The APHL Presidential Award is given by the APHL president to individuals who have made significant contributions to the association’s work to promote policies that strengthen public health laboratories.

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

Past Winners

Isatta Wurie, PhD, MSc


Dr. Wurie's career and most recent contributions epitomize the ideals of the Presidential Award as her efforts elevate public health laboratories to the forefront of public health response. She is valued for her technical support to other African country public health laboratory programs and is an advisor to the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation on laboratory issues.

In the last two years, there was no more critical a public health issue than the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Dr. Wurie was a leader of the laboratory response in Sierra Leone. She grew the APHL field office in Sierra Leone where she was consulting for APHL on HIV activities to respond to the Ebola outbreak. Dr. Wurie was involved and led laboratory aspects of the Sierra Leone Ebola response in her position as APHL Sierra Leone country lead and advisor to the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) and Sierra Leone Ministry of Health.
She helped guide the laboratory, surveillance and epidemiology technical working group at the Ebola Emergency Operations Center and helped strengthen the country's Central Public Health Response Laboratory through provision of technical advice, renovation oversight, and programmatic implementation. She led trainings and policy development on Ebola testing, ensured adequate laboratory supplies were available and coordinated the efforts of the international donor organizations and institutions. As a result of her efforts in the last year, Sierra Leone has several new policies, testing procedures and strategic planning documents, including: an updated National Laboratory Strategic Plan, integrated Ebola and Malaria Quality Assurance management plan, an HIV Viral Load Implementation Plan and established Ebola testing algorithms. She was a leader in building collaboration between laboratory programs in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia through participation in initiatives, such as bio-banking and the development of best practices for the Ebola laboratory response at a time when new Ebola lab testing technologies were emerging. Dr. Wurie also improved the Sierra Leone laboratory human resource capacity for the Ebola response as she was instrumental in training a cadre of recent science graduates to be placed as rapid response team members at Ebola testing laboratories and trained medical students on laboratory to understand Ebola testing diagnostics.

Dr. Wurie did much more than can be said here for public health laboratories in Sierra Leone and APHL, and her effort level was enormous. She helped her native country of Sierra Leone and no doubt saved lives during a difficult time and established the foundation for an improved public health laboratory system. And for all of this, I am happy to present the Presidential Award to Dr. Isatta Wurie.

expand Year: 2015
expand Year: 2014

​May Chu, PhD
Assistant Director for Public Health
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President

​Dr. Chu completed her undergraduate studies at the Michigan State University where she participated in one of its first public health-focused microbiology programs. She then worked as a laboratory technician at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and at the University of Hawaii School of Tropical Medicine and Medical Microbiology where she also received her PhD. In 1986, she was accepted as one of the first National Research Council fellows at CDC where she studied molecular aspects of dengue viruses.
In 1994, May assumed direction of the Bacterial Zoonotic Diseases Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory, concentrating her research on plague and tularemia and overseeing Lyme disease diagnosis. During that period, Dr. Chu became involved in development of the Laboratory Response Network and served as CDC’s expert on plague and tularemia. This experience led to deployments in response to the anthrax letters and SARS and field laboratory operations in Madagascar and Uganda. In 2004, she was seconded to WHO to support  outbreak response. During her six-year tenure there, Dr. Chu also took on responsibility for strengthening laboratory partnerships and biosafety among WHO member states under the International Health Regulations.
As director of CDC’s Laboratory Systems, Policy and Practice Program Office, Dr. Chu was responsible for addressing cross-cutting issues affecting CDC’s laboratory programs and the laboratory functions of front-line public health and clinical laboratories, both in the United States and internationally. She worked very closely with APHL in crafting the culture changing “Lab Efficiencies Initiative” as well as being a strong internal and external advocate for public health lab systems.

expand Year: 2013

Ernie Schoenfeld, DrPH, MPH
Senior Advisor, Public Health Leadership Program
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Schoenfeld has served the University of North Carolina’s schools of Public Health and Medicine for more than 40 years in various leadership capacities: lecturer in the Department of Health Policy and Administration, assistant dean for operations and management, associate vice chancellor for health affairs post, and as senior advisor to the Dean. Upon retirement, he continued to work, this time on consulting projects to streamline operations and optimize leadership within the School of Public Health and the School of Medicine.At APHL, Ernie drove creation of the National Center for Public Health Laboratory Leadership, which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary. He wrote the famous “green book”, Who will Run America’s Public Health Labs, the precursor for the grant proposal that resulted in an award to establish the Center. He served as its senior advisor in its early years and continues to provide counsel, consultation and guidance amid his repeated attempts at retirement.