Dr. Elizabeth A. Lautner has been appointed the new director of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center off Long Island, New York.
She succeeds Marc S. Hollander, who has served as interim director of the facility since the Department of Homeland Security took over the management of the island in June 2003. Department of Agriculture staff members continue to conduct research and provide diagnostic services on the island.
"Dr. Lautner's leadership will ensure the success of Plum Island as a critical national asset that provides vital research, support, and protection to our nation's agriculture system," said Maureen McCarthy, director, office of research and development at the DHS. "Her vast knowledge and management skills will be an asset as we work to prevent intentional or unintentional outbreaks of foreign animal disease."
Prior to beginning her official duties at Plum Island in January, Dr. Lautner was the vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board. She has been a member of the National Animal Health Emergency Management Steering Committee since 1996 and served for six years on the Secretary of Agriculture's Foreign Animal and Poultry Disease Advisory Committee.
"I'm really excited. I see a tremendous opportunity here," Dr. Lautner said. "Plum Island is a national resource because it is the only place in the United States where we do research to prevent certain types of foreign animal diseases, like foot-and-mouth disease. It plays a vital role in protecting the security of our agriculture and our food supply."
Dr. Lautner explained that a big part of her new job is serving as an ambassador for Plum Island. In the past, relationships between the research center and the surrounding community have been strained by labor disputes and concerns about the safety of living near the center.
Dr. Lautner's appointment has received a positive reaction from the animal health community.
"We are pleased that Dr. Lautner has been selected to this critical position," said Bobby Accord, administrator of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. "This selection sends a clear message to the agricultural community that the USDA and the (DHS) will maintain a close working relationship."
Dr. Jack O. Walther, the president of the AVMA, was also pleased with the appointment.
"She certainly has the experience and the enthusiasm to do an excellent job," Dr. Walther said.
The National Pork Board has selected Dr. Paul Sundberg to replace Dr. Lautner as the vice president of science and technology. Steven Murphy, the CEO, said the pork board has greeted the change with mixed emotions. "We are fortunate to have someone with Paul Sundberg's knowledge, passion, and skills in place to continue to oversee the vital scientific work being conducted for pork producers ... And it's a great compliment to our industry and to our staff that Dr. Beth Lautner has been selected to head the Plum Island facility, whose research and diagnostic work is critical to this country's food safety. But her energy and devotion to serving the needs of pork producers will be sorely missed."