CEEZAD transboundary animal disease summer program provides special opportunity for future veterinary professionals
Friday, July 8, 2016
MANHATTAN — Ten future veterinary professionals with an interest in transboundary disease research recently took part in a two-week training program conducted by the Center of Excellence for Emerging Zoonotic and Animal Diseases at Kansas State University in coordination with the university's Biosecurity Research Institute.
The mission of the program is to grow the field of future veterinary health researchers utilizing funding provided by the Department of Homeland Security.
The program involved one week of exposure to operations, safety techniques and laboratory principles of high-containment biosafety level 3, or BSL-3, work at the Biosecurity Research Institute, followed by a second week of visits to institutions involved in the animal health industry and lectures. The students represented 10 universities from around the country and heard from prominent professionals in the area of zoonotic and transboundary disease research. The participants included students in veterinary medicine, doctoral students and post-Doctor of Veterinary Medicine residents.
Steven Ellsworth, assistant director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging Zoonotic and Animal Diseases, or CEEZAD, told participants they were training for careers in a field that is important to the protection of the nation's food animal industry, and thus to the food supply.
"All we work on and fund is research on diseases that are exotic to the United States and that the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are concerned could get into the United States," Ellsworth told the participants. "What can we do to prevent these diseases from getting into the U.S., or contain an outbreak?"
Ellsworth said CEEZAD is also tasked with training a specialized workforce to help defend American agricultural systems and to help the transition of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, being built adjacent to Kansas State University, a task they could find themselves pursuing in their professional careers.
Steven Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute, also known as the BRI, told participants they were studying at one of the country's most modern laboratories to deal with animal diseases. The institute is a BSL-3 facility, the second most secure designation.
The student participants envision a future in some aspect of disease research.
Tessa LeCuyer is a veterinarian who works in a lab while combining her clinical residency with a doctoral program at Washington State University. She saw particular benefit in learning the BSL-3 procedures in place at the BRI.
"We always have the potential to come across higher-consequence pathogens," she said.
Sarah Kezar has been fascinated by biomechanics since high school, which has led her to both a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia and a master's degree from the University of Alabama, Birmingham in biomedical engineering. Currently, as a first-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student at Auburn University, she enrolled in the summer program in the hope of enriching her knowledge of genetic engineering, particularly with respect to the One Health concept.
Jonathan Miller, a University of Wyoming graduate who is about to begin veterinary school at Washington State University, hopes to do research in infectious diseases.
"CEEZAD's mission is directly in line with my career goals," Miller said, noting the training and networking possibilities he hoped to take advantage of during the summer program.
Marie Keith, a third-year veterinary student at Kansas State University, was drawn to the program because of an interest in transboundary diseases. She hopes to pursue a career in outbreaks investigation, possibly with the Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization. She is combining her veterinary studies with a focus on public health.
Other students participating came from North Carolina State University; Texas A&M University; University of California, Davis; University of Florida; University of Michigan; and University of Tennessee.
During the first week of the program at the BRI, students practiced how to operate in high-consequence animal disease environments. This included sessions designed to familiarize them with how to safely wear protective clothing and how to use personal disinfection techniques in BSL-3 facilities. They also spent a session practicing the safe preparation, handling and storage of laboratory agents, as well as the safe disposal of lab materials.
Concluding the program was a mini-symposium, which brought in experts on emerging and zoonotic diseases for a discussion of the latest developments in their field. Those experts included a panel of authorities such as Heinz Feldmann, National Institutes of Health-National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases' Rocky Mountain Laboratory; Don King, the Pirbright Institute, United Kingdom; Luis Rodriguez, Plum Island Animal Disease Center; Brian Bird, University of California, Davis; Paul Gibbs, veterinary medicine professor, Kansas State University; Michelle Colby and Marty Vanier, both from the Department of Homeland Security; Ron Trewyn, NBAF liaison, Kansas State University; and Beth Lautner, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection service, who discussed topics ranging from the West African Ebola epidemic, foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks, African swine fever research, Rift Valley fever vaccine and an update on progress toward the opening of NBAF.
Students also participated in classroom lectures given by experts such as Young Lyoo, Konkuk University, and Larry Barrett, Department of Homeland Security, as well as experts from Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, including Alfonso Clavijo, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology; A. Sally Davis, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology; and Lina Mur, research assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology.