UT's newest research initiative focuses on how humans and animals interact with environment
The University of Tennessee announced a new health research initiative.
The UT One Health Initiative will look at how the health of humans, animals and the environment are connected, and improving the health of all three.
It will combine the research efforts of UT-Knoxville, the UT Institute of Agriculture, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the UT Health Science Center, Interim System President Randy Boyd announced.
“We recognize that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the health of the environment,” Boyd said. “We’re all one ecosystem. The health of one affects the health of others. We want to do research around those connections and improve the health of them all.”
Hongwei Xin, the dean of UT Ag Research, said it will be "a holistic system approach."
“One Health is really the nexus of animals, people, planet and the environment, the crops,” Xin said. “As (Boyd) mentioned...health is really tied to other living things.”
An immediate focus for One Health will be researching Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal neurological disease that affects deer in Tennessee, Xin said. Another area of focus will be on the health of cattle, which then improves the health of humans and the surrounding environments.
'A multi-disciplinary approach'
Through working with groups throughout the state, One Health will take “a multi-disciplinary approach,” Xin said.
“Today’s issues are so complex…any one single discipline cannot address it,” Xin said.
Debra Miller has been named the interim director. Miller holds a joint appointment in the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and the UTIA Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fishersies, and is director of the UTIA Center for Wildlife Health.
“Our vision is for the UT One Health Initiative to be a clearinghouse for transformational discoveries to improve animal, human, plant and environmental health,” Miller said. “We believe the initiative has the opportunity to be a global incubator for future generations of One Health experts across multiple disciplines and professions.”
Leading in science, research
At the State of the University address, Boyd said one goal for UT was to continue leadership in science and research. The goal is for research from One Health to be applied in Tennessee, but also globally, Boyd said.
“It’s a great example of how we can serve the people of Tennessee and serve the world through our research,” Boyd said.
Research done through One Health will look at “solving an existing problem today and preventing a problem in the future,” Boyd said.
The initiative will also give opportunities for graduate students to participate in research. Faculty will lead the research, and Xin said they are looking at the possibility of adding One Health as a minor for students.
One Health will be "a three year, multi-million dollar initiative," Boyd said.
The first year of the institute will focus on bringing groups together to start research, but from there, the goal is to form “a Tennessee center for global health,” Xin said.
"We start with Tennessee, and then evolve into national impact and global impact," Xin said.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Monica Kast
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Published February 21, 2020