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Judy Isaac-Renton, M.D., British Columbia Centre for Disease Control Public Health Microbiology & Reference Laboratory, Provincial Health Services Authority Laboratories, Vancouver, Canada has been honored with the 2013 Gen-Probe Joseph Public Health Award. Presented in honor of the late J. Mehsen Joseph, who was dedicated to the advancement of microbiology and public health, this award acknowledges a distinguished microbiologist who has shown exceptional leadership and service to the field of public health.
Isaac-Renton earned her medical degree and Diploma in Public Health from the University of Toronto. After becoming interested in communicable diseases, she obtained a Fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Medical Microbiology. In 1980, Isaac-Renton joined the faculty at the University of British Columbia and began a practice that focused on medical parasitology. Since her interest was primarily in public health, after working on some large waterborne outbreaks of parasitic infections (toxoplasmosis, giardiasis, and cryptosporidiosis) in the 1990’s, drinking water emerged as her prime area of study. According to Romesh Gautom, Washington State Department of Health, State Public Health Laboratories, “she is a visionary and demonstrated her leadership by creating a number of nationally and internationally recognized Public Health programs. Judy was key in the investigation of one of the largest municipal toxoplasmosis outbreaks and developed new assays to detect Toxoplasma gondii oocysts in water.” Currently she works as a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, at the University of British Columbia.
Prior to working as Director at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, she practiced as a medical microbiologist in Environmental Microbiology, Parasitology, and TB/Mycobacteriology at the Vancouver General Hospital Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine where she was appointed Medical Director and Division Head of Microbiology and Infection Control. After leaving her administrative duties in acute care and being appointed Director of the British Columbia Public Health Microbiology and Reference Laboratory, a population level of laboratory practice became her primary responsibility. Isaac-Renton implemented system improvements that allowed the province’s largest microbiology laboratory to become the first to earn accreditation status from the College of American Pathologists (CAP). She also founded, developed, and became Co-Director of the Provincial Infection Control Network (PICNet), a provincial collaborative with links across Canada. Isaac-Renton is closely involved in helping to develop the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network (CPHLN) by helping in numerous capacities, including serving as Co-chair of the Water Food Safety Subcommittee and several terms on the national executive. Graham Tipples, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada, who has volunteered with Isaac-Renton on the CPHLN, says that “Isaac-Renton has always been a very positive and enthusiastic leader showing both an excellent understanding of the technical microbiology issues as well as being an excellent manager and leader both within her organization and while engaging with partners.” In addition to her service, she has been a part of teams who have been internationally and nationally recognized for their achievements in effectively responding during public health events, most recently being awarded the Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (CACMID) John G. FitzGerald Award for significant contributions to public health microbiology in Canada.
Isaac-Renton continues to practice in medical microbiology and strengthen the provincial public health laboratory and its network of laboratories by leading a multidisciplinary research team using metagenomics to study microbial populations in drinking water. The results are being used to produce, validate and implement better molecular assays for safe drinking water. This pan-Canadian team, supported both by Genome Canada, Genome British Columbia, and the Canadian Water Network, National Centers of Excellence, is exploring novel approaches to water health.