UTHSCT research scientist honored for her contributions to the study of disease-causing organisms

Friday, October 9, 2009

For Women in Business, Longview News-Journal, Oct. 13, 2009:

Barbara Brown-Elliott, MS, enjoys the challenge of working in the world-renowned Mycobacteria/Nocardia Lab at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.

“The laboratory has always fascinated me. You learn so much. One day is never the same as the day before, and it’s never boring. It’s always exciting,” said Brown-Elliott, who is a research assistant professor of microbiology at UTHSCT and the lab supervisor.

The lab identifies samples of microorganisms sent from all over the world, and also tests them for susceptibility to antibiotics.

In July, she received the Gardner Middlebrook Award from Becton Dickinson Diagnostics.

This award honors those who have made significant contributions nationally and internationally to the study of mycobacteria, microorganisms that cause various types of disease in animals and humans.

Brown-Elliott, who came to UTHSCT in 1988, was selected for this award by her peers and an awards committee.

She received the honor at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, held in Philadelphia in May.

At UTHSCT, Brown-Elliott is able to see the human side of her lab analysis.

She works closely with Richard Wallace, MD, a UTHSCT professor of medicine who specializes in diseases caused by mycobacteria and similar organisms. Brown-Elliott often meets the patients who are being treated for these illnesses.

“It’s like a big puzzle that you put together – the clinical history of the patient and the lab results. You get to know the patients and their families, and you realize how important our work is. It’s not just analyzing something in a test tube,” she said.

Her most recent honors include convening and speaking at a session at the 49th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, which was held in mid-September in San Francisco.

Brown-Elliott chaired a session on nocardia, a type of bacteria that lives in the soil and usually only causes disease in humans when it is inhaled.

Earlier this year Brown-Elliott was appointed to full membership on the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute.

She serves on the institute’s Subcommittee on Antimycobacterial Susceptibility Testing, which sets international standards for all laboratory testing. She has been an advisor to the committee since 1997.

In addition, Brown-Elliott is a member of the Editorial Review Board for Clinical Microbiology Reviews.

And despite working daily with disease-causing microorganisms that live in the soil, Brown-Elliott loves to garden. She has been a member of the East Texas Daylily Society for about 10 years.

“Gardening is therapeutic. It’s a great stress reliever, and, best of all, it’s just fun,” she said.

For 60 years, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatments, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, primary care, and the disciplines that support them. With an operating budget of more than $125 million and biomedical research funding that exceeds $10 million annually, UTHSCT has a major economic impact on East Texas. Its two medical residency programs – in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities in East Texas and beyond.

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