By Scott Becker, Executive Director, Association of Public Health Laboratories
On Wednesday, May 5, a dedication ceremony was held for the new State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa. The three-story, 113,900-square-foot facility, which replaces one constructed in 1917, houses the states’ environmental and public health laboratory.
The opening of the state-of-the-art facility marks the culmination of years of work by the lab’s staff who identified the need for a new building, worked tirelessly to secure the funding, and directed design and construction of the enormously complex edifice.
The Hygienic Laboratory is responsible for conducting tests to detect diseases and contaminants in the environment. It also monitors for the presence of diseases and for contaminants in Iowa’s waterways and air. In emergencies, such as the Iowa floods of 2009, it serves as the state’s laboratory first responder.
The facility will allow for new collaborations, including those to study interactions between human health and the environment, and to evaluate emerging laboratory technologies that could save lives and money. Who knows? Scientists here could uncover indicators linking infectious and chronic disease or develop methodologies that will revolutionize laboratory diagnostics.
The people of Iowa are the immediate beneficiaries of this state-of-the-art health resource. Yet, because no public health laboratory works in isolation, this new facility actually benefits those of us in the rest of the country as well. Its presence represents another step toward our shared mission–shaping a healthier future for all.