A Lifetime of Scientific Curiosity Pays Off for a Leader in Infection Control
By Tina Brooks
Its not every day that a person receives an award named after him, but industry expert Martin Favero, PhD, can claim this prize for investing more than 39 years of his life in infection control issues.
For his achievements, Favero received the Martin S. Favero Lectureship Award at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control Epidemiology (APIC) 2003 annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The award will be presented every three years to honor a recognized expert who has made outstanding and significant lifetime contributions to the fields of disinfection, sterilization, and antisepsis. I was very honored to get it and honored by my peers who watched me receive the award, Favero says.
Favero has published more than 200 papers and book chapters in fields such as environmental microbiology, public health, and disinfection and sterilization. Many have benefited immensely from his developmental work in the discipline of infection control.
Born in Butte, Mont., Faveros interest in microbiology was kindled in his youth. A reading of The Microbe Hunter by Paul De Kruif and the purchase of a $20 microscope inspired the young Favero to investigate that world which is not seen by the naked eye.
I used to go around looking at stuff, he says.
Favero later received his bachelors degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., as well as his masters and doctorate degrees in microbiology from Washington State University in Pullman.
Shortly after the completion of his academic studies, Favero began working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), serving in a variety of positions for 32 years.
The CDC in Phoenix, Ariz. just had a brand-new lab and coincidently had an agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to establish a research program for the sterilization of spacecraft, he says. So, I went there and for the first 10 years of my career at the CDC, that is what I did.
Favero won the Apollo Achievement Award in 1969, considered a top honor for advancing the nations capabilities in aeronautics and space that culminated in Apollo 11s successful achievement of mans first landing on the moon.
He feels that some of his greatest accomplishments occurred during his years as a public servant. If I had to list the achievements that Im personally proud of with my colleagues, I guess our work on spacecraft sterilization would be No.1. We basically figured a way where they could use actual occurring bacterial spores in spacecraft assembly areas as the challenged to determine the dry-heat sterilization cycles. In getting there, we also made a number of contributions such as methods for air sampling. We were one of the first to ever evaluate a laminar flow system.
He adds, The other area where our work was significant was in hemodialysis. Our work led to some of the national standards used by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) and we did a number of outbreak investigations. To this day, the CDC has looked at us as the knowledgeable body of people who know about that, not only from an epidemiology standpoint but from a laboratory standpoint.
Favero is presently the director of scientific and clinical affairs at Advanced Sterilization Products (ASP), a Johnson & Johnson company. Its very challenging, he says. The difference is that when I was at CDC during my last year I served as the director of the hospital infections program, which meant I had 90 people answering to me. In this job, I have nobody answering to me. Its very nice and Im responsible for a number of things. Its a very interesting job. ASP is a very forward- looking company.
He has been instrumental in assisting ASPs staff with presenting at professional meetings and being published, averaging 12 to 21 publications in peer reviewed journals each year.
Reflecting back over his career, Favero notes some of the major changes that have occurred in infection control. When he began in this field during the 60s, there was an over-emphasis on microbiology. The problem with this was that one could never relate environmental contamination at various levels to infection control rates, he says. Around the late 60s to early 70s, the emphasis was switched from that to doing surveillance of infections in hospitals. This is when the Study on the Efficacy of Nosocomial Infection Control Project (SENIC) of the CDC was formed. What they basically did was show that if you had an infection control practitioner (ICP) in a hospital and they tracked infections not just looked at laboratory cultures but actually determined what the epidemiology correlates were that went a long way in helping control infections. If you could tell the surgeon about any surgical site infection rates, it was very helpful.
Another change that Favero witnessed is that todays ICPs not only have to be concerned with infection control issues, but patient safety as well. This, coupled with the overuse of antibiotics and limited resources, are some of the things upon which ICPs focus. So, all that is coming into the hopper that infection control practitioners have to worry about. Obviously, they need to be highly trained and have a lot of expertise. That wasnt true in the 60s not that they didnt need expertise but the focus was much narrower than it is now.
Favero says there is much funding of bio-terrorism work; however, that cant substitute for bona fide infection control programs. You cant rob Peter to pay Paul because if that happens were going to have big problems at both the state and federal levels, he says. I think weve turned the corner on this debate. Its not going to be a problem, but the potential is always there.