Oral history interview with Andrew C. Chan

Oral history interview with Andrew C. Chan

  • 2000-Apr-17 – 2000-Apr-18
  • 2000-Apr-20

Andrew C. Chan was born in Hong Kong, the eldest of four children. His father was an engineer, his mother a teacher. When Chan was seven the family emigrated to the United States. His father was able to continue his career as an engineer, but his mother could not teach in the United States. She eventually attended college and became a civil engineer. Though he was young when he left Hong Kong, Chan's studies in Hong Kong were heavily slanted toward sciences and mathematics, but he also had a good beginning in English. He and his siblings did well in their public schools, attending Irvine High School, and all are professionals, Chan and his sisters in science-related fields, and their brother in law. Extra classes at University of California, Irvine; playing violin and accordion; debate; and chess kept Chan too busy to indulge in a very active social life. Chan dates the genesis of his interest in science to his high-school chemistry teacher. Wanting a smaller incoming chemistry class than would be found in the University of California schools and prompted by two high-school teachers who were alumni, he decided to attend Northwestern University, which he entered with sophomore standing at the age of sixteen. Thinking he would not be ready for medical school at the age of nineteen, when he would be graduated, he decided on a four-year program that included research and granted a master's degree as well as a bachelor's. His desire to become a researcher he attributes to his professor, Joseph Lambert, but for some years he had also wanted to be a doctor. As a result, he applied to the MD/PhD program at Washington University School of Medicine, a program that he considers excellent. Youthful allergies led him to immunology; working with John Atkinson and Benjamin Schwartz and his mother's diagnosis with lupus erythematosis led him to rheumatology, so that he did his research on protein processing in John Atkinson's laboratory. He decided to specialize in internal medicine and enjoyed his internship and residency at Barnes Jewish Hospital. After a one-year clinical fellowship at University of California, San Francisco, he began work in Arthur Weiss's laboratory, where he specialized in rheumatology. Chan then discusses such wide-ranging subjects as parental expectations; his concern over the partial loss of his Chinese heritage; the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing an MD/PhD program; an example of clinical expertise fostering research progress; his teaching duties; how college students today differ from those of his own day; and patents in science. Chan then returns to his own career. After finishing his fellowship he became a research fellow, then an assistant adjunct professor, and then an attending physician at University of California, San Francisco. From there he was granted a Howard Hughes Assistant—later Associate—Investigator award and accepted two positions, principal investigator at Washington University School of Medicine, and attending physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He continues in these positions today. Chan then discusses his lab setup and management; the job market for scientists; funding in general and specifically for him; grant writing; racial and ethnic makeup of Washington University; publishing articles; administrative duties; the physician-scientist program; travel commitments; patient care; clinical literature; advantages and disadvantages of technology; creativity in science; and competition and collaboration. Chan finishes his interview by explaining his current research on the regulation of the signaling mechanism of the T-cell antigen receptor; the possible applications of his research; and his future research goals. He explains how he tries to balance his work life with his family life with his wife, a gastroenterologist whom he met at Washington University, and his two children. He concludes with his appreciation for his family.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 119 pages
  • 6 h 26 m 31 s
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute
Digitization funder
  • Audio synchronization made possible through the generous funding of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Physical location

Oral history number 0455

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • October 11, 1959
  • Hong Kong, China


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1980 Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) BA/MS Chemistry
1986 Washington University (Saint Louis, Mo.). School of Medicine MD/PhD

Professional Experience

Washington University (Saint Louis, Mo.). School of Medicine

  • 1986 to 1989 Intern and Resident, Department of Internal Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital
  • 1994 to 2001 Attending Physician, Department of Internal Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hosptial
  • 1994 to 1998 Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine
  • 1994 to 1999 Assistant Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • 1998 to 2001 Associate Professor
  • 2000 to 2001 Associate Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

University of California, San Francisco

  • 1989 to 1990 Clinical Fellow, Division of Rheumatology
  • 1990 to 1993 Research Fellow
  • 1992 to 1993 Assistant Adjunct Professor, Division of Rheumatology
  • 1992 to 1993 Attending Physician, Department of Medicine, Long-Moffitt Hospital


Year(s) Award
1995 to 1999 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
1999 American College of Rheumatology Investigator
1999 American Society for Clinical Investigation

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PDF — 804 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

10 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads