Trustee Spotlight | Dr. Arthur Anderson

Dr. Arthur Anderson

Dr. Arthur Anderson is a member of Hood College's Board of Trustees. He performed research on convalescent plasma which is being used today in the fight against COVID19.

Dr. Arthur Anderson, Hood College Board of Trustees

"College turned my whole life around. I graduated and went to University of Maryland School of Medicine. There were a lot of clinical courses I excelled in but I decided to become a pathologist and did my training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital"

Please tell us about your early years—how did it shape your career?

I grew up on Staten Island. All four of my grandparents were Scandinavian immigrants and although there were scholars, scientists, educators and physicians in their family trees, neither of my parents had the opportunity to obtain a college education. My father supplemented his high school education by taking a business course and increasing his vocabulary with a thesaurus.

In first grade, I was labeled mentally challenged because I could not read like my peers (although I could recite stories from memory once read to me). The label followed me to high school and although neither I or my mother believed it, many of the teachers had low expectations of me.

I was not what you would call a good student in high school although I performed very well in art and science.  I was very lucky to be accepted at Wagner College, a small liberal arts coeducational college similar to Hood College.

I was scared stiff but very excited about being in college. The college never received my records stating that I was mentally challenged and on my first Biology test, I earned 100%. My professor admitted that he had never had any student get 100% and made me stand up for recognition.

From then on, all my classmates looked to me and for guidance.

How did a liberal arts college experience change your path?

College turned my whole life around. I graduated and went to University of Maryland School of Medicine. There were a lot of clinical courses I excelled in but I decided to become a pathologist and did my training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

While doing my four-year residency in Pathology, I also did independent research in Transplant Immunology and participated with graduate students in the Hopkins Immunology Council. At the end of my Pathology training, I was obliged to go on active duty in the US Army.

I was deep into immunology research and wanted to be stationed at a US Army Medical Research and Development base near DC. I found a home at USAMRIID, which provided an infinite number of research projects and collaborations with NCI, NIH and scientists at other institutions.

You performed research on convalescent plasma which is being used today in the fight against COVID. Tell us more about that.  

Convalescent plasma is an old science, circa 1900, but it can be useful in shortening hospital stays or preventing mortality. At USAMRIID, we were always prepared to inject convalescent plasma if exposure to a virus, bacteria or toxin for which there were no known drugs or antidotes were to occur.

My interest in the potential benefits of convalescent plasma led to meeting Daniele Focosi. Daniele runs a clinical laboratory in Pisa Italy and is a specialist in Blood Banking and Clinical Immunology. He has been trying to get me more involved in clinical immunology for years.

When he asked me if I would work with him in revising and/or writing an article on how to use Convalescent Plasma to treat COVID-19 infections I said I would. I never actually used convalescent plasma in patients but other Army physicians at USAMRIID did.

They submitted their protocols to the Institutional Review Board that I chaired, so during the intensive ethical reviews I learned a lot about how to safely collect plasma to reduce the risk of carried-over infections as well as how to ensure that the plasma had the right kinds of antibodies to treat certain diseases.

You have remained active in your field as an advisor and mentor. One researcher, Dr. Reza Abdi, is leveraging your knowledge to help him develop cancer treatments—please share how that has developed.

Dr. Reza Abdi is a transplant surgeon and immunologist at Harvard. He has been interested in ways to assure that immune lymphocytes get into tumor lesions that he wants these lymphocytes to kill.

Immunotherapy, which helps the immune system to kill cancer cells, is gaining a foothold in academic hospitals like Women’s and Brigham Hospital at Harvard University. 

Dr. Reza and some of his students set up a Dropbox on my computer so we could share research. They would look to see if a structure I described in detail during my transplantation research in the 1970s could be found in the walls of tumors treated with some of the cytokines that may induce formation of High Endothelial Venules. HEVs are blood vessels that are adapted for lymphocyte trafficking.

Each time Reza and his students sent items for me to review, it allowed me to share with them fundamental information about in vivo immunity and how it develops.

How and why did you become involved with Hood College as a trustee?  

I accepted the role because of our family’s connection to Hood College.

My wife Julane and I are very grateful for our daughter Phoebe’s education at Hood. Phoebe had formerly been a freshman at another small private college in Pennsylvania, but she was not having a positive experience and returned home.

She took some courses at FCC and did well, so she decided to apply to Hood for a degree in Social Work. This was the spark that turned her life around and she moved ahead beautifully, completing a master’s degree in social work just one year after graduation from Hood.

Three years ago, after multiple ties to and support of the College’s mission, I officially joined the Board of Trustees.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I am proud to serve on the board of directors for both Hospice of Frederick County and the Frederick Kiwanis Club

My wife Julane and I have enjoyed packing lunch bags for Blessings in a Backpack and volunteering with the Religious Coalition delivering food for homeless individuals at a shelter.

We also prioritize gifting to non-profits; the community foundation has a scholarship for nontraditional students that we endowed and we contribute to Hospice’s Camp Jamie. When we aren’t volunteering, my wife and I enjoy cycling and having toured by bicycle both domestically and internationally. 

This year the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic prevented us from taking our planned bike tours to Vietnam and Albania, but we have many memories from the bike tours we were on between 2009 and 2019.

Julane and I have been cycling locally almost every sunny day and have cycled over 3500 miles since the beginning of the year! We get up before the sun comes up and ride off as it rises. Julane and I find cycling to be tremendous source of peace and joy.

Inspired by Dr. Anderson's journey? Click here to learn about Hood College's Board of Trustees.