Joanne Letchford, Recipient of University of Sydney Faculty of Science Alumni Award for Service to Humanity
We are pleased to announce that Joanne Letchford, BS, MPH, Diagnostic Microbiology Program (DMDP) Country Director, is this year’s recipient of the University of Sydney Faculty of Science Alumni Award for Service to Humanity. This award recognizes the personal contributions of alumni who, through service or philanthropy, improve the lives of those in need. This award also recognizes the significant involvement of alumni in projects that enrich local or international communities through activities such as volunteering, philanthropy and service to the community. Ms. Letchford came to Cambodia in 2009 as a Volunteer with Volunteers for International Development from Australia (ViDA). DMDP had just finished implementing a laboratory in Kampong Cham, the first of several diagnostic microbiology laboratories in Cambodian government hospitals. Ms. Letchford arrived and provided essential bench training to the laboratory staff. After serving as a ViDA Volunteer for 18 months, Ms. Letchford served as a World Health Organization Consultant continuing her work in developing capacity in diagnostic microbiology laboratories in other government hospitals. Joanne has worked with DMDP since 2013 providing leadership for DMDP activities that include training and mentoring of laboratory staff in provincial and national hospitals, participation in national programs including Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) surveillance, and production of quality microbiological growth media for laboratories throughout Cambodia. Joanne was the only employee of DMDP in 2013 and has been key to our growth and involvement in various programs supporting the government of Cambodia. Joanne now oversees DMDP staff of 12 Cambodian employees and six expert consultants contributing to the strengthening of infectious disease testing and surveillance in Cambodia. Please join us in congratulating Joanne for the work she has done and for the recognition of that work by the University of Sydney Faculty of Science.
DMDP is pleased that Dr. Louise Gresham has accepted our invitation to serve on the Board of Directors. Dr. Gresham lead Fondation Mérieux (FMx) USA in Washington DC as the CEO & President 2012-2016 with a global mission to reduce the impact of infectious diseases among vulnerable populations. The trusted history and model of Fondation Mérieux Lyon France was accelerated through scientific partnerships for capacity building, access to quality diagnostics and biologics, and knowledge sharing in solidarity with peoples and governments.
As the former Director of the Biologics program for Senator Sam Nunn and Ted Turner at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Louise created and supported regional infectious disease surveillance strengthening activities in regions of the world often in conflict including the Middle East, the Mekong Basin, Southern Africa and North Korea (DPRK). Louise is a member of the delegation that developed the first modern tuberculosis laboratory in North Korea with a humanitarian group CFK and the Stanford University-led Bay Area TB Consortium. She advised the Bipartisan WMB Center, chaired by Senators Graham and Talent, and was a member of the IOM Forum on Public Private Partnerships for Global Health & Safety.
Louise served as Senior Epidemiologist for Health and Human Services, San Diego County and retains her adjunct faculty appointment with the Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, California, USA.
Sheep blood is an essential growth factor for some pathogenic bacteria and the colonial morphology and hemolytic pattern of these bacteria have been well described on sheep blood agar. In order to have a reliable supply of sheep blood, DMDP has maintained a small flock of sheep at Resource Development International (RDI) Cambodia. RDI is about 11 kms. outside Phnom Penh along National Hwy. 1 on the way to the border with Vietnam. DMDP is fortunate that RDI has pens for sheep where a responsible team of Cambodian men do an excellent job of caring for the sheep.
With the assistance of Ph. Sam Sopheap and Ph. Uch Monipheap and the support of Dr. Sau Sokunna of the Bureau of Laboratory Services of the Ministry of Health, Joanne Letchford, the DMDP Cambodia Country Director, organized another microbiology manager’s meeting. This was held in a large conference room courtesy of the Takeo Provincial Health Department. Every important meeting like this begins with short speeches and then a group photo. During this meeting, microbiologists from Cambodian hospitals presented some interesting cases. Dr. Peter Gilligan then divided the group into teams for his ID quiz sessions. Dr. Gilligan is famous for his case presentations. He has published four editions of the widely used “Cases in Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases”.
DMDP was pleased and honored to have Dr. Peter Gilligan come to Cambodia at our invitation. Dr. Gilligan is a Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the Director of the Microbiology and Immunology Laboratories at the UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He is the director of a CPEP-approved Postdoctoral Training Program in Medical and Public Health Microbiology. Dr. Gilligan continues to serve the American Society for Microbiology in many leadership roles. Dr. Gilligan met with, taught and delighted, Cambodian physicians, microbiology laboratory staff, medical technology and medical students. He saw Burkholderia pseudomallei growing on an agar plate in the microbiology laboratory of the Takeo Provincial Referral Hospital. Dr. Gilligan was enthusiastic about the DMDP program and Cambodia in general. Although he was here for only ten days, he even took a Khmer language lesson. He has already expressed an interest in returning to Cambodia and more teaching at the University of Health Sciences and we look forward to his return.