infectious disease and epidemiology at University of California, Berkeley, and he has since become Director of the Fogarty International Center Global Health Equity Scholars Program at University of California, Berkeley, where he continues to work on TB pathogenesis, drug-resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections, and global health focusing on infectious diseases of urban slums. During the interview Riley discusses his acquisition of the scientific skills and knowledge necessary to accomplish his research goals; his belief in the need to make science understandable to the public and obstacles to that understanding; the scientific community's response to his dual focus on epidemiology and pathogenesis; his desire to advance on the strength of his work rather than through self-advertising; and his relationship with other Pew Scholars. He elaborates on his decision to work with Stanley Falkow and Gary Schoolnik at Stanford and explains how he collaborated with Schoolnik to establish the geographic medicine program at Stanford. He concludes his interview by describing how he attempts to balance career and life with his wife, Jesse Frances Furman, and three children. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1972 Stanford University BA Philosophy
1978 University of California, San Francisco MD

Professional Experience

Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

1978 to 1979
Intern
1979 to 1981
Resident, Internal Medicine

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1981 to 1984
Investigator, Epidemiologic Intelligence Service
1988 to 1990
Laboratory Project Manager, India Biomedical Support Project

Stanford University

1984 to 1988
Postdoctoral Fellow

Weill Cornell Medical College

1990 to 1994
Assistant Professor of Medicine
1994 to 1996
Associate Professor of Medicine

University of California, Berkeley

1996 to 1998
Professor of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology
1997 to 1998
Director, Fogarty International Center Global Health Equity Scholars Program

Honors

Year(s) Award
1986 to 1987

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant

1990 to 1992

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant

1991 to 1994

Cornell Scholar in Biomedical Science

1992 to 1996

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1993

Jack Friedman Young Investigator Prize, Michael Wolk Foundation

1993

Michael Wolk Clinical Scholar Award

Table of Contents

Early Years and Childhood Experiences
1

Childhood in Japan. Grandfather's influence on schooling. Early view of science as futuristic technology. Memories of the aftermath of World War II in Japan. Lack of religious affiliation. Buddhist heritage. Issues involved in being multiethnic. Role models. Early schooling. Influential teachers. Early interest in science. Experiences at an international high school in Bangkok, Thailand. Early interest in becoming a physicist. Decision to attend Stanford University. Desire to become a physician and practice medicine in Bangkok.

College Years, Medical School, and Medical Research
35

Decides not to attend a Japanese university. Awareness of the countercultural movement. Anxiety about the draft at Stanford. Changing perceptions of the American presence in Southeast Asia. Politics. Decision to become a medical doctor. Growing interest in public health. Spends a year in Japan after college. First year as a medical student at University of California, San Francisco. Clinical rotation in a missionary hospital in Thailand. Classmates' reasons for pursuing medicine. Decision to shift from clinical medicine to public health. Completes his internship and residency at Columbia University College of Physicians andSurgeons. Difference between the types of medical conditions encountered in New York and those encountered in Thailand. Enters the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control. Uses enteric pathogen fingerprinting technology to identify strains of Salmonella. Identifies E. coli 0157:H7 as the cause of an outbreak in Oregon. Enters the Gary K. Schoolnik lab at Stanford tostudy enteropathogenic E. coli. Using molecular technology in the study of E. coli. Studies tuberculosis for two years in India. Publishes a paper in Science identifying the invasion gene for TB. Devises a technique at Cornell University Medical College to identify primary and reactivated TB. Identifying why a high percentage of drug users in New York City had a particular strain of tuberculosis. Understanding the molecular basis for disease transmission. Developing a Salmonella vaccine for chickens.

Science and the Scientific Community
69

Acquiring the scientific skills and knowledge necessary to accomplish research goals. The need to make science understandable to the public. Obstacles to a popular understanding of science. The scientific community's response to Riley's dual focus on epidemiology and pathogenesis. Desire to advance on the strengthof his work. His relationship with other Pew Scholars. His decision to work with Stanley Falkow and Gary Schoolnik at Stanford. Collaborates with Schoolnik to establish the geographic medicine program at Stanford. Mentors. Scientist's role in public health crises. The problem of misinformation about infectiousdiseases. Infectious diseases resulting from modern technology. Potential risks of biological terrorism and warfare. Studies Shigella in India for the World Health Organization. Choosing career paths after India.

Academic Medicine and Family
89

Establishes a lab at Cornell University Medical College. Funding sources. Accepts a position at University of California, Berkeley. Jesse Frances Furman. Balancing career and family life. Gender and race in the sciences.

Index
109

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan