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Mentor Magaly Blas wins “Women in Science Award” from L’Oreal Peru


Photo via Ricardo Moran

FICR-S alumna, Clayton-Dedonder Mentor Fellow, and NPGH Mentor Magaly Blas was selected to win the “Women in Science” award from Peru’s Concytec, Unesco, and L’Oreal Peru for her commitment and contribution to the advancement of scientific research in Peru.  The executive director of Cienciativa, Hugo Carlos Weiner, stated that “this prize recognizes the effort and dedication of all women in the field of science and research.”

Read the full article in Spanish here.

Mentor Spotlight: Deb Olson

Debra Olson, DNP, MPH, RN, COHN-S FAAOHN is Executive Director of the Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility at the University of Minnesota and Co-PI of the NPGH Research Fellows Training Consortium. Her research interests include the scholarship of teaching and learning, occupational and environmental health, and public health emergency preparedness and response.

What drew you to global health?
At age five I had a mentor who was a public health nurse, and she sort of adopted me as a member of her faith community and ingrained in me the need to work in public health and serve communities world-wide. She was an energizing individual with a truly global perspective. Mentorship can happen at all ages.

What have you been working on recently?
I just returned from Uganda where I was with the University of Minnesota (UMN) celebrating over 10 years of collaboration with Makerere University’s Infectious Disease Institute with the launching of the Uganda Hub of Innovation as part of our academic health center. We are expanding and deepening reciprocal partnerships to support transdisciplinary, lasting infrastructures to advance global health research and education. The Hub is starting up with an operations manager on the ground and two spaces for students and faculty to work. The focus will be on global health across disciplines and across borders, and builds on the strong collaborations we have there while energizing new scientists and new research in a way that is truly partnered with our Uganda colleagues. The development of this inaugural hub as a geographic focus for research and education supported by our academic health center is an exciting step in our global activities.

Tell us about your emergency response simulations:
I have worked on everything from phone apps (psychological first-aid), to online games for everyone from high school students to graduate students. I use simulations to help learners apply knowledge. I have found it interesting to research how technology-driven simulations as well as simulations on the ground can help people really ingrain the concepts that they need for emergency preparedness and response. Emergencies come up daily in global health, and practicing response together in a non-threatening environment before a disaster happens can be really valuable. When the I-35W Bridge collapsed in Minnesota, almost 10 years ago, those who responded to that emergency noted that it was one of the most organized responses to a disaster. Unfortunately several people were lost, but it could have been more if responders had not trained and practiced together, and responded in an amazingly coordinated way.

Why did you want to get involved with the NPGH Fellows program?
Fellowships are so important because it gives learners a time-out to concentrate and develop skills in country. Being a learner is not based on age or profession, but based on a desire to learn for greater impact. Fogarty Fellows are all over the world taking time to concentrate on learning in a context that they may not be familiar with. Learning in-country is vital in order to do global research in a collaborative way.

What are some of the advantages with bringing technology to the classroom? Disadvantages?
Access is the greatest advantage to technology enhanced learning. Many colleagues around the world are not able to journey to places where they can access the information they need. Technology is a way to help people have better access to information. At the same time it’s one of the challenges; we can be overwhelmed with too much information and not enough knowledge. Learning opportunities need to be designed and delivered in a way that reflects strong principles of teaching and learning. In the first years of e-learning often there were PowerPoints stuck up on the web. That’s not good pedagogy. When we started e-learning at the University of Minnesota, I wrote grants to support our efforts. That gave us the opportunity to bring together a team of designers and content experts that worked together in using technology as a complement to other applied experiences. Relationships, another important part of learning, still need to be built into engagement of the learner, teacher and practice partners. Once a relationship is in place knowledge can be applied in partnership. The Fogarty Fellows program builds relationships for strong partnerships.

Nature: Brain Disorders Across the Lifespan Supplement

Brain DisordersCover Image of the Supplement

Several of the PIs from the NPGH consortium contributed articles to the “Brain Disorders Across the Lifespan” supplement for Nature.  Follow this link to view the complete supplement.

Mentor Spotlight: Dominic Travis

Dominic Travis, DVM, MS teaches ecosystem health and zoonotic diseases at the University of Minnesota. He is interested in the interaction between domestic animals, people and wildlife and how that applies to health, food security and conservation.

How many diseases originate in animals?
In the past 10 years or so, there have been a bunch of studies on the subject of zoonotic disease risk in terms of the proportion of human diseases – or emerging diseases – that come from animals. Woolhouse & Gowtage-Sequeria (2005) give the numbers:

Of the 1,407 human pathogen species, 816 (58%) are known to be zoonotic. In comparison, of the 177 emerging or reemerging pathogens, 130 (73%) are known to be zoonotic. This corresponds to an RR of 2.0 and confirms the expectation that zoonotic pathogens are disproportionately likely to be associated with emerging and reemerging infectious diseases.

This includes some of the most important/infamous diseases such as ebola (bats and bushmeat), SARS (bats and bushmeat), TB (many doestic and wildlife hosts), HIV (monkeys and apes) and plague (fleas from rodents) to name a very few.

Where do some of the biggest risks in zoonotic transmission come from and how do you address them?
It boils down to increased/changing human – animal exposures, or interfaces. This has been ongoing since humans settled down and domesticated livestock, and increased throughout the industrial age. The ever-increasing rate of land conversion (eg. agricultural land conversion and natural resource extraction, like logging and mining), especially in the tropics, has resulted in unique new interfaces between humans, domestic animals and livestock, and hence new opportunities for disease transmission. Recently, the need for protein has driven new exposures between wildlife as bushmeat and humans, resulting in things like SARS and larger Ebola outbreaks.

What drew you to your field?
I wanted to first be a marine biologist or a wildlife biologist, but loved the health angle as well. Veterinary medicine provided an opportunity to combine those things. During vet school I spent six months in Southern Africa where I learned about this ‘interface’ issue, which is exacerbated in developing countries, and that led me to epidemiology and public health. The Ecosystem Health program at UMN allows me a place to combine all of the above in a holistic approach!

What keeps you awake at night?
The issues of food and water security and our [lack of] current solutions to them are colliding head on with the sustainability of natural resources. How we reconcile these demands in an overwhelmingly human-centric – or anthropocentric – world is the Gordian knot of our times. Emerging diseases are a by-product or symptom of this dilemma that we are forced to treat.

What are you working on right now?
I’m looking to be involved with issues that provide case studies for the above, where science can be useful to connect with policy. Tropical forests and disease emergence (including protein acquisition and bushmeat), honey bee health and sustainability, mining and the environment, and the health and welfare risks associated with wildlife trade are all on my plate at the moment.

What’s your favorite animal?
James Herriot (author of All Creatures Great and Small – required reading for pre vets) would tell me that I should say ‘all’ because they are all important. However, I’m particular to the snow leopard and the Okapi (‘forest giraffe’ found only in one part of the Congo forest).

Woolhouse, M.E.J., & Gowtage-Sequeria, S. (2005). Host range and emerging and reemerging pathogens. Emerging Infectious Diseases 11(12), accessed from

This article was originally published in the NPGH Fogarty Fellows Jan-Mar Newsletter

Universidad de San Marcos Awarded more than $5.5 Million!

One of our NPGH Fogarty mentors, Dr. Jorge Alarcon, spearheaded the successful application for a Center of Excellence award from the Peruvian government’s Committee of Science, Technology, and Technological Innovation (Concytec). Competing against 21 other consortia, the University of San Marcos will be awarded /s 16.7 million (US$5.57 million) over the next 5 years to expand their research capacity and encourage technological innovation. Dr. Joseph Zunt, another Fogarty mentor from the University of Washington, and Dr. Silvia Montano, a mentor at the Naval Medical Research Unit no. 6 (NAMRU-6), have also pledged to support San Marcos along with the Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil. For more information in Spanish, visit the Universidad de San Marcos website.

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