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TAMU Iraqi Graduate Students Get 'Empowered' in First Biorisk Management Workshop

Article originally published in October 2017 Dean's Corner. View original story here.

empowered biorisk group photoTexas A&M graduate students from Iraq had the unique opportunity to learn about biosafety and biosecurity with experts from the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), TAMU Global One Health, and the CVM's Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB), in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, on July 26-28 during the first Biorisk Management Workshop.

The three-day activity included 30 Iraqi biological science and engineering graduate students, as well as additional faculty, staff, and external experts. Members of the lead team are Angela Arenas, VTPB assistant professor; Rosina “Tammi” Krecek, research professor of Global One Health; and Gerald Parker, associate dean of Global One Health.

The workshop, themed “Empower,” was designed to promote a foundational knowledge about biothreat reduction to better prepare students to conduct their own scientific research through safe and secure methods. The impact and implications of this capacity-building will be carried back to Iraq when the students return to their home country after completing of their TAMU degrees.

“This workshop contributes to the mission of engaging cooperative international research and training partnerships to reduce the threat to the U.S. and to global health security from the spread of pathogens of security concern,” Krecek said. “These include U.S. Biological Select Agents and pathogens of pandemic potential, emerging, and reemerging infectious diseases.”

Key elements of the workshop included: orientation on biosafety and biosecurity; risk mitigation strategies; ethics in biological and multi-disciplinary research; performance assessment; TAMU and external keynote speakers; and collection of workshop evaluation/feedback. The workshop also included experiential and interactive components, including networking lunches and a networking dinner.

Another goal of the workshop was to assess future training needs and desires within the Iraqi student population at TAMU, according to Krecek.

“This first workshop has strengthened and established a community of Iraqi scholars conscious of biorisk management issues ready to collaborate now and into the future with one another and with faculty/staff at TAMU and at Sandia National Laboratories,” Krecek said. “Assessing the training needs and desires of these next-generation leaders in scientific research in Iraq will enable effective planning for future workshops to build long-term capacity.”

The Texas A&M Global One Health programs work to address societal needs through sustainable solutions with an interdisciplinary approach at the intersect of animal, human, and environmental health.