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John c. Sherris, M.D., 1921–2021

(Reproduced, with permission, from McAdam AJ. John C. Sherris, M.D, J Clin Microbiol 2012 Nov;50(11):3416–3417.)

John Sherris was one of the most respected and admired microbiologists of his time. Trained in London and Oxford he was recruited by the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1959 to develop clinical microbiology laboratories, research, and the first clinical microbiology postdoctoral training program (PhDs and MDs) outside the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). John’s best-known research accomplishment was leading the development and standardization of accurate yet practical antimicrobial susceptibility testing methods for pathogenic bacteria. The single disk diffusion technique was the most celebrated of these, but equally important were the underlying principles of interpreting individual bacterial strain results in relation to known pharmacologic and clinical data. These have turned out to be enduring. Even automated instruments, which now turn out results by the hundreds in a matter of hours, follow John’s rules. An excellent teacher, John’s motivation in developing this book was to strictly limit the text to material relevant to students of medicine and other health professions, and to explain it well. Stepping down as editor after the second edition he remained involved until literally weeks before his death. John Sherris’ work and leadership have been recognized worldwide including presidency of the American Society for Microbiology, chair of the American Board of Medical Microbiology, and an honorary doctorate from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute (see reference below the portrait above for many more). Amid all this success John Sherris and his wife Elizabeth were the most kind, witty, and downright enjoyable people one could ever hope to know.


Kenneth J. Ryan

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