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Media Whiz Foushee Marks 29 Years at NIEHS

By Colleen Chandler

After working her way up to head of the NIEHS media unit, Jennie Foushee has mixed up her share of media recipes and doled out her own special blend of media advice. And, she always does it with a smile.

Foushee, who has been working in the media unit for 29 years, inherited the permanent position after filling in since her predecessor retired last fall.

"She is the stalwart of the media unit. She probably knows more about its day-to-day operations than anybody," said NIEHS acting deputy scientific director Dr. Steven Akiyama, Foushee's supervisor.

Jennie Foushee

Working in the media unit requires an eye for detail and knowledge of how chemicals react to each other; each method of sterilization affects the chemicals. It also requires careful record-keeping. A sample of each batch of media that goes out is sent to the quality assurance lab, which independently verifies the accuracy of the contents.

Akiyama said the media unit is a critical part of intramural research. It provides most research groups with cell and bacterial culture media.

There are more than 3,000 kinds of media that range from water alone to media with as many as 100 ingredients, Foushee said. Media falls into one of these major categories: fly, phosphate, bacteriologic dehydrated, defined, complex defined and tissue culture.

"We can do all of them, depending on what they want," Foushee said.

In January alone, the media unit prepared nearly 3,000 liters of media. There are only four people in the media unit besides Foushee. Wendy Montague is her assistant and, along with Sarah Holmes, handles plates and broths. Essie Jones handles tissue culture, and Mitzie Walker handles the fly media, a mixture that includes molasses and cornmeal.

Foushee also works closely with the eight people who provide glassware and ensures that enough supplies are available for the media and for the self-service area. She said the staff in both units are hard working, cooperative people who take pride in their work. That makes her job much easier, she said.

Foushee said she enjoys communicating with people and finds it satisfying to meet people's media needs. She credits her parents with her work ethic and sense of teamwork. With eight brothers and six sisters, she said, theirs was a home where everyone had to pitch in.

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