Mississippi State’s Khaitsa named to global One Health High-Level Expert Panel

Contact: James Carskadon

Studio portrait of Margaret Khaitsa
Margaret Khaitsa (Photo by Tom Thompson)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State University professor of veterinary epidemiology has been named to an international panel focused on the ways humans, animals and the environment impact global health.

Dr. Margaret Khaitsa in MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is now serving on the One Health High-Level Expert Panel to advise key international organizations on the potential emergence and spread of new diseases, among other areas. The 26-member panel, selected from a pool of over 700 applicants, advises the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Health Organization (WHO). One Health is a holistic approach that recognizes the links between the health of people, animals and the environment. With approximately 75 percent of new infectious diseases originating in animals, the panel will examine areas that contribute to the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as urbanization, international trade, biodiversity loss and climate change.

“Human health does not exist in a vacuum, and nor can our efforts to protect and promote it,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press release announcing the panel. “The close links between human, animal and environmental health demand close collaboration, communication and coordination between the relevant sectors. The High-Level Expert Panel is a much-needed initiative to transform One Health from a concept to concrete policies that safeguard the health of the world’s people.”

A native of Uganda, Khaitsa has been a part of MSU’s faculty since 2013, where her research and development efforts have focused on international veterinary medicine programs and One Health. She has been involved in international One Health workforce development programs for over 15 years, leading projects funded by federal entities such as the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

“I am honored by the opportunity to serve on the One Health High-Level Expert Panel,” Khaitsa said. “Improving our global health requires collaboration, capacity building and developing the next generation of One Health professionals. It is a privilege to continue my work in this area with a distinguished group of experts from around the world.”

Khaitsa is currently leading an MSU team that is facilitating scientific exchanges and working to harmonize and implement new standards for the safe trade of agricultural products across the eight Regional Economic Communities of the African Union. Her research focuses on infectious disease epidemiology and food safety, as well as antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli. Khaitsa is an alumna of Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and The Ohio State University, where she received a doctorate in veterinary preventative medicine/epidemiology.

“Dr. Khaitsa’s selection to the One Health High-Level Expert Panel is a testament to her globally relevant expertise in the ways human, animal and plant health interact,” said MSU Vice President for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine Keith Coble. “She has also demonstrated outstanding leadership capabilities in her work with several national and international organizations. As Dr. Khaitsa’s appointment shows, our faculty at MSU are at the forefront of tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges. I know this panel will greatly benefit from her contributions.”

For more on the One Health High-Level Expert Panel, see the joint news release from WHO, FAO, OIE and UNEP at https://www.who.int/news/item/20-05-2021-new-international-expert-panel-to-address-the-emergence-and-spread-of-zoonotic-diseases.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.