Forever True, For Iowa State

Improving human health may start with animals

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything at all, it’s that the world needs more Cyclones like Dr. Belen Hernandez and Dr. Claire Andreasen.

Both student and professor are deeply involved in the One Health Initiative at Iowa State University, which explores the interconnection of animal, human and environmental health. While not a new concept, this approach to addressing threats to our health is becoming increasingly important.

“Especially this past year, more than ever, we see how the health and wellness of humans, animals and our environment are interconnected and interdependent,” says Andreasen, the Dr. Roger and Marilyn Mahr Professor in One Health and director of the program.

Worldwide, nearly 75 percent of all emerging human infectious diseases in the past few decades originated in animals. Belen, a graduate student majoring in veterinary pathology, is studying bacteria that can cause severe disease in humans and impact animal and human health.

“Understanding the difference [and how it’s transmitted] could lead to important breakthroughs in human health,” she says.

Belen earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in Colorado and was drawn to Iowa State’s focus on One Health. She says donor support she has received allows her to concentrate on advancing her research rather than worrying about her finances; Belen’s salary support includes funding from the endowed Tyrone D. Artz, M.D. Chair for Teaching Excellence.

The Mahr Professorship in One Health not only furthers Andreasen’s work, but with its focus on education and student-centered learning, the fund also supports numerous student research projects such as Belen’s by providing equipment and other critical resources.

Partnerships like these have the potential to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, a key priority of Iowa State’s historic $1.5 billion campaign.

“I am grateful to the donors who so thoughtfully empower Iowa State to address these and other critical and relevant global health concerns,” Andreasen says.