Western Sydney pathologist hangs up his lab coat after over 40 years of service

This week, senior hospital scientist Peter Howard is preparing to close his door for the final time after four decades of dedicated service in western Sydney.

Starting his career in 1979 as a trainee technical officer at Auburn Hospital, Peter accumulated specialised lab experience in communicable diseases, especially enteric and foodborne diseases.

Now based at the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR) Laboratory in Westmead Hospital, Peter will retire from the NSW Enteric Reference Laboratory on Thursday 15 July 2021.

Peter said he has enjoyed witnessing and experiencing all the changes in pathology during the past 42 years, from trainee to senior scientist in charge of a lab.

“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,” Peter said.

Throughout his career, Peter 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.

ICPMR at Westmead Hospital has also played a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic – being actively involved in disease outbreak investigations and the genome sequencing of COVID-19 cases.

Fellow college Professor Vitali Sintchenko, Director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Public Health, has known Peter for almost 30 years and said 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,” Professor 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 will miss his expert advice and friendship and his amazing capacity to recognise – by force of his intuition built on years of experience – the potential outbreaks of salmonellas and listerias.”

Although he will be sorely missed, Peter’s plans to spend quality time with his wife Sue during their retirement. He’s also looking forward to pursuing his recently-acquired passions for bonsai farming – he’s even enrolled in the ‘School of Bonsai’ to learn more about the ancient art form.

All the best Peter!