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
Spanish hams are prized by chefs and gourmands around the world for their unique flavor—sweet, nutty, infused with sea salt and olive oil. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Spaniards care deeply about the nation’s pig population. Montse Torremorell, a native of northeastern Spain and now a College of Veterinary Medicine faculty member, grew up in a family that raised three pigs every year for home consumption. Swine were special—integral to people’s livelihoods, traditions, and, of course, cooking.
Interested in animals and medicine from an early age, Torremorell obtained a DVM at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in 1994 and then, in 1999, a PhD from the University of Minnesota. Drawn by Minnesota’s reputation as an international leader in animal health and disease prevention research, she left sunny Spain for the chilly Midwest—a decision she has never regretted, she says.
Her PhD proved to be a passport for instant career advancement: Shortly after getting her degree, she landed a job with PIC/Genus, the world’s largest swine-breeding company, headquartered in Tennessee. Her accomplishments included the elimination of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) from PIC USA’s animal population in just five years—an astonishing feat. Torremorell enjoyed her industry job, but she often thought of shifting to a career in academia.
“I felt I wasn’t answering the questions I wanted to answer,” she says. “I had a desire to go back and teach students what I had been learning.”
In 2009, Torremorell returned to Minnesota and was awarded the Allen D. Leman Chair in Swine Health and Productivity, a position she held until recently. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, she has been active in swine influenza research to control and eliminate it, and has traveled to Chile to participate in that country’s National PRRSV Elimination program. Viruses continue to be a problem across the industry worldwide, she says, and she remains deeply interested in applied research that tracks transmission.
Torremorell says her work at the U—as well as her life in Minnesota, where she has made a home with her husband, two young children, and a cat—suits her. Her position as a professor and researcher has allowed her to bring together nearly everything she is interested in.
“I care about pigs and I care about the producers who raise the pigs,” she says. “I care about doing a good job and training the next generation of veterinarians and researchers. It’s a great fit.”