Nigel studied medicine at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and joined the Navy. After three years on nuclear submarines he was appointed to Malta, as Medical Officer and GP to the Families Clinic. In 1982 Nigel left the Navy to take up a post as Director of the Public Health Laboratory in Taunton and in 1989 in Newcastle. He dealt with large outbreaks of food poisoning and furthered his own research on Anthrax. Nigel also began a new phase of work looking at the microbiology and public health aspects of water. He went on to develop an external quality assessment scheme for water, which is now used worldwide – The HPA Drinking Water EQA Scheme.
With the emerging threat of bio-terrorism and the break up of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Nigel’s focus shifted to emergency strategy on an international level and he put together a group to develop cutting edge responses, protocols and government cooperation strategies. In 2001, in the wake of September 11th, Nigel was driving in his car when he heard the news that a reporter had died from Inhalation Anthrax poisoning in Florida. Nigel travelled to London to The Department of Health and was immediately called in by the Americans to advise as the saga unfolded.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) was formed in 2003 and Nigel was appointed Director of Emergency Response. Organising the different parts of the HPA into a united body capable of a cohesive response in the case of an emergency was ‘like walking through a minefield’. However the cohesive response he developed turned out to be of vital importance for the subsequent Avian Influenza outbreaks and also for the Polonium-210 murder of Litvinenko in 2006, during which Nigel led the public health investigation and worked closely with police. This experience became invaluable for his later work in the G8 Bio-Terrorism Experts Group on Forensic Epidemiology and in the planning and responses to the recent H1N1 pandemic.
In the 2009 New Year’s Honours List 2009, Professor Nigel Lightfoot was appointed CBE for services to public health. In 2010, Nigel retired from full time work as Director of the Health Protection Agency and he now serves as the Executive Director of Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS) based in Lyon, France.
Nigel is a Swiss Board member and a Trustee of GAFFI, UK.
There are no conflicts of interest