University of Minnesota, Tufts University part of global workforce development against emerging pandemic threats

November 24, 2014

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Kalimah Redd Knight

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., and MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass.—When a new pandemic threat like this year’s Ebola outbreak emerges, the importance of preventing and limiting disease spread becomes apparent. Well-trained global health professionals play a key role in preventing and responding to emerging zoonotic disease.

Under a new five-year award of up to $50 million, the University of Minnesota and Tufts University will be part of an international partnership of universities to strengthen global workforce development against emerging pandemic threats. Called One Health Workforce (OHW), the work is part of a new United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats 2 program, focusing on disease surveillance, training and outbreak response.

The global workforce development program will focus on the One Health Central and Eastern Africa Network and South East Asia One Health University Network. Their networks are supported by a partnership with the University of Minnesota and Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Primary leads of the partners are William Bazeyo of Makerere University in Uganda, Noor Hassim of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Saul Tzipori, D.Sc., Ph.D., DVM, of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and David Chapman, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota.

The interdisciplinary Tufts University team, including faculty from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Tufts School of Medicine, will be led by Tzipori as well as Felicia Nutter, D.V.M, Ph.D, and Hellen Amuguni, D.V.M, Ph.D., both from the Cummings school. They will bring expertise in global infectious disease of humans and animals, environmental health, training in higher health education and research methodologies, and internet technology.

Faculty from the University of Minnesota’s programs in medicine, nursing, public health, education and development, environmental health and veterinary medicine will collaborate in the work, under the leadership of Katey Pelican, D.V.M., Ph.D.; John Deen, D.V.M., Ph.D.; and David Chapman, Ph.D.

The combined expertise from both universities will reflect “one health” – the intertwined health of animals, humans, and the environment.

“These global partnerships will create a new generation of skilled health workers needed to battle infectious disease threats like Ebola in the world’s most vulnerable communities,” said Katey Pelican, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota. “We’re helping our colleagues be ready to respond with sustainable models that maintain change long into the future.”

In central and eastern Africa, 14 public health and veterinary medicine institutions from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda form the One Health Central and Eastern Africa Network. The South East Asia One Health University Network includes 14 faculty members from 10 universities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

These university networks, alongside the University of Minnesota and Tufts University, will in turn partner with in-country government ministries to define the one health workforce and determine the competencies, knowledge, and skills required in practice, and in undergraduate and graduate education. From there, curricula, training modules, field experiences, and other teaching and learning opportunities will be established to ensure that future graduates are prepared to address disease detection, response, prevention and control challenges. These capacity building activities will be anchored in local institutions including universities to support long-term sustainability.

“The team at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is thrilled to continue to be a partner in this program which began in 2009 and is now more important than ever," said Saul Tzipori, chair of infectious disease and global health at the school. "Working with colleagues across Tufts, we have a long history of combating serious global infectious diseases affecting humans and animals. The OHW team expects to continue this very important work in Africa and in Southeast Asia well into the future.”

The One Health Workforce program builds on the partnership of University of Minnesota and Tufts University expertise, and global university networks established during the RESPOND project, administered by DAI, an international development company, which recently concluded after five years of work. The RESPOND program successfully built capacity to respond to emerging pandemic threats.

“Together we will create a positive impact on the community and, indeed, on the profession. Now is an especially critical time as we face off against emerging potential epidemics, and we will need to work together to quickly get policy makers on our side, to be able to excel at creating the needed one health workforce,” said William Bazeyo, dean of the Makerere University School of Public Health in Kampala, Uganda and One Health Central and Eastern Africa Network lead.

USAID manages the Emerging Pandemic Threats 2 program with technical collaboration from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agricultural Organization. Find the USAID news release here.

Media note: Katey Pelican, D.V.M., Ph.D., and David Chapman, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, and Saul Tzipori, D.Sc., D.V.M., Ph.D., of Tufts University, are available for media interviews via phone or Skype this week.

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This release was adapted from USAID press materials.