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Elizabeth Griffin '85 Continues Family Tradition of Service

By Kenneth Stratton '19 THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

Her family has a tradition of committing themselves to service. Her father was a college professor, her mother an operating room nurse. Her father and older brother both served in the military. Being very competitive, she was not going to be left out of the challenges herself.

Elizabeth Griffin '85 transferred to Western New England from Quinsigamond Community College in 1983. Her decision to attend was informed not only by the strong Biomedical Engineering program, but by the beauty of the campus as well.

“I had been interested in engineering as long as I can remember,” Griffin said. “In my senior year at Western New England I participated in an internship program at Shriner’s Hospital which I found most rewarding; my senior project involved work on a computer communication aid for a young girl there with no speech capability and limited motor skills,” the engineering graduate said. Griffin thanked Dr. James Masi for his encouragement during that time.

During her years as a student, Griffin participated in IEEE, played volleyball, participated in Golden Squares (the square dance club on campus), played the violin, and worked at a local McDonald’s.

“At that time, I was in the Army Reserve, so I spent one weekend every month drilling with the Army at Hanscom Air Force Base, or on bivouac at Fort Devens, MA,” said Griffin, reflecting on her busy undergraduate years. “Shortly after graduation from Western New England I switched from the Army Reserve to the Navy Reserve,” she added. In the several roles she’d have with the Navy, Griffin gained a lot of experience.

“When I was enlisted, I worked as the Security Coordinator where I processed security clearances for unit members. As an officer I worked in various leadership roles in administration, personnel, training and mobilization, and public affairs,” Griffin said. She worked in a Naval Control of Shipping unit where she met and married her husband, another Naval officer. Retiring as Lieutenant Commander in 2004, Griffin says she’s proud of the time she served in the military. The proud mom added that both sons are continuing the family tradition of service – one is an officer in the U.S. Air Force and one is in an ARMY ROTC program.

While in the Reserves, Griffin was also working full time. For the first few years post-undergrad, she was with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Brockton, MA.

“Through a connection from Western New England, I landed an interview with the Biomedical Engineering Department at the VA Medical Center,” Griffin said. They hired her in a temporary role, before creating a position for her, and then hiring her full time.

“It was a great starting opportunity for me. I was working in a hospital, learning about medical equipment maintenance, new equipment purchases, monitoring contracts, hospital accreditation, and so much more,” said Griffin. In 1990, Griffin moved onto the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and she’s been there ever since.

“In addition to foods and drugs, the FDA also regulates biological products (such as blood, plasma, and human tissues), medical devices, radiation-emitting devices, experimental drugs and devices, animal drugs, tobacco, and so many other products,” Griffin explained, which is where her biomedical engineering background comes in. Much of her work has been in the medical device program, which she says is interesting because it’s so diverse. She’s inspected dental implants, lasers, fetal monitoring systems, various surgical instruments, X-ray equipment and so much more.

Working both domestically and internationally, Griffin has conducted over 30 inspections in 12 foreign countries. Her work involves analyzing operations, noting violations, documenting findings and discussing them with industry officials.

“I have maintained certifications in two of FDA’s program areas: medical devices; and blood banks and plasma centers,” Griffin said. “In 2017 I made the move from being a Medical Device Specialist to a Biologics Specialist within FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs,” she explained. Now her work includes inspecting human tissue processors, such as fertility clinics, and biologic device firms, such as the manufacturers of HIV test kits. In her investigative roles with the FDA, Griffin has conducted inspections which resulted in Warning Letters, product recalls, injunctions and numerous voluntary corrective actions.

“It is nice to feel you have a positive impact on the medical products provided to consumers. And I’m encouraged, as I see more graduates from Western New England join the US Food & Drug Administration,” Griffin said.

Thinking back on her days in school, and on the career that followed, she said it’s “been a good journey.” And despite being sometimes the only woman in her engineering classes at Western New England, she remembers only a positive environment: “I found my classmates supportive, sharing similar goals and challenges,” Griffin said.

Part of Griffin’s service today includes work on the Western New England Biomedical Engineering Advisory Board. Saying her education set her up well for her career, Griffin is looking forward to seeing the exciting projects of the next generation of engineering students.