Dr. Jessie Price is the veterinary microbiologist responsible for developing a vaccine against Pasteurella anatipestifer, a respiratory disease which killed roughly 10% to 30% of ducks annually around the 1940s. A Black woman from a poor family, she overcame many obstacles before achieving success as an acclaimed scientist. Born in the year 1930, Dr. Price was raised by a single mother in Pennsylvania. Growing up, she was one of the three Black children in the entire school. Nonetheless, she achieved excellent grades and dedicated herself to academic excellence with the encouragement of her mother and teachers. After a gap year studying in New York, Dr. Price attended Cornell University. Despite initially wanting to become a physician, financial constraints did not enable her to follow that path, so instead she decided to study veterinary microbiology. She decided to continue her education at graduate school, and in order to pay off her tuition, Dr. Price worked as a lab technician at the Poultry Disease Research Farm of the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University. She earned her Masters in bacteriology, pathology,and parasitology, and she earned her PhD based on her research and thesis titled, “Studies on the Pasteurella anatipestifer Infection in White Pekin Ducklings.”
Along with her two assistants, Dr. Jessie Price created the vaccine for Pasteurella anatipestifer, saving the meat industry millions of dollars as well as saving the lives of innocent ducklings! In addition, through numerous autopsies and trials using vaccinations, Dr. Price identified Pasteurella multocida, Escherichia coli, and Duck hepatitis as the main culprits responsible for killing the several flocks of ducklings she was studying.
The vaccine for Pasteurella anatipestifer connects to topics learned in AP Biology because a vaccine contains the weakened or inactive fragments of an antigen which, when injected into an organism, activates the immune system, prompting it to create antibodies which aid with immunity.
Dr. Jessie Price had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She loved bettering herself and continued studying and researching most of her life. Very sadly, Dr. Price passed away on November 12, 2015, due to Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Jessie Price’s story inspires us to work hard for our dreams and overstep limitations. She dedicated herself to uncovering solutions, reminding us the value of enjoying the process just as much as arriving at the destination.