Dr. Conti named Outstanding Woman in Public Health

She improved Florida’s emergency response capabilities by creating Strike Teams and To Go kits. She helped found the Florida Rabies and Control and Prevention Advisory Committee. She was the first leader in a state agency to purchase hybrid vehicles for her agency. And she is now serving as the lead public health professional in the Chinese Drywall issue.

These are among the many reasons Florida’s Division of Environmental Health Director Lisa Ann Conti, DVM, MPH, has been named the Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health for 2010 by the University of South Florida College of Public Health.

The College bestows the award each year to a woman whose career accomplishments and leadership have contributed significantly to the field of public health in Florida. Dr. Conti was honored at an awards ceremony April 7 in the COPH Samuel P. Bell, III Auditorium.

Lisa Ann Conti, DVM, MPH, (left) director of the state’s Division of Environmental Health, accepts her award from Donna Petersen, ScD, dean of the USF College of Public Health.

As director of the Florida Division of Environmental Health, Dr. Conti oversees the statewide activities and programs of the office to maintain and improve the state’s environment, ensure quality services to decrease or eliminate the occurrence of preventable diseases, and to maintain surveillance, investigation and education of diseases of environmental origin.

She leads five bureaus: Environmental Public Health Medicine, Onsite Sewage Programs, Community Environmental Health, Water Programs, and Radiation Control, as well as the Office of Environmental Health Informatics and Preparedness.

During the 2004 hurricane season, when four separate hurricanes crossed the state, Dr. Conti created “Strike Teams” that are made up of environmental and public health professionals trained to address the special needs of disaster ravaged areas. These Strike Teams were outfitted with “To Go” kits that included essential equipment and deployed to assist in the recovery of affected counties. Dr. Conti then developed the curriculum to train environmental professionals statewide. Her Strike Team concept and training have become national models for disaster response.

Dr. Conti earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Florida in 1988, and her Master of Public Health degree from USF in 1993, and she is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. She is currently an adjunct instructor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at UF and has also taught at Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College. Before becoming director of the Florida Division of Environmental Health in 2003, Dr. Conti was State Public Health Veterinarian in the Florida Department of Health.

The Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health Award was initiated by USF in 1988, and nominations are solicited from public health practitioners across the state. Past honorees have included Lillian Stark, director of virology at the Florida Department of Health Tampa Branch Laboratory; Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department; and University of Miami epidemiologist Lora E. Fleming, MD.

– Story by Sarah Worth, and photo by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications