Speakers' Bureau Directory: Harrington

Susan Harrington
Degree: PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Employer: The Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland, Ohio  44195


Primary Employer: Hospital/Clinic; Other N/A
Scientific Specialty: Clinical microbiology or immunology; Other N/A
Job Title: Medical Director, Clinical Microbiology
Years in position: 3 years at the Cleveland Clinic; 4 years at Albany Medical Center
Presentation Type: N/A
Video Call Type:N/A
Day to day responsibilities:
As a director of a busy clinical microbiology laboratory I am responsible for oversight of microbiology testing used to care for patients. It is important that a director be familiar with the relevant medical literature and the patient population in order to select appropriate tests. Under the guidance of the medical director, each new test is validated with specimens from patients served. Microbiologists interact with clinicians, nurses and other providers, interpreting test results and giving advise on appropriate specimens for testing, valuable test options, and antimicrobial therapy. A director must know the federal, state and local regulations and ensure laboratory compliance. The modern laboratory is especially focused on providing quality test results with limited resources and lab directors are highly involved with quality assurance measures. Additionally, the director is ultimately responsible for the preparedness of the laboratory staff and must work with managers to provide on-going education and training.

I work in an academic setting and prepare and present lectures and lab sessions to medical students, residents, fellows and students of our Medical Technology school. Training the next generation of leaders is a valuable and rewarding experience. Another benefit of the academenic environment is the ability to interact with other professional staff and biotechnology companies who conduct research and development activities with the laboratory. These research activities often lead to publications and/or presentations at local and national conferences.

I started my career as a bench microbiologists, went on to graduate school studying bacterial pathogenesis and, with perseverance, completed a fellowship and became a laboratory director. Putting these roles together, I have 29 years of experience in Microbiology and I continue to be challenged and enlightened every day.

What do you love about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is helping providers take care of their patients. Daily, I am consulted about appropriate specimen choices, test results, Gram stain interpretation, and therapies. When we have a challenging or unusual case it allows me to call upon all of my knowledge and years of experience to make the best decision I can as part of the patient care team. I love talking to the clinicians and hearing about the patient directly. And it is rewarding to the providers to better understand the laboratory's contribution to the care of their patient's infection.

Degrees, experience, license(s), and skills required for position:
A Medical Microbiology Laboratory Director must have an M.D., D.O., Ph.D. or Dr.P.H. degree. Following completion of the doctoral degree, a residency or fellowship is needed.

Candidates must then be board certified. Physicians generally are boarded in Pathology specialties, although, some may have internal medicine and infectious diseases certifications. Ph.D.laboratory directors generally sit for the American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) examination. ABMM candidates must demonstrate appropriate education, postdoctoral training, and/or work experience. Two routes are possible. 1. Experience: Applicants must possess an earned doctorate and complete a minimum of three (3) years of experience in a clinical laboratory. 2. CPEP (Committee on Post-graduate Education)Fellowship. Applicants must possess an earned doctorate (Ph.D., M.D., Sc.D., D.O., and Dr. P.H.) and complete two (2) years of postgraduate training in a CPEP-approved program. 

Some states may also require additional certifications or qualifications.

Tips/Advice for how to secure a job in microbiology upon graduation:
Department chairs value most those who have experience and a publication record. Throughout the educational experience it is important to be highly involved in both patient care activities, and research and development whenever possible. Those who are most successful will have taken their projects to local or national meetings and published in journals whenever possible. It is also helpful to get to know microbiologists who share your interests and passions. These experienced microbiologists can guide you into the job market and help you build your career. Great mentors are hard to find, but few relationships are more valuable.