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October 18, 2022/Cleveland Clinic Alumni

Dr. Yen-Lieberman, Distinguished Alumnus Honoree, Still Loves the Lab

Growing up as the daughter of two college professors, Belinda Yen-Lieberman, PhD (RES/I’78), enjoyed looking through the “big microscope” in her father’s laboratory at the University in Taiwan, where he was Chairman of the Department of Plant Pathology and her mother taught horticulture. When it came time for college, her father insisted that she study abroad, although she spoke only Chinese. He explained that he had to learn French while studying in Paris and that she could learn English the same way.


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“When I was 18, I ended up at Southern Illinois University. I couldn’t speak English!” It was a struggle at first: “I washed petri dishes in the Department of Microbiology, which I couldn’t even pronounce.” Not only did Dr. Yen-Lieberman learn to speak English fluently, but after earning her degree in microbiology and chemistry, she went on to earn her MS and PhD at the University of Arkansas. She then completed post-doctoral fellowships at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic. Next, Dr. Yen-Lieberman embarked on a successful 45-year career at Cleveland Clinic, where she was Medical Director of Clinical and Molecular Virology and Serology for 26 years.

Alumni Board President,
Dr. Richard Lang posing with
Dr. Yen-Lieberman after presenting her the award during the fall alumni award ceremony.

For her “exceptional, enduring achievements and leadership that have brought pride and recognition to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation community,” Dr. Yen-Lieberman is being honored with the 2022 Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.


Dr. Yen-Lieberman says she wasn’t sure what career to pursue when she entered college, but became fascinated by lab experiments. On completing her doctorate, she thought she would become a professor. However, Dr. Yen-Lieberman found a different calling during post-doctoral studies in a Case Western Reserve University lab at MetroHealth Medical Center. “I studied C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a diagnostic marker for inflammation. If levels are high, there is inflammation. For example, I found on the maternity floor high CRP levels in patients who, just prior to delivery, were having pain and difficulty in labor.”

At a seminar, she met Cleveland Clinic researchers who told her about an opening at the Research Institute in the lab of Jack Batisto, PhD (Staff’74). She applied and was hired. “I was very lucky to be there,” she says. “I loved training! I went every day, including weekends. It was a great position! You see miracles you can never see outside the lab. I liked it so much that I got a second post-doctoral degree. Cleveland Clinic gave me a promotion, and we got an NIH grant to study a murine leukemia virus that causes tumors in mice. I was so excited trying to figure out how to get rid of the tumors. Every day, I couldn’t wait to go check on the mice to see if the tumors had disappeared. When it happened, I said, ‘I cured cancer!’” She recalls a visitor to the lab, Cleveland Clinic CEO William S. Kaiser, MD (Staff’64), replying, “Good job! Keep it up!”

Early in the HIV epidemic, Dr. Yen-Lieberman was recruited by John A. Washington, MD (Staff’86), then Chair of Clinical Pathology, to join the Microbiology Laboratory and establish HIV testing at Cleveland Clinic. With Dr. Kaiser’s support, the first P3 facility was built, allowing her and her team to offer the first HIV PCR test in 2002. Dr. Yen-Lieberman became the HIV RNA Working Group leader at the NIH Aids Clinical Trial Study.

After retiring in 2015, Dr. Yen-Lieberman became a contract staff member in the Microbiology Lab

Special Projects Section, and she also evaluates students applying to CCLCM. In recent years, she and her husband, retired radiologist James Lieberman, MD (Staff’02), whom she met during her postgraduate work, have made major gifts supporting scholarships at the Case Western University School of Medicine. They also established The Belinda Yen-Lieberman, PhD, and James M. Lieberman, MD, Endowed Chair for the Advancement of Clinical Microbiology at Cleveland Clinic.
When she and her husband made their endowed chair gift in 2018, Dr. Yen-Lieberman told ConsultQD, “I am grateful for the opportunity to give something back, and I want to thank Cleveland Clinic for making my life a meaningful one.”


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