Ilaria Capua, DVM, PhD - Director
I am Ilaria Capua and I am the newly appointed Director of the One Health Center of Excellence at the University of Florida. I have dedicated most of my professional life to infections of animals that can be transmitted to humans, and that cause poverty and food security issues such as Avian influenza and Newcastle disease. At the peak of the H5N1 bird flu panzootic, I provided global leadership by igniting an international debate on the trans-disciplinary sharing of influenza virus genetic sequences to improve pandemic preparedness. This led to a paradigm shift in the approach to pandemic preparedness, and is now considered an essential component of the fight against Ebola, Zika, and other infectious disease threats.
Prior to joining UF, I was, for more than three years, a member of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament. I served for two and a half years as vice president of the Science, Culture, and Education Commission. During my years in the legislature, I authored Parliamentary resolutions and amendments related to infectious diseases, namely antimicrobial resistance, epidemic threats (Ebola), and emerging pathogens of plants and animals (Xylella spp).
My vision for One Health is to progress beyond the human-animal-environment triangle and to engage with other disciplines including economics, law, sustainability, politics, arts, and others. The stakeholder and decision-making perspective I gained in Parliament is key to the realization of this multi-disciplinary approach and complements the scientific grounds for the One Health approach.
I am a veterinarian by training and a virologist by passion. I am now fully dedicated to strategic thinking across the scientific-policy interface and am committed to the advancement of the One Health agenda beyond its current boundaries and scope.
There is a life beyond professional engagements. I love to cook (and would like to set up cooking classes for easy real-Italian–food here in Gainesville). I am also trying to make a Mediterranean garden survive in Gainesville. I enjoy writing nonfiction books. I have written four books (all in Italian for the time being) on my experiences as a veterinarian in research and in public health. I've also written about my parliamentary experience, and my latest book, released in 2017, was about how I kept myself together and fought back false accusations about being a criminal scientist rather than a committed public health official.
Olga Muñoz, DVM, MSc
I am a veterinarian with an MSc in One Health focused on infectious diseases. I was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, to an Italian-Ecuadorian father and a Russian mother. After graduating from high-school, I moved to Bologna, Italy, where I got my DVM. During my second year of degree, I discovered the fascinating world of infectious diseases, which drove me to build a path in public health, thus, to move to Padua to work on zoonotic influenza A viruses and pursue an MSc in One Health at the Royal Veterinary College and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. My last stop before coming to Florida, was working for the past two years in the National Institute of Public Health Research in Quito, Ecuador, where I was and still am engaged on research on antimicrobial resistance, Chagas diseases, the relationship between domestic dogs and cats and humans and the inter-species transmission of Giardia and Ascaris. As a short-term scholar at the One Health Center of Excellence, I will be assisting in the structuring of a Certificate in One Health.
In my spare time, I enjoy running, hiking, practicing pilates, traveling, reading, the opera and experiencing great and exotic food.
Jessica Garcia - Administrative Support Assistant
Hi, my name is Jessica Garcia and I am a senior in the Bachelor of Health Science program on the Pre-Public Health track here at the University of Florida. I joined the One Health team in January 2016 where I currently serve as one of the two Administrative Assistants for the One Health Center of Excellence at the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. After graduation, I plan to pursue a Masters in Public Health with a focus on global epidemiology and community development.
Aside from my current position with One Health, I also serve as a Community Outreach Intern for the UF Diabetes Institute, as Treasurer for the UF Undergraduate Public Health Association, and as a Hispanic-Latino Affairs Ambassador under Multicultural & Diversity Affairs, a division of Student Affairs at the University of Florida. Previously, I’ve also served on the Hispanic Student Association’s Cabinet for two semesters and then on the Executive Board as the Member Leadership Program’s Executive Director for three semesters. Before starting my current positions at the Emerging Pathogens Institute and the Diabetes Institute, I worked a year as an Operations Intern at the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County and for two years as an Assistant for the Oral Medicine Clinic in the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in UF Health’s College of Dentistry. Throughout my time at UF, I have held multiple positions with various student organizations, departments, and institutes both on and off campus that have truly helped me discover my passions for public health and serving minority, underrepresented, and marginalized communities.
My hobbies include traveling, going to concerts and music festivals, photography, cooking, and exploring nature trails.
Kean Villarta - Administrative Support Assistant
I am Kean and I am a senior from Coral Springs, Florida, majoring in Health Science and minoring in Communication Studies. I joined the One Health team in September 2016 and I have been actively involved in the planning and logistics of the program. After graduation, I plan on getting a Master’s degree in Health Policy and Management.
I have worked at the Emerging Pathogens Institute before as an intern for Control Flu. I also currently serve as the Director of Public Relations for the Undergraduate Public Health Association at UF and an intern for Infection Control at UF Health Shands Hospital. Last summer, I interned for the CDC and I was able to put things I learned into practice. I am excited to be here at the EPI and I am learning new things and meeting people all the time.
In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, reading, and hanging out with friends.
Josue Romero - Administrative Support Assistant
I am a graduate from the University of Florida, holding a B.A. in Anthropology. I am looking toward being a physician in the near future, as I start looking into graduate, post-baccalaureate programs at a school of my choice in 2018. From there, I’m anticipating matriculation into medical school to carry out my dreams of going abroad to other countries around the world to learn about different diseases that plague developing countries and how to best treat them from a cultural standpoint. Aside from this, I enjoy trying new foods; listening to music and playing it; attending music festivals and concerts; advocating for civil liberties on an intersectional platform; enacting nature activities; and playing video games.
Maha A Elbadry, PhD
I am an international post-doc with a PhD in Public Health. I received my B.Sc. from Cairo University in Egypt in Medical Entomology in 2004, following which I have worked for seven years at Naval Medical Research Unit No.3 in Cairo. It was my good fortune that I was a team member in NAMRU-3 during the global H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak, and the consequent H1N1 pandemic, which taught me a lot in the world of virology and introduced me to the human side of public health. I, later on, became passionate in mosquito-borne infections, particularly arboviruses where I participated in outbreak investigation for the famous chikungunya outbreak in Yemen in 2011. By the end of the year, I joined the University of Florida to pursue a PhD in public health, this time, looking into malaria in Haiti. In 2014, a massive chikungunya outbreak occurred in Haiti followed by a couple of smaller outbreaks of arboviruses which I have been involved in identifying as side projects for my PhD, which now continues to be my PostDoctoral main research. Personally, I am a very slow but keen jogger, big fan of all kind of nature activities, hiking, swimming, canoeing, snorkeling, you name it.
Chris Pierson- Intern
I am currently a Masters in Health Science with a concentration in One Health student at the University of Florida. After being involved in the One Health Community both here in Florida and in North Carolina, I have seen a need for outreach beyond both academia and the core health sciences. As part of my time here at the Center of Excellence, I will be helping on outreach and communication.