November 22, 2019

Faces of Innovation: Dr. Christine Petersen, researcher at University of Iowa

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant

Faces of Innovation—a new GHTC project that features scientists on the front lines of research and development on new global health tools and technologies—profiles Dr. Christine Petersen, who we met at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Conference, who researches how infectious diseases transmit between animals and people at the University of Iowa.

My Name: Christine Petersen, DVM, PhD.

Where I work: Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. 

I’m funded by: National Institutes of Health. 

My research: My work is funded by the National Institutes of Health to help figure out how infectious diseases transmit between animals and people. As someone who lives in Iowa, where there’s six pigs for every person, it’s critical to understand those interactions between animals and people. Infectious diseases can be everything from the flu that we all get our shots for to parasitic diseases, like malaria, that affect anybody who travels and goes to places for work or for play.

Motivation: I was one of those kids who watched nature shows growing up and loved them. I always wanted to go and work with these amazing animals around the planet. It turns out those amazing animals gives diseases to the people that live with them or use them as a food source. In 1996, when 30 percent of the population in Kenya were dying of AIDS, most of them were dying of diseases they likely acquired from the very livestock that helps keep them alive. I wanted to be able to help those animals to stay healthier so the people could stay healthier.  

Why federal support is critical: It’s critical for policymakers to support global health research because we can’t separate where animals come from. We do not have borders that keep animals of all species out of this country. Like it or not, we share diseases with those animals. We need those animals to eat, to be our friends, and to make our lives happy. But all of us have diseases that we share, and we need to prevent them from making the animals sick and us sick. 

When I’m not in the lab: Not surprisingly, given the other things I’ve said, I do have two dogs, two cats, some fish, and some snails thanks to my ten-year-old daughter’s class. I love running with the dogs, going on hikes, and going kayaking.