Scientists at Public Health Wales honoured for efforts during Covid-19 crisis

The microbiology laboratory inside the Specialist Virology Centre at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff (Ben Birchall/PA)
The microbiology laboratory inside the Specialist Virology Centre at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff (Ben Birchall/PA) - (Copyright PA Archive)
22:30pm, Fri 09 Oct 2020
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A scientist who led the effort to establish Covid-19 testing in Wales within a month of it being recognised as a new coronavirus has been made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Dr Catherine Moore, 49, has been recognised for services to public health along with three colleagues from Public Health Wales (PHW).

The consultant clinical scientist, of Taff’s Well, works in the PHW microbiology laboratory at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

She recognised the significance of Covid-19 and secured early samples to study before any case had been reported in the United Kingdom.

Dr Moore also led the work that resulted in the laboratory at the University Hospital of Wales becoming the second in the UK to be able to test for the virus.

This came within a month of Covid-19 being recognised as a new coronavirus.

Working with colleagues, she helped ensure that Wales started sequencing the virus in early March – days after the first confirmed case in the country.

This has resulted in Wales having submitted the third largest number of sequenced cases to a global database, providing information about the characteristics of Covid-19 and its spread.

Dr Moore’s colleagues Dr Robin Howe, Dr Eleri Davies and Gail Lusardi have also been made MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

“I am surprised and happy to receive an MBE but, like everyone else in this pandemic, I have just been doing my job as I’ve always done throughout my career,” Dr Moore said.

“I’m dedicating my MBE to my family who haven’t seen me properly since January and everyone who I work with across Public Health Wales, especially in the specialist virology centre in Cardiff.

“Their ongoing positivity and resilience throughout what has been an often difficult time for the laboratory team continues to inspire me.”

Dr Howe, 56, of Cardiff, is professional lead of the microbiology service provided by PHW that is responsible for a network of 10 microbiology laboratories across Wales.

He has served as one of three incident directors since PHW declared an enhanced level response to Covid-19 on January 22 this year.

His advice has informed all aspects of the sampling and testing strategies in Wales and formed a major part of the advice PHW prepared for the Welsh Government on approaching the current phase of the pandemic.

Dr Howe was also responsible for advising on the immediate medical management of the first confirmed case in Wales, ensuring the patient was safely transferred to a specialist hospital for treatment.

He also advised senior clinicians and hospital managers across Wales on the necessary conditions for managing cases of Covid-19 as numbers exceeded the capacity of specialist hospitals.

“I was shocked and immensely proud when I heard I had been awarded an MBE,” Dr Howe said.

“I know I’ve worked hard over the last many months of Covid but I also know that the whole microbiology team across Wales have been working long hours and long weeks, under huge pressure to deliver high-quality testing.

“Pathology services, such as microbiology, are the often-neglected ‘backroom’ specialists that underpin much of NHS activity and I’m so pleased to accept this award as recognition of our whole team effort.”

Dr Davies is head of healthcare associated infection, antimicrobial resistance and prescribing programme (HARP) at Public Health Wales.

She said she was “surprised and humbled” to receive the news she had been made MBE for the Covid-19 response.

“It has been such a difficult time for so many and I have just been doing my job supporting the response in Wales as part of the Public Health Wales and wider NHS service in Wales,” Dr Davies said.

“The team here in Public Health Wales has been working tirelessly and I wish to dedicate this honour to them and to my family, who have supported me throughout.

“This is our job and it’s what we train for, but being recognised in this way feels very special.”

Gail Lusardi is a nurse consultant within the HARP team.

She said the honour reflected the contribution that the “amazing” team had made during the pandemic, working long hours and in difficult situations for months.

“I accept this not only with pride for myself but in recognition of the tireless efforts all infection prevention and control teams in Wales and the wider nursing profession,” Mrs Lusardi said.

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