Susan Okie receives microbiology communcations award

May 16, 2000

Susan Okie, medical reporter at The Washington Post, has been named the recipient of the 2000 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Public Communications Award. Her winning entry "Science Races to Stem TB's Threat" and "TB Fights Back," a two-part series on tuberculosis that appeared August 10 and August 17, 1999, examines the advances made toward eliminating tuberculosis and the current worldwide resurgence of the disease. The articles illustrate just how difficult it is to control microbes like the tuberculosis bacterium, despite all of the past century's medical advances.

Beginning her report in New York City, Okie followed public health workers as they struggled to keep drug-resistant tuberculosis under control. She interviewed experts about the complex scientific, social, economic, and political difficulties involved in such an undertaking and clearly conveyed how the tuberculosis bacterium mutates and evolves to remain a major public health threat. In conclusion she stressed the importance of researching new medicines and vaccines for tuberculosis if it is to be eradicated.

"Okie realized that the battle against tuberculosis provided the perfect opportunity to show how far medicine has come in combating pathogenic agents as well as the limits of modern science in fighting age-old scourges at the dawn of a new century," said The Washington Post Science Editor Rob Stein, who nominated her for the award.

A native of Los Angeles, Okie has been reporting for The Washington Post since 1979. She was the paper's science editor from 1994-1996, and currently covers medicine on the national staff. Trained as a physician, Okie completed her residency at the University of Connecticut Medical School in Farmington in 1983, and served on the faculty there until 1985. She has won journalism awards for a number of her articles and is the co-author of the children's book To Space and Back, an account of a trip on the space shuttle.

The annual award carries an honorarium of $2,500 plus expenses to attend ASM's General Meeting in Los Angeles May 21-May 25, 2000. It recognizes outstanding achievement in increasing public awareness, knowledge, and understanding of microbiology.

Runner-up awardees in this year's competition are Charles Petit and Laura Tangley of U.S. News and World Report for their story "The Invisible Emperors" about the expanding field of microbial research, and Ellen Licking of Business Week for her report on biofilms, entitled "Getting a Grip on Bacterial Slime." These short yet successful articles touched on many themes and conveyed comprehensive information about microbiology.
The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, with 43,000 members worldwide who work as scientists, teachers, physicians, and health professionals. Its mission is to promote research and research training in the microbiological sciences and to assist communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public to improve health, the environment, and economic well being.

American Society for Microbiology

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