2004 Winner

Dr. John Owen

“Dr. John” was the most senior member of the Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reduction, having joined the Coalition in the mid-eighties when tobacco control was just starting to emerge as an important area.   He was part of the ensuing progress in our province – the first smoking bylaw in western Canada passed in Regina in 1980, smoke-free public places and workplaces and, of course, the province’s precedent-setting retail display ban.

2006 Winner

Dr. John Iverson


Two years ago, this association established an award to honour those who had made a significant contribution to epidemiology in Saskatchewan. Named the ‘Snow on Cholera’ Award, the inaugural recipient of the award was Dr. John Owen. The intention is that the award will be presented every two years at the associations fall symposium. This year’s recipient is Dr. John Iversen a veterinary epidemiologist at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Unfortunately, Dr. Iversen passed away last year and his wife Lillian and daughter Maureen are here to accept the award on his behalf.

I wish that I could do justice to Dr. Iversen with this presentation. If I did, the lights would dim, the special effects would appear and in a few short phrases or even words I would be able to convey to you the big picture, or complex concept, that I wanted you to grasp. Much of what I have to share with you here was eloquently stated in a recent obituary in The Canadian Veterinary Journal, written by fellow students. I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Iversen teach me epidemiology as an undergraduate veterinary student. He obviously had a big impact on me as here I am today, an epidemiologist by profession.

Dr. Iversen grew up in California and studied veterinary medicine at the University of California. He completed a Master of Public Health at the University of California Berkeley and a PhD in virology and disease ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine in 1988. He joined the faculty at WCVM in 1971 and was there until 2000, when he went to work at St.George’s University in Grenada.

Dr. Iversen’s research focus was zoonotic disease. Throughout his career he held research grants from the Province of Saskatchewan or NSERC for research and surveillance of Western Equine Encephalitis ( a relative of the zoonotic viral disease so much dealt with currently by our public health members – West Nile Virus). He was also involved in work on rabies, salmonella, food safety of wild meat, dog bites in urban settings, leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, and yersiniosis. He supported the work of his graduate students, invariably giving them first authorship. He was also involved in world conservation issues as a volunteer through Earthwatch Institute and travelled to work on projects in Australia, Chile, Namibia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Nepal, China, and India.

No one who attended one of his lectures could doubt that one of his great contributions to public health and veterinary medicine was as a teacher. He was a pioneer of the case-based style of teaching. His dramatic presentations captured complex epidemiology concepts in a few words and a few pictures or in a few activities. Their messages and images left lasting memories for his students. “Leptospirosis captured by a renaissance painting of naked people tossed from their boats” = two risk factors of water and exposed mucus membranes. In one lecture he might spray a whole class with an aerosol can and then in a later lecture ask them to explore an outbreak in 70 people from across Western Canada only to work the exposure back to the aerosol can. The closeness of zoonotic disease in the veterinarians working world – No student of his would ever forget the following: carved on either side of their post mortem knife should be the words “Anthrax” and “Rabies”. His lectures were delivered out to a wider audience as well, in general interest lectures of work done on his many travels. Capturing geography, social context and infectious disease in one lecture for audiences with widely varied backgrounds. For those audiences, he still managed to distill the big picture out of many different images.

He passionately believed and passed on to his students the ecological nature of infectious disease with complex causes, the responsibility of veterinarians in food hygiene and food safety and that epidemiology was about observation – out in the field. He encouraged students and colleagues to study the diseases “out where they live”. Inspiring veterinary students and others to think beyond the individual to the group and beyond that to make the world a better place.

Students and colleagues of his have gone on to develop and lead initiatives in veterinary medicine, public health and field biology such as the WCVM Disease Investigation Unit, the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, the Centre for Coastal Health, the National Ecosystem Health Rotation, and Veterinarians without Borders.

One of his colleagues once described his lectures as like an impressionistic painting. Not all was clearly stated, or delivered in specific detail, but the message came through beautifully to those looking on. I wish that I could have the opportunity to recognize him publicly and thank him personally for showing me how to see the forest, see the herd, when we’re out there looking for disease. Unfortunately, I can’t, but I am glad that we have this award to recognize his contributions.

2008 Winner

Dr. William Osei

Dr. William Osei was a founding member of the Saskatchewan Epidemiology Association. He spent 14 years in Saskatchewan. He recognized certain diseases don’t have reporting requirements, like diabetes, epilepsy and heart disease.

“These people consume resources. These people need doctors, they need nurses, they need medication so unless we know the numbers we’ll always run short of the resources that we should assemble to meet these cases.”

Dr. Osei and two others launched a pilot study on diabetes surveillance in the Prairie provinces, which eventually led to the National Diabetes Surveillance System after he left his post in Regina.

– See more at: http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/news/local-news/dr-osei-reflects-on-long-career-as-he-retires-from-northern-health-1.1954192#sthash.TqNfzCuw.dpuf

2010 Winner

Dr. John Campbell


2012 Winner

Dr. Bruce Reeder

Dr. Bruce Reeder is a leader in Global health and One Health in Saskatchewan. He specializes in the epidemiology and control of infectious diseases:  Ebola Virus Disease, vaccine-preventable diseases, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS. He has worked for Medecine Sans Frontière.

He also works in the prevention of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and the promotion of physical activity.

2015 Winner

Dr. Cheryl Waldner


2017 Winner

Dr. Jon Tonita

Dr. Jon Tonita was one of the co-founders of SEA. He was the first elected Chairperson for the organization, and led the efforts for implementation of the association Bylaws from the initially proposed Terms of Reference. He initiated the contact with Skills Enhancement for Health Surveillance, Population and Public Health Branch of Canada, which would lead to SEA providing contracted services to Health Canada and subsequently, the Public Health Agency of Canada for a number of the early years of the association. He was Chair until 2002 and then moved to the Past Chairperson position role, continuing to support the chair.

Dr. Tonita’s PhD research focussed on PSA screening, which provided guidance to prostate screening not just in SK, but across Canada. He has worked for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency since 1996, and he is currently their Chief Executive Officer. Some of his additional projects included the Saskatchewan Alliance for Youth and Community Well-Being (SAYCW) youth project, which has had a significant impact on youth in the province, and increased collaboration with other stakeholders throughout the province.