Published: 30 Aug 2023 | Last Updated: 30 Aug 2023 09:17:17

Joanne Webster FMedSci, Professor of Parasitic Diseases at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), has been awarded a Royal Society Medal, The 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, Professor 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, Professor Webster has also served as the co-Director of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI). 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. Professor Webster 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.

Professor Webster 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, Professor Webster sits on several funding Review Board committees and expert panel groups, including for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Wellcome Trust.

Professor 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, and individually with 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 and she received 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, Professor of Parasitic Diseases at the RVC, 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 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.”

Notes to Editors

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About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
  • It is one of the few veterinary schools in the world that hold accreditations from the RCVS in the UK (with reciprocal recognition from the AVBC for Australasia, the VCI for Ireland and the SAVC for South Africa), the EAEVE in the EU, and the AVMA in the USA and Canada.
  • The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2023.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.  
  • The RVC is a research led institution with 88% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

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