- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Washino, a global authority on the ecology of mosquitoes and mosquito control agents, received the prestigious medal from the American Committee of Medical Entomology at the 54th annual meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), held Dec. 11-15, 2005 in Washington, D.C.
“I'm dumbfounded,” said Washino, who retired from UC Davis 13 years ago but was tapped Nov. 1 to chair the UC Davis Department of Entomology for a year. “This is overwhelming.”
Only 14 entomologists have received the medal since 1987 when Washino's mentor, mosquito-borne disease expert William C. Reeves (1916-2004) of UC Berkeley, won the honor.
Washino not only worked several years with Reeves, considered one of the world's foremost authorities on the spread and control of mosquito-borne diseases, but “met and had coffee with” parasitologist-entomologist Harry Hoogstraal (1917-1986), a global authority on ticks and tick-borne diseases who maintained research facilities in Egypt.
Last year John Edman, director of the Center for Vector Borne Diseases, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, won the medal.
Describing him as “insightful, persuasive, and a kind person with admirable integrity,” Scott praised Washino's “outstanding contributions that range from classic studies on basic and applied science to training the next generation of medical entomologists to high level and very effective administrative posts.”
Scott said that Washino's papers on anopheline and culicine mosquitoes remain the bedrock for understanding those species roles in pathogen transmission in California.”
“He is an authority on mosquito dormancy and his publications on overwintering and diapause in adult mosquitoes are required reading by people serious about understanding that topic (Washino. 1977). Bob's work on mosquito blood feeding patterns is among the best ever done on that subject. His review with Templis (Washino and Templis 1983) on mosquito blood meal identification is a classic paper in medical entomology. Bob was one of the pioneers in the application of remote sensing and GIS (geographical information systems) technologies to medical entomology.”
Medical entomologist and professor Gregory Lanzaro, director of the UC Mosquito Research Program, said he is “very pleased that Bob has been recognized for his outstanding scientific work in the field of medical entomology. This is a very well deserved honor. For me, however his contributions go beyond his science. My first contact with Bob was when I was a graduate student. I had just finished giving my first major presentation at a national conference. Bob approached me and told me how much he enjoyed my presentation and we chatted about my work for some time.”
“To have someone of Bob's caliber recognize my efforts at this point in my career was a major source of encouragement and this encounter was the highlight of the meeting for me. Throughout his career he has taken an interest in and provided enthusiastic support for students and junior scientists. Bob always seems to find the time to listen and to share his expertise. He seems as interested in turning out scientists as science, to the great benefit of those of us who have come to know him.”
Although Washino retired 13 years ago, he's been tapped or “recalled” for three administrative posts since 1996. He served from 1996 to 2001 as the special assistant to the dean of the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. On Nov. 1, he began chairing the Department of Entomology, a position he also held from 1981-87. In addition, he serves as the interim co-director of the Center for Vector Borne Diseases, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Born and reared in Sacramento, Washino never strayed far from his roots, except for two years in France as a medical entomologist with the Army Medical Service Corps during the Korean War. His parents, natives of Japan, grew hops on their farm in the Sacramento Valley. Later his father became a successful Sacramento florist shop and hotel owner.
Washino said a career in biomedical sciences always intrigued him, “but there was no one event that led me to a career in medical entomology. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
Initially interested in bacteriology (he received his bachelor's degree in public health in 1954 from UC Berkeley), he credits an epidemiology course, taught by the very same William C. Reeves, in fueling his interest in mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases.
“This was a year after Western equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis broke out in California,” said Washino, who, as a Berkeley student, interned for a local public health department in a mosquito surveillance program. “Being the new kid on the block, I was given the task of setting out traps and identifying mosquitoes from the weekly trap operations.”
The work cemented his interest in entomology. He received his master's degree in entomology in 1956 from UC Davis and his doctorate there in 1967. In between, as an Army Medical Service Corps medical entomologist in France, he became interested in mosquito-borne disease outbreaks among rabbits.
“After I left the Army, I worked for Bill Reeves as a National Institutes of Health predoctoral fellow,” Washino recalled. “Bill was mentor to me; I worked for him for three years in research on mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases.”
Washino joined the UC Davis faculty in 1967 and never looked back.
Washino, a father of three and a grandfather of four (he and his wife, Connie live in Davis will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next March) describes his long and diverse career, working at county, state, national and international levels, as “challenging, productive, exciting, and most of all, fun.”
“It's been a positive experience,” he said. “I've met so many people and gone so many places. I wouldn't trade it for anything.”
Washino published 193 papers and abstracts on topics related to mosquito biology, ecology, and control. He co-authored the last complete treatise on the Mosquitoes of California. As a principal investigator, his research work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, United States Department of Agriculture, World Health Organization, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other agencies.
Washino served as president of both the American Mosquito Control Association and the California Mosquito and Vector Control Association, and was active in organizations ranging from the Entomological Society of America to the World Health Organization. He's a former associate editor of California Agriculture.
Since 1973, Washino has served as the Davis representative on the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District Board (SYMVCD). “Bob is a tremendous asset to our board,” said SYMVCD manager Dave Brown, “and I feel blessed to have someone of his knowledge about vector ecology as a resource. I've had the opportunity to bounce ideas off of him on numerous occasions in efforts to enhance our entire vector control program. Without his guidance and tutelage, I am sure our program would not be as effective as it is today.”
Washino said the district's surveillance program is “probably the most ambitious in the country. A laboratory on the district grounds bears his name.
And now, the Harry Hoogstraal Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Entomology bears his name, too.
"I've led a very charmed life,” he said.
List of Recipients Includes Five UC Entomologists
Since 1987, five University of California medical entomologists have received the coveted Harry Hoogstraal Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Entomology. It is given not by year, but by merit. Parasitologist-entomologist Harry Hoogstraal (1917-1986), based in Egypt, was a global authority on ticks and tick-borne diseases.
- 2005: Robert K. Washino, UC Davis
- 2004: John D. Edman, UC Davis
- 2003: Andrew Spielman, Harvard School of Public Health
- 2002: Michael Service, University of Liverpool
- 2000: Chris Curtis, University of London
- 1998: Gene DeFoliart, University of Wisconsin
- 1995: A. Ralph Barr, UCLA
- 1993: Thomas H. G. Aitken, UCLA
- 1992: James H. Oliver, University of Georgia
- 1991: William L. Jellison, United States Public Health Service, Montana
- 1990: William R. Horsfall, University of Illinois
- 1989: Robert Traub, University of Maryland
- 1988: Lloyd E. Rozeboom, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health
- 1987: William C. Reeves, UC Berkeley