Celebrating the woman who inspired me (4) – Elisabetta Ullu, my mentor, role model and friend

Elisabetta Ullu – Celebrated  by Appolinaire Djikeng, Director of the Biosciences eastern and central-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub

Elisabetta Ullu

Elisabetta Ullu, Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and of Cell Biology at the Yale School of Medicine (photo credit: Yale School of Public Health)

Last year I lost my postdoc mentor Dr Elisabetta Ullu to breast cancer. She endured it silently for close to 20 years. Only her husband and one of her close friends knew that she had cancer. She did so, I was told, because she wanted to succeed on her own merit and not because she was favored out of someone’s pity for her.

I worked with Elisabetta at Yale University for five years, and I consider them my best professional years. They were the best years of my career life because I was working with a true role model.

Elisabetta was smart and knew her stuff, a very critical attribute to have in an Ivy League school. She taught others without prejudice and with humility. She was always happy, knew how to cheer people up…and she was beautiful and a sharp dresser! One can hardly find such a combination in a single individual, but Elisabetta had it all.

When Elisabetta passed on last year, I was unable to make it to her memorial. A friend who knew my special bond with her, and who was at the memorial told me ‘Elisabetta was who she was to you, to hundreds other people’ — amazing! That statement made me cry, because I missed her even more, knowing what an asset she had been to so many people around the world. Elisabetta’s mentees are all leaders in different areas of research and development across the globe.

This year, as we celebrate International Women’s day, I want to pay special tribute to this great woman. Elisabetta has made immeasurable contributions to the world of science through her professional accomplishments and by being ‘who she was to hundreds of people.’