Ashley Railey, a doctoral student in the Allen School, spent three months in Tanzania collecting data for her research with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded Program for Enhancing the Health and Productivity of Livestock. Her work will assess whether farmers are willing to pay for vaccinations and diagnostic testing for foot-and-mouth disease in cattle. Railey spent six months taking classes at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania before conducting surveys about basic household demographics, livestock movements, and household willingness to pay for disease control methods. She also taught survey participants about the complexity of the disease through visual aids and discussions.
Drs. Douglas Call, Eric Lofgren, Guy Palmer, and Shira Broschat are collaborators on the new Community Health Analytics Initiative, funded by the WSU Office of Research Grand Challenges grant program. The project will establish a large-scale interdisciplinary program in computational and analytics based health care and medical sciences research at WSU. With permanent University funds and matching college funds, the $5 million investment includes hiring two new faculty members in the Allen School. The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Congratulations to Mushtaq Memon who retired on July 11 after 25 years at WSU. Dr. Memon, whose professional work included complementary and alternative veterinary medicine, held a joint appointment in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.
Early next year the Allen School will celebrate its 10th anniversary. We are starting the festivities early with the appointment of Dr. Tom Kawula as the new director. Tom brings a rare combination of talents including internationally recognized scholarship, educational leadership, and a commitment to the humanitarian values, which are central to the school’s mission. As a renowned infectious diseases scientist, Tom adds to the breadth and depth of expertise in zoonotic diseases within the faculty. But it is his record of innovation in graduate education and his dedication to mentoring students, fellows, and young faculty that caught the attention of the search committee. Allen School students engage in multiple graduate programs at WSU, reflecting the diversity of disciplinary expertise needed to address global health problems, and conduct research in multiple global sites as well as in the Allen Center’s state-of-the-art laboratories. Innovative global health education, especially in equal partnerships with institutions in developing countries where demand is rapidly increasing, will be a challenge and an opportunity for WSU and the Allen School. Tom’s experience and expertise will be an ideal fit. In terms of timing, Tom’s arrival comes as an exciting chapter unfolds at WSU with the development of the new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. Tom spent most of his career in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, but also has experience at two colleges of veterinary medicine, a combination that will help guide WSU in maximizing our collective impact to improve health for everyone, everywhere. On behalf of the faculty, staff, students, and our incredible network of donors, we welcome Tom and can’t wait to see what the next 10 years brings.
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior Director of Global Health
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
For the past 34 years when anyone asked me this question all I had to do was say that I was born and raised in Idaho, and it was enough to launch an entire dinner conversation. I’ve enjoyed describing to people what it was like to grow up in the west, and the fact that Idaho borders Washington and Canada, not Illinois. I guess I’m going to have to find a new opening line. My wife Carol and I have lived the majority of our lives in North Carolina, and we have grown some deep roots and lifelong friendships. I have to confess that we have become accustomed to fall weather lasting through Christmas, winter ending in February, and thunder storms that will knock your socks off. Oh, and grits. Do any restaurants in Pullman sell slow cooked grits?
What excites you most about your new position as director of the Allen School?
The short answer is that the Allen School’s mission and approach to improving global health and health disparities reflects my personal values and professional goals. Like most people I want to work at something that is meaningful and has lasting positive impact. At the heart of the school’s mission is that most human health issues are inextricably linked with animal health, but it is more complicated than simply knowing some infectious agents can jump species. The school was launched with the understanding that individual disciplines cannot adequately address human or animal health. Collaborative research across disciplines is something I have advocated throughout my career. I am hopeful I can help to steer the school’s developing culture to one of mutual respect, collaboration, and research excellence that will benefit animal and human health. Another big draw for me is WSU is launching a medical school, which represents a huge opportunity for creating efforts at solving complicated human and animal health issues.
Can you share a little about your career?
I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for my doctorate because at the time it was one of the few places where faculty were applying new molecular biology approaches to understanding infectious disease processes. After a postdoc at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, I got my first faculty job at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1992, I returned to Chapel Hill where I was faculty until now. My research includes understanding pathogenic mechanisms of infectious agents and how they relate to human health. I also learned very early on that I love, and am pretty good at, graduate student training and career development. During the six years I was the director of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology’s graduate studies, we averaged 50 doctoral students in our program, and in the graduate school I developed interdisciplinary research and education programs. More recently I directed a National Science Foundation funded program to expose undergrads from underrepresented minorities to research in biological sciences.
What might our college be surprised to know about you?
I was a bacteriology and biochemistry major at the University of Idaho, but honestly, at that time, I was a little lost about what I might do for a career until I met professor Lois Miller. A world-renowned geneticist who, among other things, developed Baculovirus cloning and gene expression systems. She was tough, never smiled, and never gave any indication of what she thought of you. On the last day of class, she returned our final exams. She put mine on my desk and said, “Turn it over.” On the back was a note that read: You are a talented fellow. You should consider going into research. “Think about it,” she said. So I did. I saw Lois at a conference about 15 years later. I introduced myself, told her I was an assistant professor at UNC and thanked her for the encouraging note that gave me direction. She looked puzzled and said, “That doesn’t sound like something I would do.”
What is your vision for the Allen School over the next year? Five years?
The Allen School is stocked with talent in a lot of disciplines. One of my first goals is for us to recognize and strengthen the connections between our individual research interests and to take even more collective approaches to solving animal and human health issues. The real glue will come with graduate and post-graduate training programs in global animal health. Graduate training is the single most important factor for making strong interdisciplinary connections. The Allen School is poised to become an international leader in global health. The model established by Drs. Guy Palmer and Terry McElwain is innovative, and my goal is for WSU to be recognized as an international leader in establishing solutions to health problems and disparities.
Dr. Tom Kawula Q&A
University of Idaho
(B.S. and M.S. degrees)
University of North Carolina
(Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology)
Always. Currently, “Marshall,” a 5-yearold Corgi.
Gardening, hiking, skiing. Anything outdoors.
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. Also his mother’s favorite book.
Met his wife, Carol, of 34 years in high school. They have three grown children. A daughter, Paige, and two sons, Evan and Graham.
Close to one billion children worldwide are infected by soil-transmitted helminths, better known as worms. Infected children are nutritionally, physically, and cognitively impaired—robbing them of their full human potential.
There are multiple global efforts to eliminate this burden, primarily by mass drug treatment. Logically, these treatment efforts focus on administering medication at schools to reach a large number of children at one time. But for pastoralist families, who are often semi-nomadic, there are large gaps in coverage. These hard to access children are critical to global campaigns for their own health and to eliminate a source that can later reinfect already treated children.
Fortunately, the Allen School has worked for several years with pastoralist communities in connection with our partners in the Serengeti Health Initiative. Dr. Felix Lankester developed a strategy to link rabies vaccination of dogs in the pastoralist communities with mass drug treatment to eliminate worms. At first glance, these two efforts, vaccination of dogs and drug treatment of children, may appear incongruous, however Dr. Lankester knew that years of rabies vaccination campaigns had gained the trust of the pastoralist communities and that this would allow unique access.
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Lankester has implemented this program with the goals of increasing coverage for both the drug treatment and the rabies vaccination—and to save costs by combining transport and personnel costs. This effort illustrates the Allen School’s faculty commitment to not only implement, but to lead through innovation. As always, on behalf of the Allen School faculty, staff, and students, our global partners, and, most importantly, the people we serve, thank you for your continued support.
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior Director of Global Health
Keesha Matz, an undergraduate microbiology major in the WSU Honors College mentored by Hector Aguilar-Carreño in the Allen School, received honorable mention from the national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. She also received an award for outstanding oral presentation at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).
Sylvia Omulo, a doctoral student in Dr. Douglas Call’s lab, received an Epidemiology and Population Health Summer Institute at Columbia, or EPIC, scholarship to attend Columbia University in June. The scholarship is funded through a grant from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences. Omulo was also awarded the WSU Graduate School’s $1,000 Karen DePauw Leadership Award for 2016-2017. The award is named for former Graduate School dean, Karen P. DePauw, to honor graduate students who exhibit exceptional leadership skills and involvement at WSU.
Eric Lofgren, an epidemiologist specializing in computational and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases, joined the Allen School faculty in December 2015. Lofgren’s work focuses on developing disease transmission mathematical models to better understand how diseases spread and then evaluate possible interventions. His data visualizations help communicate potential epidemic scenarios to decision-makers. Lofgren’s modeling expertise offers many collaborative opportunities with Allen School faculty members and others at WSU, including proposed research on the epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance. He earned a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2013.
Thumbi Mwangi, clinical assistant professor, was selected as an Aspen New Voices Fellow for 2016. The Aspen Institute based in Washington, DC offers experts from the developing world a year-long program to learn how to craft their messages and receive media training from experienced communication mentors and trainers.
Notes From the Field
by Dr. Felix Lankester, clinical assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health. This column is Dr. Lankester’s personal account giving a first-hand glimpse of his latest scientific work in Tanzania to improve the lives of animals and people.
On February 1, we began our first field season to investigate whether administering mass dog rabies vaccinations, along with mass deworming of children in hard to reach communities such as Maasai villages in northern Tanzania, can more effectively reduce the incidence of both diseases. Our research is a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenge project entitled Integrating community-directed interventions to eliminate neglected tropical diseases caused by soil-transmitted helminth infections and rabies in Tanzania. It is part of a One Health initiative to link interventions targeting animals and people. By pairing the already effective canine rabies program with the deworming program, we believe we can reach more people and reduce the costs of administering treatment.
In the developing world, rabies and intestinal worms, called soil-transmitted helminths, continue to exert significant impacts on public health. Rabies alone kills more than 60,000 people every year, mainly children. Intestinal worms, which infect over a billion people, are the world’s leading cause of physical and intellectual growth retardation. If our research shows that these programs are improved by being administered together, it could have an impact on global efforts to eliminate these two diseases.
On the first day of field activities, having set up our dual clinic in the center of a Maasai village called Oldonyowas in the Loliondo District (just east of the Serengeti National Park), we were doubtful whether anybody would to turn up. However, with the rain holding off and a blue sky over head, we were surprised and delighted to see Maasai villagers coming for treatment, many bringing their children and their dogs with them. And by the end of the first day we had vaccinated just under a 100 dogs and dewormed over 400 people. Not bad for a first day.
The project will eventually target 24 villages, some of which will receive dog vaccination and deworming separately, whilst the rest will receive the integrated approach. This will
allow us to determine whether linking the interventions has an impact on coverage. We are also collecting socio-economic data that will enable us to quantify whether taking an integrated approach to improving animal and human health results in time and cost savings.
We are now approaching the half way mark for the project and although we are some way off analyzing the data to see what impact the integrated strategy has on the delivery of these two important health interventions, we have noticed one really interesting finding. Many primary school age children whose parents have not been able to afford to enroll them in school are bringing their dogs to our clinics. As a result, their dogs are being vaccinated and, importantly, these children, who would have been missed by the school based national control programs, have received treatment for worms. This preliminary data is encouraging as local elimination of worms will depend on a large proportion of residents being treated regularly, and if there are large numbers of children who are not attending school, the programs will need to find a way of targeting them too. This new community based integrated approach may be one way to do that.
Thumbi Mwangi, clinical assistant professor, received a three-year, $608,000, Wellcome Trust Fellowship in Public Health and Tropical Medicine to support research on rabies
elimination in Kenya. His work will examine the demographic and ecological factors of rabies transmission, and develop and assess strategies for rabies control and elimination. Coinvestigators include M.K. Njenga and Guy Palmer from the Allen School and Sarah Cleaveland and Katie Hampson from the University of Glasgow.