Farewell to Sue Best
It is an emotional time for NRL staff as we say farewell to our Director, Sue Best, after 28 years at NRL. Sue joined NRL as a scientist in 1990, the same year as her predecessor, Elizabeth Dax. Sue has experienced the transformation of NRL from a small portable class room at the back of Fairfield Infectious Disease hospital to the organisation she leads today. NRL, originally established in 1985 as the National HIV Reference Laboratory, was renamed in 1996 as the National Serology Reference Laboratory, Australia, and more recently adopted “NRL” as its primary designation. Sue’s professional life and skills developed in parallel with NRL’s growth into a much larger organisation with a broader role and a global reach.
For many years, Sue provided the primary support for Elizabeth Dax, becoming Senior Scientist and later General Manager. Sue developed and exercised expertise in all NRL’s activities, and worked to provide NRL with an appropriate management structure as our staff numbers grew. She was made Director in 2010, as the obvious person to take the position after Elizabeth Dax’s departure.
During Sue’s time at NRL, she has played an important role supporting the Australian Government’s response to the HIV epidemic, through improved tests, laboratory quality assurance, and the adoption of scientifically valid algorithms. Her time at NRL has seen many changes in the environment in which NRL operates, such as the introduction of testing for HCV, the change in the Therapeutic Goods Administration framework for the registration of in-vitro diagnostic devices, and the introduction of the WHO Prequalification of Medicines Programme.
Sue has had a major professional impact, nationally and internationally. Sue has been active as a consultant and in the provision of training in quality management and quality assurance. She has often acted as advisor to WHO in Geneva and in Manilla She has contributed in areas as diverse as national HIV/AIDS and STI programmes in the Pacific Islands, laboratory strengthening in Azerbaijan, and Viet Nam’s health sector response to HIV/AIDS. A special area of her expertise is in the post-market surveillance for IVDs, and she has contributed to WHO policies around this topic. Sue has contributed to Australia’s National HIV and HCV Strategies, to the development of interpretative comments for HCV test results, and to the development of a training curriculum for Point of Care testing in Australia. Recently, Sue led the investigation, commissioned by the Australian Government, of the performance of assays for Lyme Disease in Australia.
Throughout her tenure at NRL, Sue has always communicated with her colleagues with warmth and a generosity of spirit, always striving to instil the NRL Norms. As Director her door was always open, and her care for NRL staff constantly on display. During her seven years as Director, NRL has had to deal with many challenges. Sue’s commitment to NRL is unquestioned, and her efforts have been indefatigable.
The staff of NRL wish Sue a relaxing and well-earned retirement; with every opportunity to pursue the personal and professional adventures of her choice. We are sad to say goodbye, but with joy we celebrate Sue’s long and productive career. We thank you, Sue, for your leadership and your support, and wish you well for the next stage of your life journey. You can take with you the knowledge that your contributions to the quality of testing for infectious diseases are well recognised, and that your time with us at NRL is truly appreciated.
Wayne Dimech and Roderick Chappel