Dr. Millicent Goldschmidt
Dr. Millicent Goldschmidt

Dr. Millicent “Mimi” Goldschmidt, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Professional Woman Award by the Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) at UTHealth. Goldschmidt received the award during CSW’s annual reception Nov. 6 at the Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS University Life Center.

Goldschmidt, professor emerita in the Department of Diagnostic and Biomedical Sciences at UTHealth School of Dentistry, also has served UTHealth at both the Medical School and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences as a professor of microbiology.

Goldshmidt earned her MS and PhD at Purdue University in 19­­53 and was the sole female student in the program. During these years, Goldschmidt went the extra mile required to demonstrate her worth and was ultimately recognized by Purdue in 2012 with an Outstanding Alumni award.

Before joining the UTHealth faculty in the early 1970s, Goldschmidt was the coordinator of the protocol to plan the biological tests that would be employed in the lunar receiving laboratory on the first returned moon rocks. She also was instrumental in developing isolation protocols for Apollo astronauts returning from the moon, which ensured that infectious organisms would be detected and contained.

When she started her professional career in Texas five decades ago, Goldschmidt said there were really no rapid methods to detect microorganisms. Her research contributed to the development of rapid immunological and biosensor types of detection methods to pinpoint salmonellae, E. coli, and oral microbes.

“Although trained in research science, Mimi has always been a problem-solver. Long before the establishment of the term ‘translational research,’ Mimi viewed her research with an eye on potential applications to human health,” wrote Dr. Theresa Koehler, in her nomination letter for Goldschmidt. Koehler is professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and the Herbert L. and Margaret W. DuPont Distinguished Professor in Biomedical Science.

For her significant contributions to the society, Goldschmidt received the 2011 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Founders Distinguished Service Award. She joined the ASM, the largest single biological membership organization, in 1949 and has served as Texas branch president, newsletter editor, member of the national ASM Board of Directors, and is currently the ASM Texas branch councilor.

Along with her research endeavors, Koehler, one of the many who nominated Goldschmidt for this prestigious award, noted that Goldschmidt has had a long and sustained passion for mentoring and has made it her special quest to guide young women in the development of their careers. As recognition for her efforts, Goldschmidt was awarded the ASM 2009 Roche Diagnostics Alice Evans Award for mentoring women and excellence in science.

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Mimi since my arrival to UTSD in 1987,” said Dr. John Valenza, dean of UTHealth School of Dentistry. “Two aspects about Mimi that have always impressed me are her passion for microbiology and transferring her knowledge to young learners, and her desire to make a difference in her professional world, whether it is at various schools here at UTHealth or in national venues, collaborating with others. I was so delighted to have her come back to UTSD a few years ago and retire as a professor emerita for our school.”

The general consensus among Goldschmidt’s colleagues is that she exemplifies what the Distinguished Woman Award was established for: to honor professional women who demonstrate a pioneering spirit, support women as both mentors and as positive role models and make significant contributions to overall health, quality of life, and public service.

“Mimi is a microbiologist as a teacher, researcher and professional. As an academician, Mimi has always displayed the highest standards of conduct and practice towards her students and colleagues, placing ‘the Academy’ first. As a person, Mimi is warm and generous to all with whom she comes in contact. I can think of no individual who is more deserving of this award than Mimi,” said Dr. Sam Kaplan, professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

“Mimi’s impressive record of service to her profession, contributions to overall health and quality of life, and her dedication to the training and advancement of the next generation of microbiologists make her deserving of the CSW award recognizing distinguished women. Mimi is a true pioneer – for women and for her field,” Koehler said.