Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies, on April 1 announced the appointment of Dr. Arve Lee Willingham as director of the school’s new One Health Center for Zoonoses and Tropical Veterinary Medicine.
The center takes a one-health approach in the study of zoonotic and other infectious diseases affecting livestock production and public health. The one-health approach encourages collaboration among multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally for the optimal health of people, animals, and the environment.
||Dr. Arve Lee Willingham
“At our One Health Center, we plan to study (zoonotic) diseases to understand how different infectious agents affect people’s health and livelihoods, especially within the tropical and lesser-developed Caribbean region,” Dr. Willingham said. He envisions the center will one day extend its work to Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
The center also provides Ross students with opportunities to participate in research projects addressing the epidemiology, socioeconomic and ecological determinants, and host-pathogen relationships of zoonotic diseases.
“Our students’ participation in these kinds of research will prepare them to play a role in two major challenges facing society: food security and emerging pandemics,” said Dr. Elaine Watson, Ross dean. “The new center is an important component in our mission to educate the next generation of veterinarians while improving the health and sustainability of the Caribbean region, crucially located on the doorstep of the Americas.
“Dr. Willingham’s wide international experience and his research background are central in its development.”
As center director, Dr. Willingham will promote collaborative research opportunities with organizations around the world and encourage interdisciplinary research between Ross’ research centers and other veterinary medical and public health institutions.
Dr. Willingham has spent his career gaining an understanding of and combating parasitic zoonotic diseases affecting livestock and people in rural areas of underdeveloped countries. Research he coordinated in Africa was instrumental in alerting the international community to cysticercosis, an emerging swine disease that causes epilepsy in humans.
From 2010-2013, Dr. Willingham worked at the World Health Organization’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. During that time, he assisted in initiating a new research program on environmental and climate change impacts on vector-borne diseases.