Women's History Month Stories

Miriam Merad, MD, PhD

CRI Scientific Advisory Council Member
Director, Marc and Jennifer Lipschultz Precision Immunology Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Director, Mount Sinai Human Immune Monitoring Center

What factors influenced your decision to pursue a career in science, and how did you first become interested in this field?

I was raised in a family of physician scientists that were very passionate about science and medicine in post-independent Algeria, and spent a lot of my childhood waiting for my parents to finish their work at the hospital. For me, the hospital was not a place to go when you were sick, but the place where my parents and their many friends spent most of their time brainstorming about how to best build Algeria’s medicine. This inspired me to go to med school and to also contribute to the project – mostly as a societal project initially.

I started medicine in Algeria, but unfortunately had to leave at the beginning of a civil war in the late 80’s. I finished medicine in France and decided to do a residency in hematology and oncology, with the desire to go back to Algeria, and build cancer centers there.

During my Hem/Onc residency, I had to rotate in allo-BMT service – there I discovered the power of allogeneic T cells to eliminate leukemic cells, and this was when I decided to study immunology science full force

What is a standout achievement that you’re very proud of in your scientific career?

My ability to bring my very basic understanding of myeloid cells in animals to patients and my ability to explore some of these ideas in clinical trials.

Who is a woman/mentor you admire? 

I had two big inspirations:

My mother, Chair of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Hospital of Algiers. She taught me stamina, rigor, and that we can do it all- be successful while being kind, have a strong career, but also have  strong family and friends.

Dr. Laurence Zitvogel, who I met when I was in Hem/Onc residency in Paris, and who initiated me to immunotherapy and pushed me to take the time to do a PhD in the U.S. after finishing residency ( I never came back to France after that).   

What advice would you offer to aspiring women entering the field, considering your own experiences and success?

Do science only if you want to be transformative – increment on your data, not on that of others. Be generous and kind, and enjoy the journey – there is no better way to live your life than doing science with people you like and respect.

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