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Dr. A. Wade Boykin

Dr. Georgia Dunston
May 2008

Professor of Microbiology.  Former chair of the Department of Microbiology.  Founding director of the Human Immunogenetics Laboratory.  Founding director of the National Human Genome Center at Howard University.  Dr. Georgia Dunston bears all of these titles, but the title that suits her best is “Teacher-researcher.”  Why?  Her passion for her research ignites her teaching and, as a result, student learning.

Driven by the desire to understand what makes people different, Dr. Dunston has investigated the genetic make-up of people of African descent.  On the one hand, she has chosen this focus because the African population has the greatest genetic variation, an attribute that facilitates survival in a wide range of conditions.  On the other hand, she has focused on Africa and its diaspora because of African Americans’ difficulties with organ transplants, Type II diabetes, asthma, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.  Consequently, she has campaigned to increase the participation of people of African descent as subjects and researchers in genetic research studies.  Above all, she has used her gifts as a teacher to recruit more students into the field.

Dr. A. Wade BoykinIt was, after all, a series of encouraging teachers who inspired Dr. Dunston to pursue a career in genetics: an elementary school teacher who inspired her to work harder, a junior high school teacher who stimulated her interest in biology, a college professor who demanded that his biology majors settle for nothing less than excellence, and a graduate school professor who helped her secure funds for doctoral study.  All of these teachers inspired her, and, as a result, she has inspired generations.

Her guest lecture at a recent meeting of Howard’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter is a case in point.  Dr. Dunston spoke about the implications of the Human Genome Project to students who had just been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.  The students were enthralled.  At the end of her presentation, when she solicited questions, the students responded with awe:

“I don’t have a question,” the first said. “I just want to thank you!”
“I wish I were a student again so I could take your courses!” another soon-to-be graduate exclaimed.
“I wish I could just sit at your feet and listen to you all day!” yet another declared.

No wonder the College of Medicine’s Student Council gave her the Excellence in Teaching Award.  No wonder she was named Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member.  No wonder she earned the AARP’s Impact Award.  What an impact!

 

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