Staff Reports


Barbara Brown-Elliott, MS, supervisor of the internationally known Mycobacteria/Nocardia Laboratory at UT Health Northeast, is receiving the 2013 Scherago-Rubin Award from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) today during its annual meeting in Denver.

This is the most prestigious award given worldwide to a bench-level microbiologist, someone who works in a lab studying and identifying microbes such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and mycobacteria. It is awarded for excellent performance in the clinical laboratory.

"I was thrilled and honored to receive this award," Ms. Brown-Elliot said. "It was especially meaningful for me to have people that I so much admire nominate me. I am grateful for everyone at UT Health Northeast who has supported me during the almost 25 years that I have worked here."

The ASM is the oldest and largest society in the world representing a single life science, with more than 39,000 members, a third of which are outside the United States.

Dr. Richard Wallace, an infectious disease specialist and professor of microbiology at UT Health Northeast, nominated Ms. Brown-Elliott for the award.

"Barbara is world-renowned in her field, he said. "She accepts nothing less than excellence, and others recognize that excellence in her."

Ms. Brown-Elliott, who is a research assistant professor in microbiology at UT Health Northeast, began working in the mycobacteria/Nocardia lab with Wallace in 1988.

Their lab specializes in identifying types of nontuberculous mycobacteria and Nocardia, microorganisms that are often found in the soil and tap water. These organisms can cause diseases similar to tuberculosis, as well as other acute or chronic infections that are very difficult to treat.

The lab also tests these microorganisms to see if they are susceptible to specific antibiotics. Individuals with weakened immune systems or who have chronic lung disease often have a higher risk of mycobacterial or Nocardia infections.

In a comment on the ASM website, Dr. Gail Woods, of the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, praised Ms. Brown-Elliott's expertise.

"Due to her dedication and close attention to detail when working on the bench, this laboratory has become recognized nationwide as the premier reference laboratory for identification and susceptibility testing of nontuberculous mycobacteria and Nocardia species," Ms. Woods said.

In 2009, Ms. Brown-Elliott received the Becton Dickinson Gardner Middlebrook Award for significant contributions in the field of mycobacteriology. In addition, she is the author of more than 160 scientific articles and chapters and has presented more than 100 abstracts/posters at international meetings.


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