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Lizzie J. Harrell, PhD, (ABMM), associate director of clinical microbiology and research professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, and pathology, recently retired after 33 years of service at Duke University Medical Center.
Harrell, who graduated from Union High School in Shallotte in 1961, earned her B.S. degree in biology and chemistry from North Carolina Central University, a MS degree in bacteriology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was the first African-American to receive a PhD in microbiology from North Carolina State University in 1978.
Before coming to Duke in 1978, she worked for the DuPont Company in Delaware, UNC Chapel Hill and the V.A. Hospital in Washington, D.C. At Duke, she moved through the ranks to become associate director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory, and full professor in molecular genetics and microbiology, and pathology.
Harrell was the first full-time African-American faculty member in the basic science departments at Duke. Her areas of expertise and research interests include: emerging antimicrobial resistance, anaerobic microbiology and use of molecular methods to detect infectious diseases. She has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles. She also taught in the medical school and mentored undergraduate, graduate and medical students and has done numerous seminars, research presentations and invited lectures over the years.
Certified as a specialist in public health and medical microbiology, she is a diplomat of the American Board of Medical Microbiology, which qualifies her to direct a public health or hospital laboratory. She is also one of the few African-Americans elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology, the honorific arm of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). Election is highly selective and recognizes excellence, originality, scholarly achievement, leadership and high ethical standards that have advanced microbiology. ASM is the largest, single-life science society, composed of more than 39,000 scientists and health professionals.
Harrell is the oldest of 13 children of the late James and Etta Johnson of Shallotte. Married to Sampson E. Harrell, MD, a family physician, they enjoy spending time with their son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. She is also active in the community and church. Although looking forward to a slower pace, she will remain active professionally by continuing her service on several committees, mentoring students and attending meetings.
In December 2011, the Duke University Board of Trustees granted her Emeritus status, and she is now Research Professor Emeritus of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. She will maintain an office at Duke while she continues her professional activities.