This award honors a laboratorian whose leadership has been instrumental in one or more advances in laboratory science, practice, management, policy or education within five to ten years of working at a publicly-funded laboratory that conducts testing of public health significance. The advances should have potential resonance as a best practice, model policy, exemplary system, etc., beyond the originating laboratory. A potential candidate may have:

  • Had a position of leadership within a public health, environmental or agricultural laboratory that led to advances in laboratory science, practice, management, policy, or education
  • Participated in community, agency, or national committees/workgroups
  • Had a critical role in identifying and addressing emerging issues in public health, environmental or agricultural laboratories

The above are examples to help the nominators frame their response and are not intended to be an all-inclusive list of potential attributes that describe the successful nominee for this category.

Candidates may or may not be a member of APHL. However, they must be employed at an APHL member institutional laboratory. Candidates may hold any rank or title within their respective institutions. Managerial or formal leadership experience is not required.

Formal recognition for this award will take place during the awards breakfast at the APHL Annual Meeting.

Past Winners

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Nominate Links
expand Year: 2016
Lixia Liu, PhD, MP(ASCP), D(ABMM)
During Dr. Liu’s tenure at the Indiana State Department of Health Laboratories, she demonstrated technical and administrative leadership at every position she held. As a laboratory supervisor, she increased communication with customers, and established the PFGE capability, thus ending the lab’s dependency on the Regional PulseNet Laboratory. This capability enabled the successful Walmart Salmonella outbreak investigation and response of 2006. Additionally, she introduced MLVA, real time PCR assays, pyrosequencing, 16S sequencing, MALDI-TOF, and new serological testing platforms to the lab.

Dr. Liu’s leadership was highlighted during the response of the first MERS-CoV case in the US in 2014 as she led the ISDHL team, providing accurate and timely test results for a rapid case investigation and infection containment. Lixia has served on such committees and workgroups as the APHL/CDC AMD Focus Group, APHL Practical Guide for Public Health Laboratory Leaders Workgroup, and IUPUI Institutional Biosafety Committee. She is also an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health at IUPUI and faculty of Committee for Postdoctoral Educational Programs, Division of Clinical Microbiology. Dr. Liu is a cohort VI member of APHL’s Emerging Leader Program and became laboratory director of the New Mexico State Lab in September of 2015.
expand Year: 2015
expand Year: 2014
Scott Shone headshot
​Scott Shone, PhD, NBS Program Manager, New Jersey Dept. of Health
​Scott joined the New Jersey Public Health Lab in 2005 through the APHL/CDC Emerging Infectious Diseases Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship Program. After a two-year stint in the BioThreat Response Laboratory where he enhanced standard operating procedures and quality assurance documentation and developed molecular microbiology methods for pathogen detection, Scott became Program Manager of the Newborn Screening Laboratory. Within months of assuming his position, the NBS Laboratory completed a long-delayed project to upgrade MS/MS testing and increased the menu of detected disorders from 20 to 54. Partnering with APHL and HRSA, the Lab piloted implementation of national quality indicators for NBS Programs. Results of the pilot study were presented at the 2011 APHL Newborn Screening and Genetics Testing Symposium, where the presentation won the Award for Best Poster.
With his leadership, New Jersey's Newborn Screening program is in the process of implementing Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Screening this spring and five lysosomal storage disorders in 2015. You may also recall Scott’s leadership role in ensuring the continuity of newborn screening during Hurricane Sandy. Scott is currently serving as Chair of APHL’s Newborn Screening Technical assistance and Evaluation Program (NewSTEPs) Steering Committee.
expand Year: 2013
expand Year: 2012
Photo of 2012 Emerging Leader Award Winner Maria Ishida, 180x225
Maria Ishida, PhD Biological Administrator II/Molecular Administrator Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services​
Dr. Ishida joined Florida’s agriculture laboratory in 2007 as a biological scientist in the Molecular/Rapid Preparedness and Response Section after pursuing research and post-doctoral studies in Plant Pathology at the University of Florida. Over her five-year tenure at the laboratory, Dr. Ishida has immersed herself in food testing, effectively managing the molecular laboratory charged with detection of foodborne diseases. Dr. Ishida was an active member of the second APHL Emerging Leader Cohort organized by the National Center for Public Health Laboratory Leadership and she continues to be active within the alumni cohort. She also serves as the agriculture laboratory member on the Laboratory Response Network Operational Workgroup.​
expand Year: 2011
expand Year: 2010
Photo of Robyn Atkinson, 2010 Emerging Leader Award Winner
​Robyn Atkinson, PhD, Director, Knoxville Regional Laboratory Tennessee Department of Health
Robyn Atkinson began her career in public health in 2005 at the Wadsworth Center in New York, and currently serves as the Director of the Knoxville Regional Laboratory at the Tennessee Department of Health. In addition to her daily leadership responsibilities, Atkinson has become a strong advocate for food safety. She serves on the Food Safety Committee, chairs the Shiga Toxin-producing E. Coli working group, serves as one of two APHL representatives on the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response, and is a member-at-large to the FDA Partnership for Food Protection Coordinating Council. Additionally, Atkinson is a laboratory instructor for the national Epi-Ready program.
expand Year: 2009
expand Year: 2008
​Leslie Wolf, PhD
Laboratory Director, North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health
​Leslie Wolf’s career in public health began as a 1997 Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory APHL/CDC Fellow at the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health. After her fellowship, Wolf was hired at the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health, where she quickly advanced in her career and was most recently appointed laboratory director in 2006. In her brief time as lab director she has led the NCSLPH through many transitions such as implementing a new laboratory management system and building a new facility. Wolf has had a distinguished career, researching and implementing cutting-edge technologies to protect the public’s health. Some of her achievements include being recognized as a 2002 PulseStar Award recipient for her work with pulsed field gel electrophoresis DNA fingerprinting; leading the work in North Caroline to detect HIV RNA in pooled serum prior to seroconversion, which has been essential in preventing many HIV infections; and leading the CLIA Multi-Site Certificate Focus Group to produce 17 recommendations for improvement. Wolf serves as a mentor for many laboratorians and is a dedicated advocate for the field of public health. Wolf has proven to be an effective leader, using her technical, managerial and interpersonal skills to serve her staff and the field of public health with distinction.
expand Year: 2007
expand Year: 2006
Photo of James Rudrik
James Rudrik, PhD, Microbiology Section Manager, Michigan Department of Community Health Laboratory
​James Rudrik is recognized for his outstanding achievements in the field of public health laboratory practice since entering the field in 2001. Rudrik served as Michigan’s first Bioterrorism Training Coordinator for Sentinel laboratories, and many of the programs and training materials he implemented in this capacity are still being used today. He provided the vision for the design and construction of the first modular laboratory in the nation that provides the capacity for all-hazards handling of suspect specimens. Rudrik provides technical expertise on bioterrorism testing procedures to the LRN and CDC and currently serves on the Protocols Committee to evaluate new protocols before their release to the LRN. Rudrik’s exemplary work in public health laboratory practice, particularly in the area of emergency preparedness, has provided laboratories in Michigan and around the country with sound guidance and best practices to follow.

Laura Naught, PhD, NRCC(TC)


Dr. Naught started her career at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory in the Chemistry Unit in 2004. As an analyst she was instrumental in helping implement the lab’s chemical terrorism response program. In 2009, Dr. Naught accepted a position as the first Quality Systems Officer at the Missouri state lab. While working in this capacity she earned a Doctorate in Veterinary Pathobiology from the University of Missouri in August of 2013. In her current role as Quality Systems Officer, Dr. Naught has lead and accomplished numerous improvements for the laboratory. She has lead several successful laboratory compliancy audits, authored and standardized many new laboratory-wide operating procedures, and implemented a laboratory document control system and a periodic newsletter. Dr. Naught is an Assistant Responsible Official for the lab’s Select Agent Program and serves on local boards and committees including the committee for public health accreditation for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. She has also participated in APHL’s Emerging Leader Program.<br><br>One of Dr. Naught&#39;s most recognized successful efforts as an innovator and emerging leader is that of quality improvement. She envisioned, implemented, and organizes the lab’s performance improvement activities in pursuit of the Baldrige-based Missouri Quality Award. This began with the completion of the Show Me Challenge (precursor of the Missouri Quality Award) and continues through her brainchild, the SCOPE Initiative. The SCOPE Initiative is a sustained improvement program that she implemented that has truly impacted the way the lab conducts business and has created a new culture of staff involvement in pursuit of performance excellence. The SCOPE Initiative idea for employee engagement and quality improvement has been reproduced in other areas of the Department of Health and Senior Services and has been presented to other public health laboratories through the Laboratory Systems Improvement Group program.<br>

Lixia Liu, PhD, MP(ASCP), D(ABMM)


During Dr. Liu’s tenure at the Indiana State Department of Health Laboratories, she demonstrated technical and administrative leadership at every position she held. As a laboratory supervisor, she increased communication with customers, and established the PFGE capability, thus ending the lab’s dependency on the Regional PulseNet Laboratory. This capability enabled the successful Walmart Salmonella outbreak investigation and response of 2006. Additionally, she introduced MLVA, real time PCR assays, pyrosequencing, 16S sequencing, MALDI-TOF, and new serological testing platforms to the lab.<br><br>Dr. Liu’s leadership was highlighted during the response of the first MERS-CoV case in the US in 2014 as she led the ISDHL team, providing accurate and timely test results for a rapid case investigation and infection containment. Lixia has served on such committees and workgroups as the APHL/CDC AMD Focus Group, APHL Practical Guide for Public Health Laboratory Leaders Workgroup, and IUPUI Institutional Biosafety Committee. She is also an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health at IUPUI and faculty of Committee for Postdoctoral Educational Programs, Division of Clinical Microbiology. Dr. Liu is a cohort VI member of APHL’s Emerging Leader Program and became laboratory director of the New Mexico State Lab in September of 2015.

expand Year: 2015
expand Year: 2014

​Scott Shone, PhD, NBS Program Manager, New Jersey Dept. of Health

​Scott joined the New Jersey Public Health Lab in 2005 through the APHL/CDC Emerging Infectious Diseases Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship Program. After a two-year stint in the BioThreat Response Laboratory where he enhanced standard operating procedures and quality assurance documentation and developed molecular microbiology methods for pathogen detection, Scott became Program Manager of the Newborn Screening Laboratory. Within months of assuming his position, the NBS Laboratory completed a long-delayed project to upgrade MS/MS testing and increased the menu of detected disorders from 20 to 54. Partnering with APHL and HRSA, the Lab piloted implementation of national quality indicators for NBS Programs. Results of the pilot study were presented at the 2011 APHL Newborn Screening and Genetics Testing Symposium, where the presentation won the Award for Best Poster.
With his leadership, New Jersey's Newborn Screening program is in the process of implementing Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Screening this spring and five lysosomal storage disorders in 2015. You may also recall Scott’s leadership role in ensuring the continuity of newborn screening during Hurricane Sandy. Scott is currently serving as Chair of APHL’s Newborn Screening Technical assistance and Evaluation Program (NewSTEPs) Steering Committee.
expand Year: 2013
expand Year: 2012

Maria Ishida, PhD Biological Administrator II/Molecular Administrator Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services​

Dr. Ishida joined Florida’s agriculture laboratory in 2007 as a biological scientist in the Molecular/Rapid Preparedness and Response Section after pursuing research and post-doctoral studies in Plant Pathology at the University of Florida. Over her five-year tenure at the laboratory, Dr. Ishida has immersed herself in food testing, effectively managing the molecular laboratory charged with detection of foodborne diseases. Dr. Ishida was an active member of the second APHL Emerging Leader Cohort organized by the National Center for Public Health Laboratory Leadership and she continues to be active within the alumni cohort. She also serves as the agriculture laboratory member on the Laboratory Response Network Operational Workgroup.​
expand Year: 2011
expand Year: 2010

​Robyn Atkinson, PhD, Director, Knoxville Regional Laboratory Tennessee Department of Health

Robyn Atkinson began her career in public health in 2005 at the Wadsworth Center in New York, and currently serves as the Director of the Knoxville Regional Laboratory at the Tennessee Department of Health. In addition to her daily leadership responsibilities, Atkinson has become a strong advocate for food safety. She serves on the Food Safety Committee, chairs the Shiga Toxin-producing E. Coli working group, serves as one of two APHL representatives on the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response, and is a member-at-large to the FDA Partnership for Food Protection Coordinating Council. Additionally, Atkinson is a laboratory instructor for the national Epi-Ready program.
expand Year: 2009
expand Year: 2008

​Leslie Wolf, PhD
Laboratory Director, North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health

​Leslie Wolf’s career in public health began as a 1997 Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory APHL/CDC Fellow at the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health. After her fellowship, Wolf was hired at the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health, where she quickly advanced in her career and was most recently appointed laboratory director in 2006. In her brief time as lab director she has led the NCSLPH through many transitions such as implementing a new laboratory management system and building a new facility. Wolf has had a distinguished career, researching and implementing cutting-edge technologies to protect the public’s health. Some of her achievements include being recognized as a 2002 PulseStar Award recipient for her work with pulsed field gel electrophoresis DNA fingerprinting; leading the work in North Caroline to detect HIV RNA in pooled serum prior to seroconversion, which has been essential in preventing many HIV infections; and leading the CLIA Multi-Site Certificate Focus Group to produce 17 recommendations for improvement. Wolf serves as a mentor for many laboratorians and is a dedicated advocate for the field of public health. Wolf has proven to be an effective leader, using her technical, managerial and interpersonal skills to serve her staff and the field of public health with distinction.
expand Year: 2007
expand Year: 2006

James Rudrik, PhD, Microbiology Section Manager, Michigan Department of Community Health Laboratory

​James Rudrik is recognized for his outstanding achievements in the field of public health laboratory practice since entering the field in 2001. Rudrik served as Michigan’s first Bioterrorism Training Coordinator for Sentinel laboratories, and many of the programs and training materials he implemented in this capacity are still being used today. He provided the vision for the design and construction of the first modular laboratory in the nation that provides the capacity for all-hazards handling of suspect specimens. Rudrik provides technical expertise on bioterrorism testing procedures to the LRN and CDC and currently serves on the Protocols Committee to evaluate new protocols before their release to the LRN. Rudrik’s exemplary work in public health laboratory practice, particularly in the area of emergency preparedness, has provided laboratories in Michigan and around the country with sound guidance and best practices to follow.