Professor Joanne Webster awarded Royal Society medal - Veterinary Practice
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Professor Joanne Webster awarded Royal Society medal

Joanne Webster has been awarded the Leeuwenhoek Medal and Lecture for her “achievements in advancing control of disease in humans and animals which are caused by parasites in Asia and Africa”

Joanne Webster, FMedSci, professor of parasitic diseases at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), has been awarded a Royal Society’s Leeuwenhoek Medal and Lecture, which recognises and celebrates outstanding contributions to science, for her “achievements in advancing control of disease in humans and animals which are caused by parasites in Asia and Africa”.

The Royal Society, founded in 1660, is the oldest existing scientific academy in the world. Professor Webster will be only the second female to receive this medal since its own inauguration in 1950.

Alongside her role as professor of parasitic diseases, Joanne Webster heads the RVC’s Pathogen Flow in Ecosystems strategic grouping, is director of the London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research (LCNTDR) and is professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London’s Faculty of Medicine.

During her career, Joanne has also served as the co-director of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. During this period (2003-2014), the organisation provided approximately 300 million anthelminthic preventative chemotherapeutic treatments for children and at-risk adults across sub-Saharan Africa.

She then joined the RVC as chair in parasitic diseases to further expand her One Health research and disease control activities, encompassing both human and animal tropical medicine.

Joanne is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Fauna and Flora International, an expert advisor on a number of the World Health Organization’s panels and is a fellow of both the Royal Society of Biology and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Alongside this, she sits on several funding review board committees and expert panel groups, including for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Wellcome Trust.

Professor Joanne Webster’s contribution to research and disease control has previously been recognised by accolades, including:

  • (together with SCI) the Queen’s Anniversary Medal for International Public Health Impact in 2008
  • the CA Wright Memorial Medal in 2005 “to recognise outstanding contribution to the discipline of parasitology”
  • the Chalmers Memorial Medal “to recognise Outstanding Contribution to Tropical Medicine” from The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2013
  • she was named in an International Woman’s Day List of “Five Inspirational Women Shaping the Future of International Development” in 2019 
  • the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award for unwavering excellence in their chosen fields in 2021

The Leeuwenhoek Lecture will be presented at The Royal Society towards the end of 2023.

Professor Joanne Webster said: “I am so utterly delighted and honoured to receive this medal from the Royal Society, the prestigious and oldest continuing scientific academy in the world.

“I’m especially touched as this medal is in recognition of the achievements of Antony van Leeuwenhoek who, from a humble background, through his passion to drive microscopic research and discovery, revealed for the first time so much of the beauty and complexity of nature – revelations comparable to, but not overtaken by, the genomics tools available today.

“We need all these tools, old and new, to meet our global commitment to protect and improve the health of humans and animals today – thank you.”

Professor Oliver Pybus, vice-principal (research and innovation) at the RVC, said: “We, at RVC, are incredibly proud of Professor Joanne Webster’s achievements in infectious disease research.

“The Royal Society’s prestigious Leeuwenhoek Medal is well deserved recognition for her significant contributions to the field.”

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