A Vision for the Future: Leading the One Health Institute Toward a Post-Pandemic World
As a founding member of the One Health Institute (OHI), I have always been proud of our bold mission to solve complex global health issues using the One Health approach. I’ve spent my career at the intersection of people, animals and the environment and witnessed first-hand our impacts on the health of wildlife (and vice versa). As I watch the COVID-19 pandemic change our world in profound and irrevocable ways, and feel inspired by the collective power of the Black Lives Matter movement, my appointment to lead the One Health Institute takes on a new weight – a weight I carry with pride, humility and responsibility.
I am proud of the extraordinary team conducting transformative scientific research across zoonotic disease, wildlife conservation and ecosystem recovery. Our work over the past eleven years has proven essential to this current moment of time, and I know we will continue to serve as a beacon of knowledge and discovery for the world into the future. I am humbled by the responsibility of shepherding the Institute’s future both in the near-term and for a post-pandemic world. How I choose to begin is the same way we have always advanced solutions for large-scale, global health challenges at the Institute – through a collaborative, multisectoral and transdisciplinary approach.
Thanks to the foresight of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in establishing the OHI (and following in the footsteps of Calvin Schwabe and other One Health pioneers), we were uniquely qualified for and prepared to respond to COVID-19. I am confident that together, we will help create a post-pandemic world that is safer, healthier, more inclusive and more sustainable for all. I look forward to stewarding the One Health Institute toward this new future and I thank you for trusting me in this shared journey.
Strategy & Leadership for the OHI
Many of you who have been involved with the Institute know me in other roles within the OHI – as Director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and Co-Director of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center. In fact, I am proud to have been part of the WHC and OHI since each of their inceptions, have worked for the OWCN since 1996, and been on School’s Faculty since 2003.
Over the past 10 plus years, under the leadership of Dr. Jonna Mazet, the One Health Institute has enjoyed tremendous success as a unit. By approaching important issues with an entrepreneurial spirit grounded in strong science, each of our numerous Centers, programs, and projects have emerged as world leaders. From our broad-based mission statement to the specific elements that make it up, the OHI has had success due to its focus on being Global, Comprehensive, Holistic, Collaborative and Transdisciplinary. The most striking recent example of this, of course, is the tremendous success of the PREDICT project and its subsequent involvement in providing excellent information and coordination to the current COVID-19 pandemic. While the world is understandably focused on COVID-19, each and every one of our programs and Centers work on amazing things on a daily basis and I am proud to be part of such a diverse and broad-based unit. Its success is truly a testament to all of the faculty, staff, and students who work tirelessly towards greater global health.
As the OHI moves into a post-pandemic “new normal” – one of unpredictability as well as scientific opportunity for discovery and impact – I feel we must not only be prepared to continue our truly groundbreaking work of the last decade, but to also continue addressing new societal needs as they emerge. Large-scale health issues in human, animal, plant, and environmental systems are becoming increasingly intertwined, which further illustrates the need to approach them in a One Health Manner.
As part of my initial strategy for the OHI, I have broken this down into eight key elements:
- First and foremost, I feel we need to redefine normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic;
- We must also enable an even more expanded team-based approach to OHI endeavors as well as explore how best to address and reject systemic racism in all of our work;
- We need to respond in a forward leaning manner to emerging areas of inquiry;
- We must celebrate our ongoing success in the Human-Animal aspects of One Health, but seek to equilibrate our efforts within all elements of the One Health paradigm, including Plants and the Environment;
- We should actively explore new and fruitful partnerships to expand the OHI’s scope and impact;
- We must both foster the best and brightest students, staff, and faculty – to come to UCD as well as support and mentor them when here;
- We must act to apply our excellent scientific results to real-world outcomes; and
- Lastly, we need to promote and communicate the OHI efforts, results, and team in the context of SVM and UCD leadership and collaboration.
So how do we achieve this? During the interview process for the Executive Director position, I was asked about my leadership style and management approach. In short, I believe that effective directors of high-functioning teams should follow the tenets of Servant Leadership. This philosophy focuses on the belief that investing in the growth and well-being of the team along with sharing power leads to success. Servant Leadership emphasizes the elements of Community, Listening, Empathy, and Health – all cornerstones for how I hope to help the OHI continue to grow and make lasting impacts both daily within the institute as well as on critical global health issues.
Central to this leadership approach is fostering and promoting the UCD Principles of Community as well as actively addressing issues surrounding injustice and systemic racism in our society. I believe this to be one of my most important responsibilities. I will work every single day to ensure that equity, inclusion and diversity are fundamental elements across all of our endeavors and I commit to using my new position at the Executive Director of the One Health Institute to implement antiracist policies and affect positive change as best I can.
In closing, I would like to circle back to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine as a whole. I feel truly blessed to work at an institution whose core mission is to improve health. Through education, discovery, treatment, active care, and promotion of community, we truly do meet the vision of leading veterinary medicine and addressing societal needs. I am also proud that, as a School, we embrace and demonstrate the tenets of One Health in everything that we do, and am so thankful that the One Health Institute plays such a pivotal role in moving this mission and vision forward. I am truly proud to serve as the new Executive Director of the OHI and look forward to sharing in our greater success in the coming years.