After more than four decades of dedicated service, Peter Howard is about to hang up his lab coat for the final time at NSW Health Pathology’s Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR) at Westmead.
The Senior Hospital Scientist will retire from the NSW Enteric Reference Laboratory on Thursday 15 July 2021.
Although pathology has been his life’s work, Peter knew little about the industry as a fresh-faced job hunter in 1979.
In fact, Peter almost pursued a career as an accountant, until his dad gave him some sage advice: “People either need to be fed or looked after. Stay away from being an accountant as it’s just going to give you an ulcer!”
Accountancy’s loss was pathology’s gain. Peter started work in 1979 as a trainee technical officer at Auburn District Hospital, and throughout the next 42 years he accumulated specialised lab experience in communicable diseases, especially enteric and foodborne diseases.
In 2008 Peter was appointed Senior Scientist in charge of the NSW Enteric Reference Laboratory, which is part of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Laboratory Services. In this role he has provided technical advice on the management of numerous foodborne disease outbreaks in NSW, liaising with the Ministry of Health, the NSW Food Authority, referring laboratories and Public Health Units around the state. This high-level expertise will be sorely missed upon his retirement.
“I have enjoyed witnessing and experiencing all the changes in pathology during the past 42 years, from trainee to senior scientist in charge of a lab,” Peter said.
“One of the most rewarding parts of my career has been training junior staff and nurturing their love of ‘the thrill of the chase’ during food poisoning outbreak investigations.”
Professor Vitali Sintchenko, Director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Public Health, has known Peter for almost 30 years.
“Peter has been a part of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Laboratory Services since the beginning. He represents the first cohort of wonderful staff that established and built the clinical microbiology and public health microbiology services at Westmead,” Prof. Sintchenko said.
“Peter has worked in different sections of the laboratory and has trained several generations of young scientists and scores of microbiology and public health registrars. His contribution to the department and control of communicable diseases in NSW has been tremendous.
“Personally, I am especially grateful to Peter for his strong support of the introduction of genomic surveillance for foodborne diseases in NSW. I will miss his expert advice and friendship and his amazing capacity to recognise - by force of his intuition built on years of experience - potential outbreaks of salmonellas and listerias.”
Described by co-workers as a true gentleman, Peter is known for his patience as well as his love of teaching and sharing scientific knowledge. His intelligence, sense of humour and wit will be sorely missed in the lab.
Peter’s retirement plans include spending quality time with his wife Sue, who retired in July 2020. He is also keen to pursue his recently-acquired addiction to bonsai – he’s even enrolled in the ‘School of Bonsai’ to learn more about the ancient art form.
Pictured above: Senior Hospital Scientist Peter Howard, who retires from the NSW Enteric Reference Laboratory on Thursday 15 July 2021.