Featured in: DPM Newsletter Spring 2014
When asked to reflect upon his personal involvement with the DPM Program, Dr. Leppla graciously agreed to provide our readers with insight about his professional background and role as an advisor for numerous students. He also shed light on a truly inspirational philosophy that illustrates his positive outlook on education and personal achievement.
“Steadily but almost imperceptibly, pest management has been transitioning to a new, exciting era that I can envision due to my 45 plus years in the field. Going fast are the days when someone could simply apply a series of broad-spectrum pesticides with minimal training and expect pest problems to miraculously disappear. Pest management has become too complex for that approach, requiring considerable education and technical training to be effective and sustainable.
This new era in pest management also was recognized by Dr. George Agrios, so consequently he founded the University of Florida’s Plant Medicine Program to satisfy the critical need for professional plant health practitioners, “plant doctors.” My professional experience enabled me to quickly get involved by serving as an advisor and mentor for many of the Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) students. This experience included B.S. and M.S. degrees in zoology from Arizona State University, respectively in 1968 and 1970, and a Ph.D. degree in entomology with a minor in biological sciences from the University of Arizona in 1972. I served as a research entomologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service at Gainesville, Florida and Weslaco, Texas, Chief of Methods Development and Associate Director of the National Biological Control Institute, USDA, APHIS, in Riverdale, Maryland; and Director of the UF, IFAS Research and Education Centers at Leesburg, Apopka and Sanford. I was honored to serve as president of the Florida Entomological Society and be recognized as Entomologist of the Year; be appointed chair of the Florida A&M University, Center for Biological Control Advisory Council and adjunct faculty member; and be elected Entomological Society of America, Southeastern Branch president and recipient of the Award for Excellence in integrated pest management (IPM). I am a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America. In 2001, I was given an opportunity to establish IPM Florida to provide statewide, interdisciplinary and inter-unit coordination and assistance in IPM to protect agriculture, communities and the environment. As Florida’s first comprehensive statewide IPM program, IPM Florida encourages collaboration in advancing IPM primarily through research and Cooperative Extension activities. However, as director I soon realized the importance of an educational component and the Plant Medicine Program was a perfect fit. A considerable amount of DPM education and training is in IPM, particularly under the outstanding leadership of Dr. Amanda Hodges, current director of the Plant Medicine Program.”
Dr. Leppla has been an important figure in the lives of many DPM students. He has served as the supervisory committee chair or co-chair of: Javier Garces, Dan Sonke, Esther Dunn, Denise Thomas, Joyce Merritt, Rafael Vega, Kirk Martin, Ken Johnson, Tatiana Sanchez, and Christopher Kerr. He has also served as a committee member for other DPM students: Rajya Pandey, John Porter, Brian Jackson, Leroy Whilby, Brian Jackson, Heidi Bowman, and Alicyn Ryan. To each student, Dr. Leppla imparts this philosophy: