Rolla Abu-Arja, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
What is your hometown?
I was born in Dallas, Texas and raised in Amman, Jordan.
When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?
How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?
I knew I wanted to become a pediatrician at a really young age.
What interested you to pursue a career in Pediatrics?
I chose pediatrics because I love children.
I then chose pediatric hematology oncology knowing that I could make a huge difference in a child’s life and a family’s life during a most difficult time.
Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?
My mother and father are my teachers. I wouldn’t be where I am now without them. They encouraged me all the way and supported me through every decision of my life.
My career mentor was also my fellowship director, Dr. Thomas Loew.
How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?
I chose to do my Pediatric Hematology Oncology Fellowship at Iowa because of the opportunity to work with some of the great doctors and researchers in the field. I then stayed on as a faculty at the University of Iowa because of the career opportunity and what the community offers to families.
The University of Iowa’s faculty members are united to provide exceptional patient care while advancing innovations in research and medical education. How does your work help translate new discoveries into patient centered care and education?
We are active members of the children oncology group and involved in many clinical trials. We are always looking for new ways and new results to improve patient care outcomes with less complications.
What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?
The ability to work and collaborate with very smart academicians.
Everyone here is proud of their work and very passionate about what they are doing.
Please describe your professional interests.
I am interested in Pediatric bone marrow transplant and the role of dendritic cells in Acute Graft Versus Host disease.
What led to your interest in Pediatric Hematology Oncology?
The challenges for the use of bone marrow transplant and the different complications that arise as a result of bone marrow transplant, but at the same time, is potentially lifesaving and gives patients another chance for a cure.
There is still a lot to learn and many advances are happening every day.
What are some of your outside interests?
When I am not working I love to bake cakes. I love hot yoga. I have 2 children and a great husband and we do a lot of activities as a family.
Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?
There is always something new to learn every day.
If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine), what would it be?
That every child in the world regardless of where he/she lives has access to free/affordable medical care.
What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?
The marked improvement in survival in various childhood malignancies such as neuroblastoma and leukemias.
The different new indications for the use of bone marrow transplant to treat hematological conditions.
The use of electronic medical records and order entry.
What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?
When you are choosing your career path, look for something that you are passionate about.
Learn at an early stage to prioritize and to be organized.
What do you see as "the future" of medicine?
Advancement in the use of cellular and gene therapy.
In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public (i.e. population- based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagements off campus, etc.)?
I participate in dance marathon events, outreach clinics, hemophilia camp, and give educational talks.
I participate in the Issa Trust Foundation Jamaica Medical Mission team for children once a year.