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Microbiologist John Sherris Turns 100

John Sherris, MD, a pioneer in clinical microbiology and professor emeritus in the UW School of Medicine Department of Microbiology, just celebrated his 100th birthday.

He has made many contributions in the development of antibiotic susceptibility testing methods — laboratory tests that help identify which antimicrobial treatment (like antibiotics) is effective for patients — by making testing more accessible and standardized, and ultimately improving patient care.

A dedicated educator and researcher, Sherris spent 27 years at UW Medicine.

Dedicated to education

In 1959 Sherris joined the Department of Microbiology. He was the director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratories until 1970 and then became the chair of the Department of Microbiology.

In the 1960s Sherris helped reform the School of Medicine curriculum to emphasize interdisciplinary teaching. He also is the founding editor of a widely used textbook, “Sherris Medical Microbiology,” now in its seventh edition.

As an educator he is recognized for establishing the first postdoctoral training program in medical and public health laboratory microbiology in the U.S. in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program was designed to prepare clinical microbiologists and immunologists for work in research and industry.

Recognized in research

While working at UW Medicine, Sherris collaborated with other researchers to develop disk diffusion susceptibility testing — a highly reproducible method that revolutionized antibiotic susceptibility testing worldwide.

His research also focused on new methods of bacterial identification, automated and semi-automated technology in clinical microbiology, and studies of antibiotic resistance mechanisms and epidemiology.

Celebrated internationally

In his 100 years, Sherris has been honored with many awards. Some notable ones include an honorary doctorate in medicine from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the 2004 Professional Recognition Award of the American Board of Medical Microbiology/American Board of Medical Laboratory Immunology. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and a former president of the American Society for Microbiology.

He is also recognized internationally for serving on the World Health Organization’s Expert Advisory Panel on Biological Standardization and the International Collaborative Study on Antibiotic Sensitivity Testing.

Read more about Sherris’ career in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

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