PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 23, 2012

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Public Health and Environmental Laboratory Receives Gold Standard Award

The New Jersey Public Health and Environmental Laboratory (NJPHEL) was recognized for its exceptional work with the 2012 Gold Standard Award for Public Health Laboratory Excellence Award. The Association of Public Health Laboratories' award was presented at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 22, during the APHL's Annual Meeting and 6th Government Environmental Laboratory Conference in Seattle, Washington.

"The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services takes great pride in the professional accomplishments of our Public Health and Environmental Laboratory," said NJ Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd. "The work that nearly 200 staff members perform on a daily basis -- from one of the nation's most comprehensive newborn screening programs to testing for potential bioterror hazards-- is making a difference in the lives of Garden State residents. We are proud that New Jersey's PHEL professionals are being recognized nationally for their commitment and dedication." 

In announcing the award, Scott Becker, APHL executive director, said, "New Jersey's public health and environmental laboratory are innovators in laboratory science and practice. State residents are healthier thanks to the dedication, hard work and ingenuity of its remarkable staff."

The lab was relocated into a new building last year on the grounds of the State Police headquarters in West Trenton. More than 4.7 million tests are performed in the lab each year. Bat and raccoon specimens are tested for rabies. Blood samples are tested for influenza and other diseases. Water samples are tested from Barnegat Bay. Milk and other foods are tested for bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli or Listeria. Blood samples from each of the 102,000 babies born in the state each year are tested for 54 disorders that can cause serious health problems. Laboratory professionals also develop the rules and administrative code for running blood banks and clinical laboratories throughout the state.

"Our laboratory staff and administration are always looking for innovative ways to work more efficiently and to better serve the people of New Jersey," said Assistant Commissioner Christopher Rinn,

The NJ PHEL recently instituted a number of technical advancements to improve delivery of public health services to state residents. These included: 

 

  • Helping local health departments to use a new tuberculosis test to replace the traditional skin test. The new test has few false positives and requires fewer office visits to diagnosis patients with tuberculosis.

 

  • Becoming the first state to implement a new genetic screening process for newborn screening section which allows lab staff to perform multiple screening tests at once.

 

  • Becoming the first state to implement a new procedure used in newborn screening which allows for more efficient testing of specific diseases.

 

  • Adding a new panel of test that allows lab staff to test for multiple respiratory viruses on one sample, making it more efficient.

 

  • Developing a laboratory method for isotope analysis of uranium in water to keep New Jersey's water supply cleaner.