PRATTVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A new, $30 million state laboratory is being named for a former state health officer who now serves as president and chief executive of the Alabama Hospital Association.

A dedication ceremony was held Thursday for the Donald E. Williamson, M.D., State Health Laboratory, located in Prattville about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Montgomery. The event was held virtually to guard against spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

Williamson worked for the Alabama Department of Public Health for 29 years, including serving as head of the department from 1992 to 2015, after which he moved to the hospital organization.

During the pandemic, Williamson has publicly advocated public health measures including vaccination and mask-wearing to help stem the spread of illness and reduce the strain on the state’s medical system.

The new laboratory, which opened in 2020, is part of a national network of facilities that perform testing and health surveillance. Besides conducting tests for threats such as the coronavirus, it screens every baby in the state for genetic disorders, identifies the causes of food-borne disease outbreaks, checks well water for bacteria and looks for rabies in animals.

The new laboratory replaced one that was built in the late 1970s.