PennVet | Dean's Letter
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Dean's Letter

Published: Nov 1, 2021

Dear Penn Vet Community,

Dean Andrew HoffmanThe world is getting smaller. Humans (all 7.9 billion of us), animals, and the environment share one atmosphere, and a hierarchy of oceans and watersheds. Two- and four-legged animals, and our winged cohabitants, are tightly squeezed into habitable land (43% of total land mass). Pandemics result from people sharing environments with animals. Penn Vet was an early force in understanding and controlling zoonoses, such as bovine brucellosis, tuberculosis, and avian influenza. We could not be more grateful for and proud of the scholars at Penn Vet that have continued this great tradition of devoting their lives to the study of infectious diseases impacting billions of people and animals.

In recognition of these dedicated faculty and their research teams, we are launching Penn Vet’s first institute, the Institute for Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases (IIZD). This historical launch crystalizes three years of work by senior leaders and investigators at the School. They planned investments and convened scholars and centers across the School to strengthen our research, innovation, and training environment related to emerging, zoonotic, and vector-borne diseases. What differentiates IIZD is its attention to proximity and interactions between experts in globally and regionally important infectious diseases. The Institute serves as a unique regional hub of collaboration and communication, providing scholarship and guidance on area diseases that impact domestic, peri-domestic, and wildlife species in the Commonwealth.

The new Institute joins 17 other Institutes at Penn (research.upenn.edu/centers-and-institutes/). The School, University, and region are excited about IIZD’s potential to transform the approach to infectious disease prevention, surveillance, and management in the Northeastern U.S., a global hot spot for emerging and reemerging infectious diseases.

The sky is the limit, from the discovery of new pathogens and understanding how they are transmitted, to the development of new animal vaccines and approaches to control vectors, to the creation of novel integrative training opportunities for veterinary students. And IIZD fills a critical gap in pandemic preparedness by incorporating a strong emphasis on zoonotic diseases.

Penn Vet is always evolving, from originating the now-pervasive specialties in veterinary medicine, to offering distinctive interdisciplinary dual degree opportunities, to addressing issues of sustainability, wellness, diversity and inclusion, and workforce development in our profession. We are fearless in asking questions, daring to generate new knowledge. And we’re undeniably energized — and focused — on preparing students to live and work in an interconnected, unpredictable world.

I want to thank you for your support of our mission — we could not be more grateful for your engagement as alumni and community members. I hope that this issue of Bellwether inspires you to continue the journey with us to be leaders in veterinary medicine and beyond.