By Alyessa D’Ewart
Victoria Hitchins, PhD, of the FDA passed away on Friday, June 17, 2016. Dr. Hitchins was a respected microbiologist who made many contributions to the public health industry. Emily Mitzel, Technical Consulting Manager at Nelson Labs, worked with Dr. Hitchins for over 11 years. “Vicki was incredibly smart, personable, down to earth, and caring,” Mitzel said. “You could always tell when she walked into the room because she greeted and was greeted by everyone.”
After obtaining her master’s and doctoral degrees in microbiology from Michigan State University, and post-doctoral studies at Princeton University and the University of Kentucky, Dr. Hitchins joined the FDA as a research microbiologist with the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. She was a Captain of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service for over 30 years; she then retired from the Corps and became the Laboratory Leader of Infection Control and a sterility consultant for the FDA. Dr. Hitchins’ passion for public health was evident in her work outside the FDA as well. She served as a consultant for the 2001 anthrax clean up and decontamination in Washington D.C., and participated in the 2005 Hurricane Katrina response as a Commissioned Corps officer.
During her lifetime, Dr. Hitchins authored over 70 papers and articles. “Vicki was passionate about the research she was working on at the time, and the wheels in her brain were always spinning on the next project,” Mitzel stated. Her research centered on the safety of medical devices, and the impact cleaning and sterilization processes have on the materials of the devices. She provided a large contribution in developing methods for detecting bacterial endotoxins on devices and cytotoxicity testing of nanoparticles.
Dr. Hitchins was also a thought leader in the standards development process, and she served on many standards development committees. She was the co-chair for the AAMI Sterilization Standards Committee as well as the U.S. sub-TAG for WG 16 (pyrogenicity), and was serving as the convener of ISO/TC 194/WG16 (pyrogenicity). “I’ve worked with her on many standards committees, research projects, and client submissions. We spoke personally about our lives, and I always enjoyed working with her,” added Mitzel.
Nelson Labs extends their deepest condolences to Dr. Hitchins’ family. Her contributions and dedication to public health and safety will be missed.