Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Allen School News Message from the Director

MESSAGE FROM THE WSU SENIOR DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH

Educating the “next generation” of leaders across the full spectrum of global health—from basic research that discovers new solutions to translating these discoveries into practice and policy—is central to the Allen School mission. The opportunities created by our faculty have attracted an incredibly international graduate student body: 65 percent of our students come to the program from outside the United States, representing over 20 different countries. Last year we initiated a new program with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that provides doctoral training for an integrated cohort of students from the United States, United Kingdom, and several African countries. By training side by side, students will develop a professional network that will extend long past their graduate education as they emerge as global health leaders. Importantly, the research takes place in east Africa, allowing the full cohort to develop the skills required to discover, develop, and implement solutions in the regional context. As you read in this issue’s “Notes from the Field,” Ashley Railey describes a day conducting eld research on foot and mouth disease in northern Tanzania. Her story illustrates the highly interdisciplinary research and the opportunities to study in a unique and challenging environment. That these challenges and opportunities are shared among all the students in the cohort provides a common understanding and a framework that will increasingly pay dividends as these individuals emerge as the next generation of leaders.

Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior Director of Global Health

Message from the WSU Senior Director of Global Health | Fall 2016

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.

Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior Director of Global Health

Message from the WSU Senior Director of Global Health | Summer 2016

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.

Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior Director of Global Health

Message from the WSU Senior Director of Global Health | Spring 2016

When people say “it takes a village,” they are saying that the power of many is greater than the power of one. Collectively, we can accomplish goals that are beyond our individual reach. Meeting the goal of eliminating rabies as a cause of animal and human suffering by 2030 will indeed take a village. But it also takes leadership. Drs. Tim Kraabel (’87 DVM) and Beth Fritzler (’91 DVM) and their medical staff at Lien Animal Clinic in West Seattle exemplify this leadership. Even though 90 percent of the human deaths from rabies occur in Africa and south Asia— halfway around the world from Seattle—the compassion of the clinic’s staff and clientele for both pets and people led them to act locally for change globally. Roughly 59,000 people die each year from rabies; about half are children. But with the knowledge that human rabies deaths can be eliminated through dog vaccinations, the Lien Animal Clinic donates a monetary portion of each rabies vaccination they give to dogs at their clinic to support village-wide dog vaccinations in Africa. Lien’s clients have also joined this effort with individual donations. Through their generous support, an additional 1,000 dogs will be vaccinated by March 2016. We are grateful for the leadership they have taken to help protect these pets and their families and for bringing us closer to our goal to end rabies worldwide.

Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and
WSU Senior Director of Global Health

Message from the WSU Senior Director of Global Health | Winter 2015-16

How does a disease outbreak start? It’s a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer. Pathogens that cause infectious diseases can remain inactive, safely cocooned in an animal or environmental reservoir, until the conditions are ideal for emergence and rapid spread. Ongoing research in the Allen School illustrates our efforts to find answers to this critical question. The plague is one of the oldest recorded epidemic diseases and was responsible for the Black Death, which reduced Europe’s population by half in the mid-1300s. Today the plague still remains a serious public health threat in endemic regions–those where the disease occurs with some regularity– globally and here in the United States. From April to August 2015, six U.S. states, predominately in the southwest, reported cases of the human plague. Where the responsible pathogen, Yersinia pestis, “hides” between outbreaks is unknown. Recent research by Allen School professor Dr. Viveka Vadyvaloo showed that pestis can infect amoeba, which are single-cell organisms that can live in the soil. Her findings are critical because plague foci are associated with specific soil types. In this scenario, the plague bacterium remains silently inside the amoeba in rodent burrows and then emerges to infect resident rodents and then humans. Understanding what factors trigger emergence can allow targeted surveillance for future outbreaks before they happen. Targeted surveillance is already being used successfully for Rift Valley fever, a highly fatal viral disease of humans and livestock. Similar to the plague, Rift occurs episodically and is linked to climatic changes that favor its mosquito-borne transmission. Professors Kariuki Njenga and Terry McElwain are lead investigators on a new CDC supported effort to increase surveillance in at-risk areas in Kenya—a country previously hard hit by Rift. Given the increased risk in an El Niño year, surveillance, diagnosis, and reporting efforts are currently being ramped up. These approaches allow limited resources to be strategically employed where they will be most effective, supporting our mission to improve public health and human opportunity everywhere.

Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and
WSU Senior Director of Global Health

Message from the WSU Senior Director of Global Health | Spring 2015

Perhaps you noticed a change in the title of this column. On July 6, I stepped down as director of the Allen School to take on the broader global health role as WSU’s senior director of global health. This university-wide leadership position will catalyze new global health challenge initiatives and bring more breadth and depth of global health scholarship to all WSU academic units.

An expanding health vision for WSU and the Allen School is also the goal of other recently announced changes in leadership. We welcomed Dr. Tim Bazsler to our team as the head of global health surveillance. Dr. Terry McElwain has stepped down from his position as associate director to focus his time on program development and disease surveillance programs around the world. These leadership changes will provide us with the structures to move forward into our next growth phase.

Improving public health and human opportunity has always been at the core of the Allen School mission, largely focused around the animal–human interface. Through my service both within the National Academies and the Consortium for Universities in Global Health, I have become increasingly aware of the need to bring the full expertise of the university to bear on needed approaches to improve global health. Allen School faculty are already leaders with multidisciplinary expertise at WSU. Doug Call’s NSFfunded program in Tanzania is an excellent example. Together, anthropologists, economists, molecular epidemiologists, and sociologists are all working together to achieve the specific goals of improving global health. In my new role, I will be able to better foster and accelerate this type of multidisciplinary research and expand the work we do. My commitment, and that of the college and university, to the Allen School will remain without compromise.

 

Guy Palmer,
Creighton Endowed Chair and
WSU Senior Director of Global Health

Message from the Director | Summer 2015

The mission of the Allen School is centered on discovering and implementing science-based approaches to improve health and human opportunity.  Whether in laboratories or communities, our faculty, staff, and students use science to help develop effective interventions. Global rabies elimination is just one example.  We know that vaccination of dogs is effective in eliminating more than 99 percent of human rabies. But lack of veterinary services and infrastructure to store and deliver the vaccines in lower income countries makes controlling the disease a challenge.  Allen School faculty Drs. Felix Lankester, Thumbi Mwangi, and Kariuki Njenga and affiliate professor Dr. Sarah Cleaveland have been at the forefront in developing evidence-based strategies for rabies elimination in east Africa.  Dr. Lankester’s current trial to test whether rabies vaccine can be stored at ambient temperatures, including in tropical regions, and retain full effectiveness would provide a critical new tool in these strategies and accelerate progress toward the goal of zero human deaths due to rabies.  Their work illustrates our commitment to bring the best science to bear on some of the most challenging global health priorities.

 

Guy Palmer

Creighton Endowed Chair and Director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health

Message from the Director | Spring 2015

Guy Palmer, director of the Allen School and Creighton Chair
Guy Palmer, director of the Allen School and Creighton Chair

Dr. Thumbi Mwangi’s work into connecting livestock health with the health of mothers and their children is at the center of the Allen School’s efforts to reduce the high level of physical and cognitive stunting in African children.  This research will not only identify which interventions are most effective, but the data collected will create the evidence base for broader intervention at community and national levels.  At the Allen School, we believe an interdisciplinary approach is key to solving global issues.  When a major global health priority, such as reducing physical and cognitive stunting, is the goal, a dynamic team of medical anthropologists, epidemiologists, nutritionists, and information technologists, as well as physicians and veterinarians comes together to work toward a common solution.  This type of collaborative work and helping people around the world is the original vision of what the Allen School was created to do.

Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and Director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health

Message from the Director | Fall 2014

Guy Palmer, director of the Allen School and Creighton Chair

The Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa has been a painful reminder about the importance of investing in infectious disease prevention, early detection, and prompt control—three areas central to the Allen School mission. The outbreak shows the need to better understand not only the virus itself, but also the inadequate disease detection and response capacity in vulnerable regions, and a lack of trust in health interventions within the affected communities. The virus, named for the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is zoonotic (meaning that it can be transmitted from animals to humans). In this case, bats were most likely the animal source of the virus. Understanding its origin and how it spread to humans in the first place will be essential for targeting early detection. But the inadequate human resources and infrastructure for detection and response are not disease specific. Investment in detection and response will be effective across the board and allow early control of any emerging or reemerging disease, including the Ebola virus, before it can spread to neighboring countries and then globally.

The Allen School is already working to improve disease detection in Africa. Dr. Terry McElwain is an international expert in zoonotic disease detection systems and has devoted much of the last year to developing a capacity-strengthening plan in east Africa. We are also working to create positive relationships between public health scientists and communities. This requires engagement in their day-to-day challenges, not just when a new disease outbreak occurs. The article you will read in this issue by Dr. Thumbi Mwangi, an Allen School professor based in Kenya, illustrates the level of engagement and the trust it develops. On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students of the Allen School—across the globe—I thank you for your continued support.

Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and Director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health

Message from the Director | Summer 2014

http://globalhealth.wsu.edu/images/librariesprovider4/newsletters/Public/summer-2014/connie-niva-w-vaxteam.jpg
Rabies vaccination team in Rebanda, Tanzania. From left, Machunde Bigambo, assistant project manager; Constance Niva, WSU Regent; Dr. Imam Mzimbiri, project manager and veterinarian; and Paulo Tembo, field assistant and mechanic.
Guy Palmer, director of the Allen School and Creighton Chair

 

Meeting the global health mission of the Allen School—one that extends from basic science discovery to assessing the health and socioeconomic outcomes of interventions—requires continual strategic evaluation of our project portfolio. How can we best focus our resources to achieve and sustain global impact? Fortunately, we have been able to call on a wealth of talent and experience to provide us with perspective and advice. An important aspect of this guidance has been those individuals who have dedicated their time and expense to observe and review our global programs. In addition to the program officers at the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, notably Dr. Kathy Richmond, College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Bryan Slinker, practicing veterinarian and WSU Trustee Dr. Kyle Frandle, and WSU Vice President for Government Relations Colleen Kerr, have traveled to Africa to meet with key partners, review programs on the ground, and provide forward guidance. Most recently, the immediate past-chair of the Board of Regents, Constance (Connie) Niva, joined Allen School faculty in Kenya and Tanzania to help assess ongoing programs as diverse as rabies vaccination and elimination strategies as part of the Serengeti Health Initiative, the impact of livestock health on availability of protein to improve maternal and child nutrition in western Kenya, and the role of the environment as a reservoir and transmission pathway for antibiotic resistant bacteria. Connie’s experience and strategic thinking in higher education were especially valuable to strengthen and extend the current partnerships between WSU (both the Allen School and the WSU Carson College of Business) and the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology. Her visit and engagement clearly signaled WSU’s commitment to improving the role of the Mandela Institution in addressing societal priorities and helping prepare the next generation of east African scientists to meet those challenges. On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students of the Allen School, I thank you for your support and advice and look forward to further input and engagement by our friends and stakeholders.

Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and Director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health