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District 8 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award

Winner, Sonja Wallace, B.A., RVT, RLATG and Past President, NCB-AALAS

The Ron Orta Humanitarian Award honors the memory of a beloved friend and colleague in the lab animal community. The award was created after Ron’s sudden death in November of 2007 from acute respiratory disease. Ron was a sales representative with Allentown for many years of his distinguished career in laboratory animal science. He was revered for his outgoing nature, big heart, and inclusive demeanor. The District 8 Council, in conjunction with Allentown Inc., created the award to honor Ron’s compassion, dedication, humility, and friendship.

A member of NCB-AALAS once again was awarded this prestigious district award representing all of western states. Sonja is and has worked at a number of institutions and is currently the Training Manager in Quality & Regulatory Affairs at Roche Sequencing Solutions.

She is an expert educator in the field of laboratory animal science, helping and planning educational seminars or symposia, as well as volunteering at the local, regional, and national level of AALAS, AALAS District 8 and NCB-AALAS. She has served in variety leadership roles in NCB-AALAS including member of Board of Directors, 2 stints as President and member of annual workshop planning committee, and Chair, annual workshop planning committee. She has also continued to serve on California Society for Biomedical Research (CSBR), Board of Directors where she is currently appointed Treasurer.

Sonja is one of the most compassionate and empathetic people I have ever met. Whether you are a new cage wash staff member in need of new employee orientation training or a Nobel-prize winning scientist who is trying to remediate deficiencies identified during an IACUC inspection, you can rest assured that she will not only effectively impart her vast knowledge but give you her undivided attention, respect and empathy.
This compassion extends to the rest of the animal kingdom as well. I can think of no better example than her personally authored (in many instances solely) 50+ IACUC-endorsed pre-approved animal procedures or Stanford’s University-Wide Environmental Enrichment Plan which strive to honor the sacrifice that laboratory animals are making by ensuring that we are constantly challenging ourselves to provide the highest levels of animal care, health and welfare.

She is involved in the community. We worked on Rebuilding Together, a project for a women’s shelter. She even brought her son to help out, and to show him how important it is to support the community. Sonja has also done outreach in schools through CBRA’s education program and has volunteered several times as a judge for the annual Science Fairs in the East Bay.

Sonja’s award, continued…

I've known her as a co-worker, as my supervisor at one time, and as a friend. I’ve worked with her at a company, on the NCB-AALAS Board, and during two D8 Meetings. I don’t know of anyone as gracious, compassionate, hardworking, and ‘cando’ as she. She goes out of her way to help folks, she can organize like nobody’s business, and she’s able to create calm out of chaos.

A gifted author, effective educator, eloquent speaker, creative developer of learning materials, highly skilled RVT, regulatory subject matter expert, conscientious scientist, “proud and loud” promoter of animal welfare… the list goes on and on and on…I have never met anyone with the scope and scale of talents that she possesses. One would never know it by talking with her, as she shuns the limelight and always redirects the accolades and acknowledgements to others.

Sonja exemplifies the qualities Ron Orta represented such as exhibiting extraordinary compassion towards peers, displaying a spirit of cooperation and involvement in the activities of one’s local community, and participating in and/or planning continuing education efforts. District 8 and Allentown are proud to honor her with this prestigious award.


Mouse peeking over the edge.