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FAO internship gives biosciences student a global view

20 December, 2013, Rome – As a participant in the distinguished Career Development Program of the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defence (FAZD), Nazly Shafagati embarked on an 2013 internship within the FAO Animal Health Laboratory Unit, based at FAO headquarters in Rome.

The FAO Lab Unit helps track emerging or endemic animal influenza strains with potential impact on public health and connects epidemiological information to genetic information. The work contributes to the global animal health web-based database developed by FAO called EMPRES-i. The EMPRES-i database helps veterinarians and organizations worldwide collate and analyze animal disease information. FAO uses EMPRES-i as part of its overarching effort to support countries with early warning information, risk assessment of disease emergence and spread and development and implementation of methods of control for emerging strains of both human and animal diseases.

The experience at FAO helped Shafagati better understand how often human diseases “start out in animals and progress from there.”

Shafagati also put together a table of available diagnostic methods for influenza, complete with pros and cons of each method, especially in the context of developing countries. The table helped highlight the benefits of the method that she was perfecting for her doctoral work. Moreover, FAO gave Shafagati the opportunity to share her work with international experts.

At FAO seminars, Shafagati met specialists from across the globe who work with diseases worldwide. Shafagati saw how FAO, as a knowledge organization and the largest technical agency in the UN, enabled researchers from different countries—each country with its own set of disease-related problems—to work together.

Shafagati returned to the United States of America with a much clearer sense for the “big picture” on her doctoral work. She continues to aid the FAO team, updating the chart of diagnostic techniques for influenza.

“Working at FAO actually changed what I wanted to do,” Shafagati said. “I’d love to do some international work with governments and agencies around the world, helping shape policy and getting a better understanding of epidemiology.”


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