George Counts is currently retired in Seattle, Washington. He ended his professional career by serving as Senior Advisor on Special populations in the Community Education Program for the NIH/HIV Vaccine Trials Network at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle from 2002 until 2004. His overall interest was to bridge the healthcare divide in AIDS research and that of other infectious diseases. His main goal was the encouragement of minority students to pursue careers in biomedical research and of minority subjects to participate in clinical trials, a goal that helped define his career choices throughout the past decades.
A native of Oklahoma, Counts was raised on a share‐cropper farm in the town of Idabel. He began college in 1953, where he developed a love of plant sciences and microbiology. Counts earned his B.S. degree in 1957 and his M.S. degree in 1960, both from the University of Oklahoma. He entered medical school in 1961 and received his M.D. degree from the University of Iowa. His Internship and Residence were carried out at the Ohio State University Hospital in Internal Medicine. He then became a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine in Infectious Disease.
After his postdoctoral work, Counts served as Assistant Professor at the University of Miami from 1970 to 1975, before returning to the state of Washington. From 1975 to 1984, Counts served as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases of Harborview Medical Center and in 1985, became Professor of Medicine at UW and member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle where he was also Director of the Microbiology Laboratory.
In the late 1980’s, in an effort to expand his interest in the HIV/AIDS field, Counts accepted a position at the Division of AIDS of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at NIH in Bethesda, MD. From 1989 to 1994, while he was chief of the branch responsible for managing adult and pediatric AIDS clinical trials, he noted the inadequate recruitment of women and minorities into research studies. In 1994, Counts accepted a new position at NIAID of Director of the Office of Research on Minority and Women’s Health, where he coordinated all activities related to research and training of minorities and women. Later, in 2000, he moved on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, serving as Assistant Director for Syphilis Elimination Activities in the Division of STD (sexually transmitted diseases) Prevention.
Counts is well known nationally and internationally for his expertise in infectious disease research and has published more than 100 scientific papers. He has contributed in a major way to the study of hospital‐acquired infections, of infections in immunocompromised patients, and to studies designed to examine the role of antimicrobial agents in the prevention and treatment of bacterial, fungal and protozoan infections. He served on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Infection Control.
In 1997, Counts was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM). In that same year, he served as Professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD. Counts has received several other distinguished honors including the National Association of Medical Minority Educator Award for Distinguished Service in the Health Field, the Public Health Service Superior Service Award, the IDSA Career Achievement Award, the Leinfelder Award from the University of Iowa (UI), and was named distinguished alumnus from both the UI and the UW. Counts is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and a Fellow of both the American College of Physicians and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Counts has been highly successful in serving ASM with intelligence, discretion and commitment, and he has furthered the careers of underrepresented minorities by his work. He contributed greatly to ASM’s Minority Task Force, and his work with this group from 1994 to 1997 involved a careful analysis of the ASM structure in terms of its strategic plan. His work on the Task Force led to the establishment of the Underrepresented Members Committee (UMC) of which he was the first Chair (1997). The UMC is a leading committee of ASM’s Membership Board. As Chair of this committee, Counts set up a special session at the 1999 Annual Meeting entitled “Past, Present and Future Impact of Participation in the ASM by Underrepresented Members.” He developed the procedure by which the UMC recommended underrepresented members to positions on ASM Boards, committees and as journal reviewers. This resulted in the appointment in 2001 of 76% of the 51 recommended members, a major feat.
Counts also led the effort to obtain accurate demographic data on ASM membership to allow the Society to address problems of under‐representation. In 2002, he was asked to develop and be Chair of the ASM Minority Coalition, which consists of all the ASM minority committees. The Coalition coordinates the actions of these committees, and has helped to bring more minority students into microbiology and more microbiologists into ASM. As a result of his devotion to this cause and his excellent work, Counts won the 2006 ASM Founders Distinguished Service Award. The award honored his work on behalf of underrepresented minority members of both ASM and NIH. Counts is also credited with being instrumental in developing the series of articles in ASM’s “Microbe” known as Faces of ASM, which highlights the diversity existing among ASM members. His other ASM activities included membership on the Committee on Diversity and the Committee on Microbiologic Issues Impacting Minorities.
Counts is committed to his cause, and is fair, gentle, a pleasure to work with, and has made his mark in breaking down barriers in health care disparity. His leadership has allowed ASM to increase the participation of underrepresented members in leadership positions, and to bring attention to the issues associated with under‐participation of minority microbiologists. He has been a great mentor to African American students. As one wrote to him in 1992, “I wish more successful African‐Americans could be like you; unafraid to extend, assist, mentor, guide, advise, listen, direct, praise, encourage, etc. I could go on and on.”