Texas A&M Appoints Dr. Gerald Parker as Associate Dean of Global One Health

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M; University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) announces Dr. Gerald W. Parker as the new Associate Dean for Global One Health. The appointment is housed within the CVM.

Dr. Gerald Parker
Dr. Gerald Parker

In this role, he will serve as Campus Director for Global One Health for Texas A&M; University and also will hold joint appointments in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, as strategic advisor of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases in AgriLife Research, and the Bush School of Government & Public Service, as Director of the Biosecurity and Pandemic Policy Program.

Parker will lead, coordinate, and expand the Global One Health program to meet its goals of improving global health and actively engage both national and international partners in pursuing innovated health solutions.

A U.S. Army veteran with combined military and civilian federal public service of more than 36 years, Parker’s federal experience culminated with his service as the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for chemical and biological defense in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Parker also served as the principal deputy assistant secretary within the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Parker led the coordination of DHHS-wide efforts to prepare for and respond to public health and medical emergencies.  In this role, he also served as a focal point for operational and policy coordination with the White House, Congress, other federal departments, state and local officials, private sector leaders, and international authorities that includes disaster responses to Hurricane Katrina to the Haiti earthquake, and the 2009 influenza pandemic.

Prior to joining the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Parker served as the interim director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases and associate vice president for public health preparedness and response at the Texas A&M; Health Science Center.

“We are honored to have Dr. Parker join our team in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,” said Dr. Eleanor Green, the Carl B. King dean of veterinary medicine. “With his many talents, career experiences, and widespread reputation, he will help us realize our goals of synergizing the unique strengths across campus, nationally and internationally, to advance animal, human, and environmental health in a shared ecosystem.”

In 2015, Parker was one of 27 individuals named to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Advisory Committee (HSSTAC), which advises the department’s Undersecretary for Science and Technology on matters related to the expansion of technological capabilities.  He also serves as an ex officio member of the Biodefense Blue Ribbon Panel co-chaired by former Governor Ridge and former Senator Lieberman.

“Dr. Parker is a remarkable scholar, a remarkable administrator, and a remarkable practitioner,” said Mark A. Welsh III, Dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service. “We are honored to have him join the Bush School faculty in this role and believe he has the talent, experience, and leadership skills to take biosecurity and pandemic policy discussions in this country to a new level.”

During his military career, he served in many roles, including former commander and deputy commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

In 2009, Parker was recognized with the Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award, the highest annual recognition for senior executive service personnel and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Civilian Meritorious Service in 2013.

Parker holds a doctorate of veterinary medicine from Texas A&M; University, a doctorate in physiology from Baylor College of Medicine, and a master’s degree in resourcing the national strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Texas A&M; University One Health is the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain sustainable optimal health for the ecosystem.

Oceans Apart, A World Together: Texas A&M One Health Interdisciplinary Team Visits China

From left: Dr. Brandon Dominguez, Dr. Christine Budke, Dr. Clay Ashley, Dr. Chad Paulk, and Dr. Rosina C. “Tammi” Krecek at the Great Wall of China (Photo by Dr. Rosina C. “Tammi” Krecek)

For many across the globe, pork is a vital source of protein. In China, the production and export of pork and pork products have increased as a result of the nation’s growing economy. Swine diseases can cause fluctuations in domestic and international markets for pork and can negatively affect both human and animal health. As a result, there has been increased focus on food safety and the prevention of pathogens entering the food supply.

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To begin a discussion about food safety as it relates to pork, faculty members from the Texas A&M; College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS) travelled to China to participate in a two-week scientific exchange trip in July 2015. The purpose of the trip was to identify future collaborations in the prevention of swine diseases, many of which can be transmitted to humans. This undertaking was an example of the One Health philosophy in action. Texas A&M;’s One Health mission is to find interdisciplinary health solutions by combining expertise from human health, animal health, and environmental health perspectives.

The five Texas A&M; researchers who participated in this U.S.–China Scientific Cooperation Exchange Program, which was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the China Ministry of Agriculture, were Dr. Rosina C. “Tammi” Krecek, a parasitologist and visiting professor at the CVM and interim assistant dean of One Health; Dr. Christine M. Budke, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the CVM; Dr. Clay Ashley, director of the Veterinary Medical Park and chair of the International Program Advisory Committee; Dr. Brandon Dominguez, a swine health specialist and assistant professor at the CVM; and Dr. Chad Paulk, an animal nutritionist and assistant professor at COALS.

Developing the Team

Before coming to Texas A&M;, Ashley lived in China for five years. There he worked in agricultural development in Guizhou, where he encountered farmers raising pigs infected with the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. This parasite causes neurological disease in humans. Krecek has participated in extensive international research on this tapeworm, and one of her areas of expertise is infectious and parasitic diseases impacting resource-poor communities. Budke also has international experience, including in China, and studies animal diseases transmissible to humans. Dominguez is a swine health specialist and clinical veterinarian with experience in epidemiology. Paulk is a swine nutritionist.

Through exchanging ideas and best practices, the team believes that the relationships established through this exchange will build capacity and expand markets for pork, as well as support the country’s growing agricultural enterprises. There are additional benefits for both countries; this dialogue is leading to a better understanding of opportunities and solutions to swine diseases.

“Swine production has become a big issue in terms of the world’s food supply,” said Budke.

One Health in Action

Members of the U.S.-China Scientific Cooperation Exchange Program in front of the Yangtze River in Lanzhou (Gansu Province) (Photo by Dr. Rosina C.“Tammi” Krecek)

In China, the group travelled to Beijing, Chengdu (Sichuan Province), and Lanzhou (Gansu Province). Their main objectives were to explore new research collaborations in pork production, swine nutritional issues, zoonotic swine diseases, and pathogen contamination prevention.

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The team began their trip in Beijing, visiting the College of Veterinary Medicine at the China Agricultural University, the School of Public Health at Peking University, and the China Center for Disease Control. Scientists, professors, and physicians at the institutions met with the team to share swine disease concerns in both countries and how to translate research into education and outreach.

The group travelled south to the Sichuan Center for Disease Control and the College of Veterinary Medicine at the Sichuan Agricultural University in Chengdu. Both Texas A&M; faculty and their Chinese colleagues presented seminars about their research and educational programs.

At the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute in Gansu Province, the team interacted with graduate students and senior institute members. “There we were in the middle of China talking to next-generation scientists who are focused on the future. It was very exciting,” said Krecek.

Travelling from eastern China to western provinces, the team observed different One Health perspectives. In rural regions, the topics discussed concentrated on agricultural production problems, while in other locations swine disease affecting minority groups became the main issue.

Differences between American and Chinese veterinary medicine practice also became apparent while travelling across the region. “The veterinary profession in China is very different than in the United States,” Ashley explained. “In the eastern part of China, where the big cities are, their veterinarians are focused on small animals. Those veterinarians are well trained like western veterinarians, but in less-developed parts of China, veterinarians are perceived to have less technical expertise.”

Future Directions

The visit helped strengthen existing partnerships and establish new ones related to infectious and parasitic diseases and swine nutritional issues. A possible exchange program between Texas A&M; and the China Agricultural University may also lead to advancements in the One Health Initiative. “In the spirit of One Health, future collaborations will not involve only a single person, or even a single discipline,” Budke stated. “We will need to bring together individuals from multiple disciplines in both countries.”

Texas A&M University Welcomes Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick visited the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) on Feb. 15. The CVM was honored to host Lieutenant Governor Patrick’s first tour of the CVM’s facilities, share with him the many ways the world-renowned veterinary college serves Texas and impacts Texans, and learn more about his vision for Texas.

“Texas A&M; is one of the great Universities in our nation and arguably has the finest veterinary college in the world. I really enjoyed my visit. It was informative, interesting, and fun,” said Lieutenant Governor Patrick.

Texas A&M; University System Chancellor John Sharp, Texas A&M; University President Michael K. Young, and Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King dean of veterinary medicine were present to host Lieutenant Governor Patrick, as he toured the CVM facilities.

“It is always a pleasure to welcome our state leaders to campus and to demonstrate the myriad of ways that The Texas A&M; University System is serving Texans,” said Chancellor Sharp. “I am particularly proud of the CVM and its expanding mission as it celebrates its 100th year of service.”

Lieutenant Governor Patrick was provided details of the CVM’s “Serving Every Texan Every Day” initiative. The initiative includes partnerships between the CVM and four Texas A&M; System universities: West Texas A&M; University, Prairie View A&M; University, Texas A&M; University-Kingsville, and Tarleton State University. These strategic partnerships will meet all of the veterinary needs of Texas through education, research, outreach, and undergraduate collaborations in these regions of the state.

“We greatly appreciated Lt. Gov. Patrick giving us the opportunity to show him firsthand some of the splendid veterinary programs being conducted here at Texas A&M; benefitting both animals and humans,” said Texas A&M; President Michael K. Young. “Also, we welcomed the opportunity to discuss with him what we’re doing around the state to serve the livestock industry as well as to aid those involved with other domesticated animals. The strategic partnerships we are developing will comprise educational, research, and outreach components tailored to address the needs of the veterinary profession across the state.”

Lieutenant Governor Patrick was also briefed on the scope of expertise in One Health at Texas A&M;, including the CVM and Texas A&M; AgriLife Research. Dr. Craig Nessler, director of Texas A&M; AgriLife Research, and Dr. Scott Lillibridge, professor at the Texas A&M; Health Science Center, discussed planned initiatives to address Zika virus.

“Our goal was to introduce Lieutenant Governor Patrick to both the depth and breadth of what we do here at the CVM, learn more about his vision for Texas, and determine how our work aligns with his vision for Texas,” said Dr. Green. “The Serving Every Texan Every Day initiative is one area of obvious mutual benefit.”

Texas A&M Faculty and Researchers Develop Chagas Case Study Learning Module

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Faculty and researchers at the Texas A&M; College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) have turned the recent increase in Chagas disease cases in Texas into a learning opportunity by developing an online case study learning module. The case study was one of only 15 selected for web
publication
by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges’ (AAVMC) and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research’s (APTR) joint One Health Interprofessional Education Initiative.

Chagas disease, an infectious disease caused by the parasite
Trypanosoma cruzi and transmitted by the kissing bug, has many Texans concerned. Recent spread of Chagas disease, which affects humans and animals in the southern United States and Latin America, has made media headlines. This increase in cases and growing concern over the disease led researchers to develop the Chagas case study as an educational tool for health professionals.

The module was created through a collaboration between faculty and researchers at the CVM, Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas A&M; Health Science Center–McAllen. The module was supported through funding from the Texas A&M; One Health Initiative.

The module’s content was developed by faculty and students at the CVM: Associate Professor Dr. Ashley Saunders, expert in clinical cardiology in dogs, as well as Assistant Professor Dr. Sarah Hamer, Ph.D. student Rachel Curtis-Robles, and veterinary student Trevor Tenney, experts in the ecology and epidemiology of the kissing bug and T. cruzi. Additional content addressing public health was contributed by Dr. Ann Millard, associate professor at the Texas A&M; Health Science Center–McAllen, and Dr. Melissa Garcia, research associate at Baylor College of Medicine.

The case was developed in collaboration with The Center for Educational Technologies (CET) at the CVM, including Dr. Jodi Korich and Dr. Jordan Tayce. The web-based case study allows students to make a series of clinical decisions as they follow a real case from diagnosis through treatment and is supplemented with instructional video lectures, diagnostic charts, and other reference materials in an interactive and media-rich format.

“The case study turned out really cool, and it’s interactive. That is the beauty of working with the CET,” said Saunders, who was designated as an AAVMC One Health Scholar as the principal investigator. “The whole point is that faculty at another university in other health professions could teach their students with a case study that was developed by experts from Texas A&M.;”

“It’s all digitally interactive,” said Tayce, an instructional assistant professor at the CET. “A user can be in any location at any time and still go through this case. That’s what makes our case study unique.”

The case study features a dog diagnosed with Chagas disease in Texas, but it is not limited to veterinary applications. According to the researchers, the Chagas case highlights the One Health Initiative by focusing on important connections between humans, animals, and the environment. Therefore, it can be used by students in a variety of disciplines, including human and veterinary medicine.

“It’s not just veterinary,” Tayce said. “It’s geared toward medical students, public health students, environmental science students, and others.”

According to Saunders, the collaborations that built the case study are what make it so versatile. “The AAVMC and APTR wanted the case study to not just be veterinary focused, but they also wanted to include people from all disciplines,” she said. “I knew we had enough people, and it was going to be a successful collaborative effort. I knew we could do it, so I started pulling people in from all different places to help us.”

The Chagas case study uses technology to enhance students’ knowledge and understanding of the disease, including the clinical presentation and cardiac manifestations in dogs, when to test for infectious diseases, kissing bug ecology and epidemiology, and client education on animal and human health aspects and kissing bug management.

“At the CET, we work to make sure we’re using proven educational practices in all of the material we build,” Tayce said. “We work with the faculty to make sure that from the beginning and all the way through to the end we’re using these established educational practices when we create content.”

Saunders said this module is not only suited for veterinary students, but also for students in other health-related disciplines. She noted that, as a veterinarian, she could imagine the benefits of increased education. “One of the difficult things about Chagas disease is the questions I receive from owners about how to save their dog,” she said. “We can definitely help the dogs, but even more important is what goes on at home, like where did they get exposed and who else can get infected. So, we brought in all these experts to build a case that was comprehensive and a really great collaborative effort.”

One Health Learning Community Provides High-Impact Educational Opportunities

“It has shown me that everything influences health,” said Katelyn Franck, an animal science major at Texas A&M; University. She was talking about the One Health learning community, a non-credit course experience for first-year students majoring in any of a variety of fields. It introduces them to the concept of One Health: the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain sustainable optimal health for the ecosystem.

One Health Learning Community members pose with faculty members from the antimicrobial resistance panel. (Photo by Katelyn Kuhl)
One Health Learning Community members pose with faculty members from the antimicrobial resistance panel. (Photo by Katelyn Kuhl)

Holub, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Texas A&M;, was hired in part to develop educational programs in One Health, including the learning community. Students don’t pay or get academic credit for participating, but the course does appear on their transcripts.The goal of the One Health learning community is to “allow students to have the opportunity to see One Health in action,” said Merrideth Holub, the One Health program coordinator. This community, which is for college freshmen and occasional sophomores at Texas A&M;, is being offered for the third time. Since its inception, this community has hosted over 50 students. Lectures, field trips, and other activities show how humans, animals, and the environment are interdependent.

The learning experiences for the community cover a diverse array of topics illustrating One Health. These topics include antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, and architecture influencing health. Students visit the Clinical Learning Resource Center at the Texas A&M; Health Science Center to see the birthing station and participate in taking vital signs. They also talk with the Veterinary Emergency Team about field preparation and deployment. “These hands-on experiences help solidify relationships between the students,” said Dr. Christine Budke, associate professor in Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the Texas A&M; College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “The students are inquisitive and engaged. It’s after normal class hours; they really want to be there.”

Students learn the importance of the environment through a variety of case studies. For example, in a neighborhood just east of downtown Austin, people can walk from their homes to destinations such as grocery stores, theaters, and shopping areas. Therefore, the design of the community helps to ensure residents incorporate exercise into their daily routines. The area is reclaimed from the site of the old Austin airport in a “sustainable, economically viable way,” said Dr. Xuemei Zhu, associate professor of architecture at Texas A&M.

One Health Student
Learning community students practice taking blood pressure.

The first event for spring 2015 was a panel of experts discussing antimicrobial resistance. Students dressed professionally because they were interacting with members of the panel. Ashley Vargas, a member of the learning community, said, “It was a little intimidating, but it was really neat to be exposed to that right off the bat.” Franck, another community member, said, “It was really cool to see professors enthusiastic and so into their work.”

Students from the learning community are challenged to “incorporate One Health throughout their education,” Holub said. Previous learning community members have said they plan to apply the principles of One Health in their careers. Melodie Raese, in the Texas A&M; Corps of Cadets, hopes to become a military veterinarian and take the One Health initiative with her when she accepts a commission.

Beyond the weekly meetings, community members are talking with one another and other students. Taylor states the students “have a willingness and excitement to talk to their cohort members and classmates about these issues outside the learning community.” Vargas said, “If I see a face I know then I’m like ‘Oh! Hi, I know you. You’re in my community.’ I can start conversations that way.”

Holub publicizes the learning community to students in a variety of ways. For example, the entire Texas A&M; first-year class is emailed about it. In addition, Holub speaks to introductory classes in architecture, biomedical sciences, environmental sciences, and geosciences. Both Holub and Dr. Matthew Taylor, associate professor of animal science and the faculty advisor for the One Health learning community, talk about the community in animal science courses.

The learning community is still growing and developing. Eventually, it may be offered to multiple groups of freshmen and sophomores. In addition, a more intense experience may be offered to juniors and seniors, including those previously in the learning community. “It would be a wonderful way to reconnect with the students and find out where they have gone,” Taylor said.

Students indicate that being in the One Health learning community has transformed their perspective about their career plans. For example, Franck said she has learned there are other ways to use a veterinary medicine degree besides clinical work. “Being in the learning community has really shown me different options that are out there.”

Texas A&M, Chinese Agriculture Experts Establish Global One Health Exchange

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – A team of faculty members from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS) left for China on July 11 to participate in the U.S.–China Scientific Cooperation One Health Exchange Program. The objective of the collaborative effort is to provide an opportunity for leading researchers from both countries to establish new and strengthen existing collaborations between Texas A&M; and institutions in China, which will lead to the development of future mutually beneficial projects in the fields of veterinary epidemiology and swine production and health.

ChinaAs a result of China’s expanding economy, the production and export of pork and pork products have become an area of increased focus. With increased production comes the opportunity for pathogens to enter the food supply. Participants in the program will have the opportunity to share experiences related to effective surveillance, prevention, and control of these pathogens, particularly those of a One Health and zoonotic nature-meaning they have the potential to adversely impact both human and animal health.

“China is an ancient civilization with the One Health concept embedded as an ancient wisdom,” said Dr. R. C. (Tammi) Krecek, visiting professor at the CVM and interim assistant dean for One Health. “I look forward to the opportunity to meet with colleagues in China, identify areas of mutual research and One Health interest, strengthen current partnerships, and identify new collaborations between Texas A&M; University and Chinese institutions. Both China and the United States are aware of the importance of combining training and research skills to ready the next generation One Health workforce. We are ‘oceans apart, but one world together’ when transboundary and zoonotic diseases cross boundaries and threaten our animal health and human health. This visit to China is a great first step to leverage our mutual strengths in these areas.”

Through exchanging ideas and best practices, the team hopes the relationships formed will assist China in building capacity and expanding markets for pork, as well as support the country’s growing agricultural enterprise.

“As our global village continues to expand, bringing us closer together, international collaboration will be essential to ensuring global health and quality of life for everyone and everything,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “The foundation of One Health is the inextricable link between animal, human, and environmental health.”

Representatives from Texas A&M; include Christine M. Budke, DVM, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the CVM; Rosina C. (Tammi) Krecek, Ph.D., MBA, interim assistant dean of One Health, Office of the Dean, and visiting professor of veterinary pathobiology at the CVM; Clay Ashley, DVM, director of the Veterinary Medical Park and chair of the International Program Advisory Committee at the CVM; Brandon Dominguez, DVM, M.S., clinical assistant professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM; and Chad Paulk, M.S., Ph.D., assistant professor of animal nutrition, Department of Animal Science, COALS.

Meetings will be held at the following institutions: College of Veterinary Medicine, China Agricultural University (Beijing); School of Public Health, Peking University (Beijing); Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute (Lanzhou); College of Veterinary Medicine, Sichuan Agricultural University (Chengdu Campus); Sichuan Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Chengdu); and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Beijing).

One Health Team Presents at Diseases in Nature (DIN) Conference, in Galveston, Texas, May 20-22, 2015

Group photo of participants from Texas A&MThe 65th Annual James Steel Conference on Diseases in Nature Transmissible to Man (DIN) took place May 20-22, 2015 at the San Luis Resort, Spa and Conference Center in Galveston, Texas. Texas A&M University was well represented, with more than 25 faculty, staff, and students who attended and presented. The Texas A&M; One Health Program team presented two papers (a platform presentation and poster). The oral presentation, titled “One Healthy Village at a Time: Improving One Health in Nicaragua and Haiti,” was presented by Rosina “Tammi” Krecek, with co-presenters Merrideth Holub, Cheryl A. Scott, Ruth L. Bush, Thomas Jeffreys, Ashton Richardson, Christina Babu, Ariel Loredo, Sylvia Tangney, and Analise Rivero. The poster, titled “Spreading the Message: Communicating the Texas A&M; One Health Program,” was presented by Rosina “Tammi” Krecek, with co-presenters Mike Chaddock, Audra Wilburn, Ruth L. Bush, Seth J. Sullivan, and Eleanor M. Green. Several professional and graduate students participating in One Health educational and research programs were co-presenters and attended the conference.

Dr. Wesley Bissett, Dr. Deb Zoran, and I were part of an Ebola panel entitled “Quarantine of a Dog Exposed to a Human Case of Ebola Virus Disease.” The panel included representatives from many of the organizations involved in managing the Ebola, such as the CDC, Texas Animal Health Commission, Dallas Animal Services, and the CVM. We discussed the timeline of the response, the steps we took to insure our team’s safety, the collaborative efforts of numerous experts in crisis management and statewide agencies, and the follow-up after the fact.

Presentations

Oral Presentation were presented by:

  • Dr. Kevin Cummings, VIBS, on “The epidemiology of fecal Salmonella shedding among feral pigs throughout Texas”
  • Dr. Sarah Hamer, VIBS, on “Shelter trends in zoonotic, vector-borne, and parasitic diseases across Texas”
  • Dr. Tammi Krecek, Interim Asst. Dean of One Health, on “One Healthy Village at a Time: Improving One Health in Nicaragua and Haiti”
  • Dr. Sara Lawhon, VTPB, on “Antimicrobial resistance in Staphylococcus pseudintermedius”
  • Dr. Artem Rogovskyy, VTPB, on “Evaluation of the importance of VlsE antigenic variation for the enzootic cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi”
  • Dr. Ashley Saunders, SACS, on “Cardia manifestations of Chagas disease and clinical presentation in dogs”

Participants in a panel presentation and discussion on “Quarantine of a dog exposed to a human case of Ebola Virus disease” included:

  • Dr. Deb Zoran, VSCS
  • Dr. Wesley Bissett, VLCS
  • Dr. Eleanor Green, Dean

Poster presentations included:

  • Lisa Auckland “Migratory birds facilitate invasions of exotic ticks and tick-borne pathogens into the United States”
  • Dr. Carolyn Hodo “The role of bats in the eco-epidemiology of Chagas disease in the U.S.
  • Dr. Tammi Krecek “Spreading the message and communicating the Texas A&M; One Health Program”

One Health Team Participates in Global Health Conference

The 6th Annual Global Health Conference of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) took place in Boston from March 25-28, 2015 with the theme of “Mobilizing Research for Global Health.” In the past six years, the CUGH conferences have grown, with the most recent attracting more than 1,600 attendees-including 500 students-from 50 nations. Some highlights of this year’s conference were the opportunity to interact with other universities in disciplines of global health and panels of up to seven specialists addressing specific topics. Some examples were:

  1. Big Problems, Big Ideas
  2. The Technology Revolution in Genetics: Relevance to Global Health
  3. One Health: Emerging Infections and Food Security
  4. Epidemic Ebola: Looking Back, Lessons Learned, Looking Forward
from left: Erin Tressalt, Dr. Ruth Bush, Dr. Rosina C. (Tammi) Krecek, and Sonia Popatia
CUGH Global Health Conference held in Boston MA from March 26-28, 2015. Photo © Dominic Chavez
Usage on images is limited to CUGH website, CUGH conferences, CUGH newsletters, for 5 years. No third party sales. No Advertising Usage.

The CUGH is a rapidly growing non-profit consortium, based in Washington, D.C., of universities, institutions, organizations, and individuals from around the world involved in global health. CUGH’s mission is to build interdisciplinary collaborations and facilitate the sharing and implementation of knowledge to address global health challenges. CUGH assists members in strengthening their global health programs and sharing their expertise across education, research, and service, and promotes partnerships between universities in resource-rich and resource-poor countries, developing human capital and strengthening institutions’ capabilities to address these challenges.

Members of the Texas A&M One Health team-medical students Erin Tressalt and Sonia Popatia, along with their mentor Dr. Ruth Bush-presented research data from their Haiti project assessing childhood malnutrition in a poster titled “Assessing Childhood Malnutrition in Haiti: Is the United Nations Millennium Goal #4 Being Met?”

Through a collaboration of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and CUGH, a lunchtime meeting was arranged of attendees actively working in one health, global health, and/or environmental health. More than 50 colleagues from 30 institutions participated.

Texas A&M University is a member university of CUGH, and therefore you are invited to join as a faculty member at no cost. To join:

Becoming a member is an excellent way for college faculty members to contribute to CUGH activities, such as the 2016 CUGH conference.

Threadgill Named Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The faculty and staff of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine are pleased to honor Dr. David Threadgill, professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and professor and holder of the Tom and Jean McMullin Chair of Genetics in the Department of Molecular & Cellular Medicine in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and director of the Texas A&M Institute for Genome Sciences and Society.

Dr. David Threadgill
Dr. David Threadgill

“Dr. Threadgill’s contributions are recognized around the world,” said Dr. Roger Smith, interim department head for Veterinary Pathobiology. “Threadgill immediately made an impact upon his arrival at Texas A&M through the development of multiple interdisciplinary collaborations that advance the One Health concept.”Threadgill was named a University Distinguished Professor by a six-person awards committee of previously named Distinguished Professors. This title is the highest faculty honor bestowed by Texas A&M University and means the professor has made at least one seminal contribution to, is pre-eminent in, and has made a major impact on his discipline. Threadgill arrived at Texas A&M recognized as a scholar in the discipline of systems genomics-the study of the differences in the genomes of across individuals and species. An often-cited expert, his articles in the discipline clearly qualify him as one of the leaders in the field and well deserving of the honor.

Threadgill’s current research activities include focusing on colorectal and breast cancer to identify environmental factors and genetic polymorphisms contributing to differential susceptibility to the development and progression of cancer. His team developed new experimental technologies and approaches to support integrative analysis of disease etiology, and are exploiting these advances to prevent or delay cancer as well as to identify new therapies.

“Dr. Threadgill is the embodiment of a distinguished professor,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Genomic medicine is the future pathway for discovering novel therapies and cures for diseases in both humans and animals. The impact of Dr. Threadgill’s work will be felt around the globe.”

“The innovative research led by Threadgill is leading the way in medicine to address real-world issues,” said Paul Ogden, M.D., interim dean of the College of Medicine. “Genomic medicine will blaze the trail to advancements in personalized medicine, and serve the changing needs of health care.”

Threadgill noted that “Many individuals contributed to get to this point, especially students and colleagues that provided invaluable support and stimulating discussions over the years.” He also recognized those who took their time to coordinate the nomination process for the award.

Threadgill received his PhD in genetics from Texas A&M working under the mentorship of another CVM University Distinguished Professor, James Womack.

Budke Focusing Global Attention on Neglected Tropical Diseases

Making a Difference

Making a Difference

Committed to increasing awareness about neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is Dr. Christine M. Budke, an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Her interest in the field began when she was a veterinary student at Purdue University. “I did a variety of international externships, and one of them happened to focus on parasites,” she said. “After that I was hooked.”

After veterinary school, Budke moved to Europe, where she obtained a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Basel in association with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the University of Zurich. During her graduate studies, she spent much of her time conducting infectious disease fieldwork on the Tibetan Plateau of western China.

Budke now works to better elucidate the socioeconomic impact of two parasitic NTDs: echinococcosis and neurocysticercosis (NCC). Both of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they are transmissible between animals and people.

One goal of Budke’s work is to give the research community and policymakers a better feel for the true impact of these diseases on different parts of the world. She hopes this knowledge will help promote better allocation of resources.

“You can have many cases of a disease that are fairly mild,” said Budke. “On the other hand, you can have a relatively small number of cases, such as has occurred with the Ebola outbreak, with a high mortality rate. Our goal is to find ways to better quantify the true impact of these diseases on a society.”

One way to better understand the true impact of disease is to create a common metric to compare diseases. The DALY, or Disability Adjusted Life Year, is one such tool. It measures morbidity, mortality, and duration, as well as the severity of clinical symptoms of a disease. This enables researchers to compare very different diseases-such as the common cold and an Ebola infection.

One DALY can be thought of as one lost year of “healthy” life. The sum of these DALYs across the population, or the burden of disease, can be thought of as a measurement of the gap between current health status and an ideal health situation where the entire population lives to an advanced age, free of disease and disability, according to the World Health Organization. “If you are able to incorporate mortality and the severity of the disease into that metric, you can actually compare the impact of Ebola and the common cold or a parasitic disease with a viral disease because you are using a common language and a common tool,” said Budke.

The Big Two

RidingBudke’s work is a prime example of the global One Health Initiative. The diseases on which her work is focused pose a double threat to the societies where they manifest, because both humans and their livestock can become infected. “If you have a community affected by echinococcosis, then you have individuals who are ill and may not be able to work and who are impacted physically as well as emotionally from their disease,” Budke said. “If their animals also have the disease, and the animals contribute to their livelihood, as is true in many communities, the impact can be devastating.”

An insidious disease, echinococcosis causes cystic lesions in the liver, lungs, or both in people who do not become ill immediately, but whose health slowly declines over a period of time. This disease is particularly problematic in pastoralist and low-income communities around the world. “The causative parasite is a type of tapeworm, but they are unlike the very long tapeworms that most people envision,” Budke said. “They are very tiny-the size of a grain of rice-but they can cause serious damage.”

Eliminating echinococcosis is extremely difficult because so many animal species can become infected with the cyst stage of the parasite. Large free-roaming dog populations, which carry the adult stage of the parasite, also make control a challenge in some locations. Although dog deworming is very effective, it must be repeated regularly to prevent re-infection; repeated deworming, however, can be difficult in resource-poor areas. To date, there have been few coordinated efforts globally to control this NTD. More recent advances have focused on developing a sheep vaccine; however, thus far, vaccines are not readily available.

The other tapeworm that Budke studies is Taenia solium, which causes NCC. This condition, which is believed to be one of the leading causes of epilepsy in the developing world, is especially found in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and parts of South America. Like echinococcosis, this parasite also affects both people and livestock-pigs in this case. Poor sanitation can result in people ingesting parasite eggs that are shed by infected individuals, which can then develop into cysts in the central nervous system, resulting in epilepsy, stroke, or dementia.

Budke noted that this infection can have a major impact on a community, in terms of illness and the stigma some societies still attach to those with epilepsy. Although epilepsy can be caused by other factors (or have no known cause at all), NCC is a leading cause of epilepsy cases, especially in low socioeconomic status pig-rearing areas, as pigs are vital for the parasite’s life cycle.

Because these conditions are chronic and zoonotic and because they disproportionately affect socioeconomically disadvantaged pastoral and agricultural communities, efforts to study and control echinococcosis and NCC remain substantially underfunded. Control of these diseases, Budke explained, requires a multidisciplinary approach. However, agricultural and public health funding agencies often wait for each other to take the lead. The impact on communities is also undervalued because of lack of information; diagnosis of echinococcosis and NCC in humans usually requires medical imaging, which is rarely available in developing countries, and infection in livestock at slaughter is seldom monitored.

Although there are human cases of echinococcosis and NCC in the United States, the vast majority of these cases are in people who were infected elsewhere. “Primarily what you are seeing are these diseases affecting the immigrant population,” Budke said. “The biggest impact is the drain on the health care system because these can be fairly expensive diseases to treat.”

Work Underway

LabBudke works with a number of global initiatives focused on estimating the effect of these parasites on societies in which they are found. Other groups within these initiatives are working on other parasitic agents, as well as toxins and chemicals, bacteria, and viruses. Noting which diseases are impacting a particular country’s population can aid policymakers in determining priorities.

In the last 10 years, Budke noted, there has been an effort to put NTDs “on the map,” so to speak. “I think we are at least starting to go in the right direction to finally address some of these conditions,” she said. Part of the challenge, however, is that when something “big, new or exciting,” such as avian flu or Ebola, hits the news, it can be dramatic and get an abundance of attention. “A lot of these NTDs have been around for a very long time. They tend to be chronic. They just don’t grab the same attention as some higher-profile diseases; therefore, they tend to be forgotten.”

As the world becomes more aware of NTDs and as people in Budke’s field continue to work on solutions for positive change, her work becomes evermore important. “We are trying to get the larger population to understand what is going on and to become aware of the populations that are impacted,” she said.