Medical Entomologist Robert Washino: Retiring from Mosquito Board Board After 38 Years of Protecting Human Health
Dec. 13, 2011
Robert K. Washino
DAVIS--Most people have never served 38 consecutive years on an executive board that looks out for the health and welfare of two million people.
But then again medical entomologist Robert Washino isn't “most people.”
Washino, emeritus professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and former associate dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has just completed 38 years of service as a trustee of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District (SYMVC) Governing Board.
He retired Dec. 13 as the longest-ever trustee term on the board. The Davis City Council appointed him as the city's representative to the mosquito abatement board in 1973. The district covers 2000 square miles in Yolo and Sacramento counties.
The SYMVC board honored him at its Dec. 13th meeting, held in the district headquarters, Elk Grove, with a proclamation for his “exemplary public service and dedication to public health.” Next, the Davis City Council will present a proclamation at its meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20 in the Community Chambers, 23 Russell Blvd.
Washino, now 79, served as president of the board five times during his tenure.
Te Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District lab/library building is named for Robert Washino. (Photo courtesy of Luz Rodriguez) The trustees pose for one last photo together. In front (from left) are Rosemarie Moore, Robert Washino and board president
Jayna Karpinski-Costa. In back (from left) are Raul DeAnda
Craig R. Burnett, Frederick Goethel, Lynn Hawkins and John L. Lewallen. (Photo courtesy of Luz Rodriguez)
Internationally known for his expertise on mosquitoes, “Dr. Washino brought a perspective to the board that is difficult to replace,” SYMVC Manager David Brown said. “He is known worldwide for his work on mosquitoes and public health and bringing that knowledge to the district has provided a level of service that is hard to match. Without his guidance and tutelage, I am sure our program would not be as effective as it is today.”
Washino spearheaded the name change from "Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Abatement District" to "Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District" to reflect the district’s expanded role in the surveillance of ticks, mites, fleas and other vectors. A vector is an insect or animal that transmits a disease to other animals or humans.
The Davis resident said he's overwhelmed by the reception and outpouring of thanks. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve,” Washino said. “A safe and an effective mosquito vector control program in the context of public health relies on the proper blend of science, technology, resource management and political smarts, but like any other successful program, it comes down to the quality of motivated people throughout an organization, such as this one that serves the residents of Sacramento and Yolo counties. Although I have served in a similar capacity at the state and federal levels, representing the City of Davis in this role has given me the deepest sense of satisfaction.”
Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and a veteran of the SYMVC board, described Washino as a thoroughly dedicated public servant. “Dr. Washino is totally committed to public service, particularly advancing public welfare,” said Parrella, praising how Washino guided scientists and shared information on vector ecology and mosquitoes and other vectors.
While on the board, Washino proposed and helped design and develop the laboratory/library resource center built n 1994 on the 40-acre district complex. And, for research and teaching purposes, Washino gifted his entire collection of mosquito-related books and journals, photographs and slides to the district. The center, dedicated in 1994, bears his name.
The SYMVC facility "continues to be viewed as the standard of vector control operations in California,” Brown said.
Lt. Robert Washino (far right) served with the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps from 1956 through 1958. Lt. Robert Washino (front left) during his service with the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps from 1956 through 1958. Medical entomologist Robert Washino during his military years. This photo was taken in a lab south of Paris, France.
In 1990, Washino saw triple public service. Not only was he president of the SYMVC Board of Trustees, but of the statewide California Mosquito and Vector Control Association, and associate dean of Academic Affairs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
A native of Sacramento, Washino recalled that in his childhood, he greatly admired the work of mosquito experts. "I, too, vowed to make a difference," he said. He drew inspiration from the work of the Rockefeller Foundation for developing the 17D vaccine against yellow fever. He also admired Walter Reed, who discovered the role of the mosquito as the culprit in the transmission of the yellow fever virus.
Washino received both his master’s degree and doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, 1956 and 1967 respectively. After completing his master's thesis, he joined the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, serving as a lieutenant from 1956 through 1958 and seeing duty in Europe (Orléans, France for two years). He conducted a small detachment and a laboratory and later served an assistant preventative medicine officer.
Washino joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1964. He chaired the department from 1981-1987 and again in his retirement years.
Throughout his academic career and his retirement life today, Washino “gives freely of his time and expertise to state, federal and international agencies as well as the private sector,” Parrella said.
During his retirement, Washino accepted a total of three administrative posts on the UC Davis campus: special assistant to the Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; interim co-director of the Center for Vectorborne Diseases, School of Veterinary Medicine; and chair of the Department of Entomology.
One of the highlights of his career occurred in 2005 when he received the international Harry Hoogstraal Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Entomology for his work on the ecology of mosquitoes and mosquito control agents. Among his other awards. the 1996 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Society of Vector Ecology; and 1987 C. W. Woodworth Award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America; and the 2001 Award of Distinction from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
A past president of the American Mosquito Control Association, former director of the UC ANR Statewide Center for Pest Management and an ongoing consultant with the USDA Cooperative State Research Service, Washino has also worked with groups ranging from the World Health Organization to the Entomological Society of America.
Aedes washinoi (Click to enlarge)
He 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. Among his other activities: he testified before congressional committees and the UC Board of Regents, and served on USDA and California Department of Food and Agriculture task forces targeting such insects as the Africanized honey bee and Mediterranean fruit fly.
Washino chaired the Contained Research Facility Committee that focused on the need to study plant pest and disease caused by harmful non-indigenous (exotic) organisms. His goal: to facilitate urgent research in high security quarantine facilities (bio-safety level 3plus). That work, during and after retirement, resulted in the establishment of containment facilities on the UC Davis and UC Riverside campuses “to solve the critical demand for strengthened pest exclusion, early detection, and alternative strategies for managing pest and disease problems,” Parrella said.
Washino’s legacy also includes a mosquito named for him—Aedes washinoi. SYMVC district office posted a photo of the day-biting mosquito at his reception. Known as "The Fresh Water Mosquito”--because the larvae inhabit freshwater ground pools and shaded pits near rivers or streams--the Washino mosquito does not move than a half a mile from a larval source.
But Robert Washino moves. His career has taken him around the world—and back again.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology