The desire to improve health crosses cultural and geopolitical boundaries. Working around the world requires a long-term dedication to learning about others by immersing ourselves in new realities. We highlight those who go the extra mile to build bridges and help shrink our globe.
PEOPLE: THE HEART OF THE CVM
Twenty years ago, as a student working on a degree in veterinary medicine at the Universidad Nacional de Rosario in Argentina, Andres Perez hardly imagined he would eventually be working at the University of Minnesota. But he did, in fact, know about the U: Its veterinary college was respected by experts from around the world.
Today, Perez is one of the experts helping to burnish and grow the U’s reputation. In 2014, after a decade spent at the University of California–Davis, where he served as director of the center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance, Perez joined the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, adding a new dimension to U’s research. A specialist in the field of spatial epidemiology and modeling, Perez utilizes digital tools and models to track, project, and prevent the spread of disease.
“I’ve always been interested in how you can measure biology so you can make predictions,” he says. “Initially, when you’re gathering data on diseases, everything looks chaotic. But then you apply science to those data, and you discover you can come up with an answer that’s quantifiable and understandable.”
Perez focused on bovine tuberculosis for his PhD, but his interests currently center on diseases affecting swine. A global industry, swine production can be significantly impacted by the spread of disease—racing from one country to another quickly if safeguards and monitors aren’t in place. The World Organization for Animal Health has designated the U as one of five centers around the world capable of collaborating to build capacity for handling disease outbreaks.
In addition to teaching applied epidemiology at the CVM, Perez spends a good portion of his time back home in Argentina, where he is working with 14 participants from six countries in the region to strengthen veterinary care throughout South America.
“The industry is interconnected and the world is much more complex than it used to be,” Perez says. “The food system is only as strong as its weakest player. We have to partner and collaborate if we want to ensure the safety of the entire industry.”
Improving industry safety means finding money to help the poorest players as well. In addition to conducting research and consulting with companies, Perez is building a network for collaborative research that would allow researchers to access sources of funding from across the Latin America, rather than just from their own country.
“It’s important that we think about these issues in the broader, global sense,” Perez says. “Diseases don’t have borders, so we have to think outside the lines in developing solutions too.”