LIFE TRIBUTE – Elizabeth Clark

Elizabeth Clark


Elizabeth was born in New York City, the younger sister of Doris and Tony. She graduated from Mother Cabrini High School and the Beth Israel School of Nursing. In 1971, she joined the Air Force as a registered nurse.

After two years as an OB/GYN staff nurse at Davis-Montham AFB AZ, she trained as an OB/GYN Nurse Practitioner at the University of Kansas and was assigned to Malmstrom AFB MT in late 1973. While there, she met Lieutenant John Clark and the two became a couple. She was introduced to the beauty of hiking the trails of Glacier National Park. Camping and hiking in parks around the nation became a lifetime passion for both. In 1975, Elizabeth and John decided to leave the Air Force and return to college.

They moved to Long Beach CA, married in April 1976, and began life as college students. Elizabeth attended Long Beach City College and California State University, Long Beach, graduating with a Bachelor in Microbiology and a Master in Public Health. She was hired as a Nurse Epidemiologist by Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

In 1984, she moved to Torrance Memorial Medical Center (TMMC), as Director of Infection Control, a position she held for 30 years. She became active in the Association of Practitioners in Infection Control (APIC), serving several times as President of the Coastline APIC chapter and worked constantly to improve the quality of infection prevention at TMMC and in the profession. In 1995, She noticed a problem with infections following heart valve replacements. Working with a colleague at the Centers for Disease Control, she traced the problem to quality control issues during preparation by the valve supplier. Their findings were presented at APIC in 1996 and in a CDC report in 1997. Several years later, she was faced with an outbreak of MRSA infecting several infants in the Newborn Infant Critical Care Unit (NICU). Using the new availability of a new test, she demonstrated that each of the infants had a distinct variant of MRSA, likely present when they arrived at TMMC, rather than a common variant passed from one to another by the NICU staff. In 2008, She led a multiyear campaign at TMMC to reduce MRSA infections throughout the hospital, with special focus on the most vulnerable patients, such as those in the Burn Unit. She also came to the attention of the California Department of Public Health when the dramatically lower infection rates at TMMC were confirmed by CDPH. She became an advisor to the CDPH Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) Advisory Committee, where she worked to improve the quality of care throughout the state and nation.

In 2014, she retired from TMMC and joined CDPH as an Infection Preventionist supporting the HAI program at hospitals throughout southern California. She retired in 2016.

In her time off, she and John continued to pursue their love of travel and hiking, traveling throughout the nation. She developed a passion for antique furniture and dinnerware, filing their home with her finds. She also enjoyed doing a variety of crafts to decorate her home. And she renewed an early love of American history and became a member and supporter of history-related charities. Following her retirement, she and John began more active travel in the western US to identify locations for a possible retirement home.

In 2018, their plans were revised when Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer. She began a three-year battle for her life while continuing to travel and collect antiques. She was known by her acquaintances as a ‘tough lady’ who endured near-continuous cancer treatment with determination and humor. In December 2020, she lost her battle with cancer while fighting to the end. It was her wish to be cremated.

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