New UCGHI Advisory Council Members Representing Local and Global Regions of the World

April 30, 2024
Fernando Mardones, MPVM, MPH, Latiffah Hassan, DVM, PhD, and Robinson Mdegela, BVM, MVSc, PhD

Since the UC Global Health Institute was established, an advisory council (AC) of representatives across the University of California system has been essential to providing guidance on our strategies and priorities to ensure we fulfill our mission to stimulate, nurture, and promote global health research, education, and collaboration to advance health in California and worldwide. Until recently, our AC has included a representative from each UC campus. This year, we welcome a new cadre of representatives from around the world as our regional members and the addition of one UC student member who will be highlighted in a future feature story.

“These external local and global partners will be able to guide us and provide advice on our role in global health, our footprint and more specifically, our regional footprint when it comes to global health.” says Ndola Prata, MD, MSc, UCGHI Associate Director and Professor in Maternal and Child Health and Fred H. Bixby Endowed Chair in Population and Family Planning, UC Berkeley. “Whether it's in Africa or in Latin America, each of them brings many years of experience in working in global health, but also experience in advisory capacity to institutes around the world or other organizations that require a variety of voices around the table.”

With that, we are excited to introduce the new Regional Members of our Advisory Council: Fernando Mardones, MPVM, PhD Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Latiffah Hassan, DVM, PhD from University Putra Malaysia and University of Missouri, and Robinson Mdegela, BVM, MVSc, PhD, from ​​Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania.

We are especially eager for these new UCGHI Advisory Council members to bring their expertise within the One Health framework. As we discussed in the April 2024 newsletter, the transdisciplinary, cross-sectoral, global approach that One Health takes is essential to help manage the spread of dangerous viruses and to help prevent future pandemics like we experienced with COVID-19. Each of our new members brings important expertise in One Health, with Dr. Latiffah Hassan’s involvement with the USAID One Health Next Generation project, Dr. Fernando Mardones’ work as section editor of Advancing Planetary Health for UCGHI’s Advances in Global Health, and Dr. Robinson Mdegela’s involvement with the Rx One Health Summer Work Experience Program.

Fernando Mardones, MPVM, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC) in Santiago, Chile and also UC Davis alumnus whose research focuses on applying quantitative epidemiological methods to animal health and veterinary medicine, contributing to the One Health approach. His expertise focuses on bridging the gap between animal health and public health through considering the interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the environment. His work focuses on disease surveillance and control measures with research covering a wide range of topics, from estimating the owned pet population in Chile and their preventive healthcare to developing new molecular diagnostic tests for infectious diseases affecting farmed salmon.

“I aim to facilitate collaborations between researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders to address emerging zoonotic threats, enhance food security, and promote sustainable agricultural practices,” he says. “I am particularly enthusiastic about the interdisciplinary nature of the UC Global Health Institute and its dedication to addressing complex global health challenges through collaborative efforts. I look forward to leveraging my expertise and networks to support UCGHI's mission and contribute to positive health outcomes worldwide.”

Latiffah Hassan, DVM, PhD is a Professor in the Department of Public Health at University of Missouri and holds a joint appoingment as a Professor in Veterinary Public Health Epidemiology at the University Putra Malaysia. She collaborated extensively with various authorities, transforming raw surveillance data into actionable insights in research spanning various fields, including transboundary animal diseases, emerging public health threats, antibiotic resistance, and One Health initiatives tackling complex problems. “As a veterinary public health epidemiologist, I strive to connect the dots between global events and my work, understanding their relevance to the interconnected world of animal and human health,” she says. “My overarching goal has always been to understand and prevent disease outbreaks, which aligns perfectly with my research focus on emerging zoonotic diseases in veterinary public health epidemiology.”

Dr. Hassan is currently the co-chair of an exciting new initiative under the Lancet Commission on Prevention of Viral Spillover. “This effort will provide crucial guidance for preventing future outbreaks by focusing on upstream interventions at the environment-animal-human interface,” she says. She sees contributing to UCGHI by leveraging her advisory and leadership roles as well as research in One Health initiatives, specifically her experience in multisectoral and collaborative projects that can help engage diverse stakeholders. Her experience in southeast Asia and North America can help bridge the gap between the regions, in addition to her work at the Lancet’s proactive approach to pandemic prevention and in translating theoretical frameworks into practical implementation strategies.

“I believe I can contribute significantly to shaping UCGHI's strategies and programs, particularly those focused on preventing future zoonotic disease outbreaks,” says Dr. Hassan. She is especially excited about the learning opportunity to exchange knowledge with other Council members. “This is an amazing opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of experts from around the world to tackle pressing global health issues.”

Robinson Mdegela, BVM, MVSc, PhD is a Professor of Fish Medicine and Aquatic Toxicology, Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania and researches antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and health challenges in aquaculture and fisheries, and natural products technologies and value addition. One of his research projects focused on quantitative risk assessment of antimicrobial use and resistance in complementary foods of animal origin used for children under five. “AMR is classified as a serious wicked problem that requires a One Health approach to curb it,” he says. “In my research I consider and use the One Health approach as an integrated, unifying approach to balance and optimize the health of people, animals and the environment. The approach mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at varying levels of society to work together. Through this approach, new and better ideas are developed that address root causes and create sustainable solutions across professional borders and systems barriers.”

Dr. Mdegela is excited that the UCGHI advisory council provides him a space to learn and gain international experience overseeing business and providing organizational direction. He is especially excited about being a representative of the African Region on the council. “I believe,” he says, “I can bring a better understanding of the interplay of core values of global health in the light of principles and practices governing health justice, equity, diversity and inclusivity.” 

We are excited to welcome these new members of the UCGHI Advisory Council.

You can learn about all our members here and you can read more about our One Health Workforce–Next Generation initiative in our April 2024 newsletter.