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Former USDA Research Scientist Leads Department of Population Health and Pathobiology

Paula CrayDr. Paula Fedorka Cray, a leader in food safety research, has joined North Carolina State University as head the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Population Health and Pathobiology.

Dr. Cray comes to NC State from the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Russell Research Center in Athens, Georgia where she was the Research Leader for the Bacterial Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Resistance Research (BEAR) Unit.  She also had an appointment as an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia.

As the administrative leader of the Population Health and Pathobiology department, Dr. Cray follows Malcolm Roberts who served as the interim department head from 2008 to 2011 and then as department head since 2011. Dr. Roberts, who joined the NC State CVM in 1981, is returning to the faculty.

“This is a very important hire for the Department and College, and a great outcome from an outstanding search,” says Dean Paul Lunn. “I strongly believe that Dr. Cray brings vision, energy, and an ability to build consensus that will be an enormous asset to the Department of Population Health and Pathobiology. We are looking forward to significant change and growth in the Department in the near future, and I’m confident that Dr. Cray will make major positive contributions during this period.”

A microbiologist, Dr. Cray has directed the USDA-ARS BEAR unit since 1999. Her team tests for antimicrobial resistance in food-borne microbes, studies the persistence and transmission of resistant microbes, and characterizes the mechanisms of resistance. This research involves securing bacterial samples or isolates from farm animals and their environment, and from animals, product and the environment at federally inspected slaughter facilities.

The unit isolates, tests, and characterizes microbes from thousands of bacterial samples a year. A significant part of this effort, which has helped to create the nation’s largest descriptive database of resistant populations of bacteria, served as the animal arm of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) from 1997 through 2012.  Dr. Cray’s research is recognized globally.

“I am honored to be selected as Department Head of Population Health and Pathobiology at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine by such an august group of faculty members.” says Dr. Cray. “I look forward to leading the research, teaching and clinical programs in new directions building upon the faculty’s extraordinary areas of expertise and talents, strengthening stakeholder partnerships, and expanding national and international collaborations.  It is an exciting time for me and for the department.”

Dr. Cray joined the USDA-ARS in 1991 when she was a research microbiologist and lead scientist with the Salmonellosis in Swine Project, Enteric Diseases Research Unit at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa. She then served in the same capacity with the Russell Research Center’s Poultry Microbiology Safety Research Unit focusing on poultry from 1997 to 1999.

In addition to the University of Georgia, her other faculty appointments include assistant professor (1990-1991) and then adjunct assistant professor (1991 to 1995) at University of Nebraska and an adjunct assistant professor (1993 to 1997) at Iowa State University.

Dr. Cray received her doctorate in veterinary microbiology from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1989. She also has a master’s degree from The John Hopkins University (administrative sciences), a master’s degree from North Dakota State University (bacteriology), and a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University (microbiology).

Dr. Cray’s personal research focuses on the ecology and pathogenesis of antimicrobial resistance. Among her many honors, she was recognized by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine for her contributions as a leading member of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System.