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I was born on a Farm in Todd County Kentucky. When I was 10 years old, my family moved into the Town of Elkton, the County Seat of Todd County. Consequently, I was very familiar with farmers and Agriculture products. However, role models representing different professions were primarily limited to Public School Teachers and Ministers. The Principal of Todd County Training School (Mr. Frank B. Simpson) taught Agriculture, and administered the New Farmers of America Program (NFA) that was a National Organization for Negro Boys in Public Schools. Officers of Todd County Training School's NFA Program are identified in Image 1.
On several occasions, I was among a group of students selected to represent our school's NFA Program in competitive events on the campus of Kentucky State College (KSC), Frankfort, Kentucky. During my first trip to KSC with other students in Mr. Simpson's car, he talked a lot about his experiences as a college student. He graduated from KSC with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture. Also, he told us that he was taking additional courses every year during the Summer at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. My friends and I did not understand the significance of our Principal taking additional courses.
On typical school days at our High School, Mr. Simpson was very visible mingling among students during recess periods and after school hours. Frequently, he would initiate conversations with small groups, and ask them about their plans after completing High School. On several occasions, he initiate one-on-one conversations with me, and repeated the same question. Those conversations were pleasant, especially his complements regarding my performance in school, and they encouraged me to think about attending KSC. Periodically, he visited my home and told my mother that I should go to college, and that he could make arrangements for me to get a student job on the College Farm that would be equal to a Free Scholarship. I never questioned the plan that he had visualized for me, and realized later that those brief conversations were actually informal motivational tips regarding the advantages of earning a college degree. Furthermore, those conversations prompted me to focus my attention on planning for the future. I enjoyed my High School experiences, and was the Valedictorian of the Senior Class (May, 1951) at Todd County Training School.
September, 1951, I entered KSC with a major in Agriculture. Also, I was awarded a Work-Study Scholarship that required living in the Farm House about one mile from the main campus with five other students. Each student was assigned specific duties (tasks that had to be carried out evenings and/or on Saturdays) that were essential to operating the College Farm. I maintained that arrangement for one Academic Year. Then, I moved into a dormitory on the main campus for my second and remaining years, and continued my major in Agriculture.
One required course in the curriculum for all majors in Agriculture was Bacteriology (Lectures plus Laboratory Experiments) during my Junior Year. That course was taught by Mr. Dixon. The content-based materials he discussed were extremely different from fundamental concepts discussed in other required science courses that I had completed. In addition, I enjoyed learning technical skills when performing experiments in the laboratory. Following the completion of that course, I wanted to learn more about microorganisms composed of cells that could be seen by humans only with the aid of a Microscope. I inquired about taking another course in Bacteriology, but other courses in Bacteriology were not offered at KSC.
During my Senior Year, a few members of the Faculty, ask me if I had plans to attend Graduate School? My answer was no, because I had focused my plans on seeking a position as a Teacher of Agriculture in a High School. I also informed them that I had received a U.S. Army Draftee Classification of Deferment that allowed me to attend college full-time to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree. I Graduated with a B.S. Degree in Agriculture (May, 1955). From a retrospective view of my college experiences, majoring in Agriculture, taking my first course in Bacteriology, and receiving a B.S. Degree were rewards of effective mentoring from my High School Principal (Mr. Frank B. Simpson).
Following graduation from college, I began searching for a Teaching Position in Agriculture, and learned that Agriculture Programs in High Schools were being phased out in the State of Kentucky. Then, I focused my search for jobs in different Employment Sectors of the Federal Government. I found descriptions of several vacant Microbiologist positions in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia. While reviewing announcements that described vacant positions in Microbiology, I realized that my B.S. Degree in Agriculture (with the completion of only one course in Bacteriology) did not qualify me for an Entry-Level Position in Microbiology.
Coincidently, my search for jobs was interrupted (as expected) when I received Orders to report for Active Duty in the US Army (August, 1956). Statements in my Official Deferment Document, informed me that following graduation from college, my name would be returned to the eligible list of Draftees in my Home Town of Elkton, Kentucky. When notified of the specific date to report for duty, I traveled from my home town in a Chartered Bus with other Draftees to the US Army Base, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas for Basic Training. Following the completion of Basic Training, I was assigned to an Artillery Unit for two months of additional training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
January, 1957, our Artillery Unit was assigned to a Military Base in Germany. Within a few weeks after we arrived in Germany, I was reassigned to duties as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the Headquarters of a US Army Base near Stuttgart Germany. My immediate supervisor was a Warrant Officer in the Personnel Office. I was assigned specific responsibilities that required me to review and verify items of documentation (Pass Ports, Legal Papers, etc.) in application packages from civilians (wives, children, relatives, etc.) to determine if they contained all required documents for transportation from the United States to join identified Military Personnel in our unit. Subsequently, I transferred those completed applications to a designated Military Officer.
Frequently, during off-duty times, I browsed through various documents located in the Personnel Office. One document that I reviewed described conditions that would qualify military personnel to apply for a three-month early release from active duty. Examples of those conditions included Seasonal Employment such as a Professional Base Ball Player, or Admission to a Graduate School in a University. On the basis of that information, I applied for an early release to take additional Microbiology courses at the University of Kentucky (Lexington) to begin in the Summer Session (June, 1958). My application was approved, and I was re-assigned to Fort Dix, NJ (May, 1958); a Military Base that processed documents that officially transferred Active Duty personnel in the US Army to Civilian Status.
I registered for courses in the Summer Term (June, 1958) at the University of Kentucky, and completed additional courses in the Fall Semester. During the first two weeks of the Spring Semester (January, 1959), I was notified of an Advertisement in the Louisville Courier Journal News Paper that listed a vacant position for a Laboratory Technician in the Bacteriology Section of the Kentucky State Department of Health, located in Louisville, Kentucky. I applied for that position, visualizing that if employed; it may provide an opportunity for me to learn specific laboratory skills that would strengthen my academic qualifications for a Microbiologist Position. Following an interview, I was offered a Technician Position in the Bacteriology Section of the Kentucky State Department of Public Health, Louisville, KY. I accepted that position.
In January (1959), I reported to the Personnel Office in the State Department of Health, Louisville, KY to complete required documents. Dr. Emil Kocher (Ph.D. in Microbiology) was waiting in the Lobby to guide me through the Research Laboratories.
Following the brief tour of the laboratories, Dr. Kocher informed me that my responsibilities would be focused on performing experiments that required using a relatively new Laboratory Method; referred to as Bacteriophage Typing of Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses that infect and replicate only within cells of bacteria.
All viruses are characterized as Genetic Elements that contain only one kind of Nucleic Acid (either DNA or RNA) but never both,and they are incapable of self-replication. However, viruses possess mechanisms that enable them to gain entry into specific kinds of living cells (i.e., Host Cells), and subsequently undergo intracellular replication.
In general, bacteriophages are divided into two categories based on mechanisms of intracellular replication: (i) Lytic (or virulent) phages replicate inside of their host, and release their progeny by lysis of Host Cells. (ii) Temperate phages may integrate their DNA into the chromosome of "Host cells" by a process called lysogenization and replicate for many generations, or they may undergo a process called "phage-mediated_lysogenic induction", and exit from host cells with fragments of phage DNA attached to host bacterial cell's DNA that is transferred into other bacterial cells.
Furthermore, bacteriophages exhibit host cell specificity. Bacteriophages that replicate in cells of Staphylococcus aureus cannot replicate in cells of E. coli or in cells of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Also, bacteriophages cannot replicate in cells of Eukaryotic Organisms. Thus, bacteriophages are harmless to human beings.
All of the Staphylococcus aureus lytic Bacteriophages used in the Bacteriophage Typing Project were supplied by scientists in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia. Clinical samples of Staphylococcus aureus were isolated from humans by Physicians located in various geographical regions within the State of Kentucky, and transported to a County Public Health Laboratory for initial screening. Subsequently, pre-screened S. aureus (bacterial samples) were transported to the State Public Health Laboratory to be analyzed in the Bacteriophage Typing Research Project.
Key personnel within the Microbiology Section were responsible for accepting all S. aureus (bacterial samples) and for recording them in a specified Log-In Manual. The first step in all of my experiments involved confirming the identification of all S. aureus bacterial samples prior to subsequent analyses in the Bacteriophage Typing Research Project.
The purpose of analyzing S. aureus (Clinical Samples) by the Bacteriophage Typing Procedures was to generated data that would enable Scientists, Epidemiologists, and Physicians to differentiate and/ or assign each sample of S. aureus into a specific sub-group called a Phage Type or Non-Typeable. Subsequently, those data were used to associate a specific S. aureus Phage Type with the development of a clinical infection in humans.
Periodically, scientists in the Evaluation Unit, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia would send cultures of S. aureus (each labeled with a code) to my Supervisor to be analyzed by the Bacteriophage Typing Method. The purpose of including those coded cultures was to evaluate my Performance (i.e., Efficiency) when using the Bacteriophage Typing Procedure. Following the completion of my analyses of coded S. aureus cultures, I submitted a Report of Results to Dr. Kocher for his review, and subsequent transmission to the Evaluation Unit in the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA.
Frequently, my Supervisor (Dr. Kocher) would visit my laboratory for an informal meeting with me. During one of those informal meeting, I expressed to him my personal satisfaction with my job as a Laboratory Technician. Also, I stated my desire to continue strengthening my academic background in preparation for a promotion that may emerge in the Laboratories at the Kentucky State Department of Health or elsewhere. Dr. Kocher informed me that he had an appointment as a Professor of Parasitology in the Medical School at the University of Louisville, and invited me to attend his course during the next academic term; with the understanding that I would not receive academic credits. I accepted his invitation for the forthcoming term, and never missed a scheduled class session.
In general, experiences I gained from my first job as a Laboratory Technician in Microbiology can be summarized as follows: (i) I learned to utilize fundamental concepts (knowledge-based information) from previously completed Bacteriology courses (Lecture + Laboratory Sections) in applications that were essential for the Taxonomic Classification of S. aureus. (ii) Also, I learned that data generated from Bacteriophage Typing experiments contributed to Physician's ability to associate a specific S. aureus, Phage Type with the cause of certain infections in humans.
During my first Annual Evaluation, Dr. Kotcher informed me that Kentucky State Officials were making plans to relocate the Health Department to a location near other State Office Buildings in Frankfort, Kentucky. During that same conversation, I stated that Frankfort was a very short distance from the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, and I would like to explore opportunities to take additional courses in Microbiology at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Kotcher was receptive to my comments, and stated that he would explore alternative ways to modify my work schedule in a manner that would allow me to continue my education. Those comments of encouragement from my supervisor increased my passion to pursue a career in Microbiology.
During February, 1960,I received a letter from Dr. George Harmon, Director of Research, at the Veteran Administration Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, stating that he had reviewed my application in the Inactive Files of the Personnel Office (Image 1). He also stated that a Research Position was vacant in his Laboratory, and invited me to contact him if I wished to be considered (among others) for that position. I submitted an application, and was interviewed by Dr. Harmon. Subsequently, I received an offer for Employment, and accepted it immediately. Then, I arranged a meeting with Dr. Kotcher to inform him that I had accepted that position. He was supportive of my decision, and I notified him that I would submit a Formal Letter of Resignation to become effective in April, 1960.
April 5, 1960, I reported to the Office of Human Resources, VA Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio. Dr George Harmon (Ph.D. in Biochemistry) was waiting for me in the Lobby. He informed me that Staff in the Office of Human Resources needed to make some changes in my pre-employment paperwork. Those additional Microbiology Courses that I had completed at the University of Kentucky, plus the hands-on experience I gained as s Laboratory Technician at the Kentucky State Department of Health, qualified me for Employment as a Research Bacteriologist (GS-7).
Documents that contain "Academic criteria" for Classification of individuals as Microbiologists are available at this website: (http:// www.cdc.gov/employment/menutopjobd.html). Individuals may satisfy minimal academic requirements for "Entry Level" Microbiologist Positions (GS-403-5) by following either of two pathways. (i) Completion of requirements for a Bachelors Degree or higher in an accredited 4-year College or University with a major in Microbiology. (ii) An alternative pathway may be used by individuals who have earned academic degrees in other fields of Science (Agriculture, Biology or Chemistry, etc.). Those individuals may qualify for classification as a Microbiologist by completing 20 semester credit hours in an accredited 4-year college or university from among the following list of Microbiology Courses: bacteriology, microbial ecology, agricultural microbiology, immunology, serology, virology, algology, mycology, parasitology, protozoology, rickettsiology, tissue culture, taxonomy, bacterial physiology, systematics, epidemiology, clinical microbiology, and medical microbiology. This classification system is also used by the Interagency Board of U.S. Civil Service Examiners, Washington, D.C., and other Government Agencies; among which include CDC, USDA, and FDA).
Excerpted from UNFOLDING OF MY CAREER PROMOTING THE SCIENCE OF MICROBIOLOGY by Paul Edmonds Copyright © 2012 by Paul Edmonds. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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