Dr. Elena Trujillo: â€śTo prevent new zoonoses we must carry out multidisciplinary workâ€ť
Interview with Dr. Elena Trujillo Ortega, President of the Mexican Veterinary Academy, where she explained the challenges for veterinary medicine in Mexico in 2021.
Authors: Jerson AndrĂ©s CuĂ©llar SĂˇenz and MarĂa SabatĂ©
The Mexican Veterinary Academy was founded on July 17, 1964 by a group of veterinarians in Mexico City. Currently, the headquarters of the AVM is located at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Dr. Maria Elena Trujillo Ortega was born in 1961. She graduated as a Veterinary Zootechnician from UNAM in 1984. She specialized in animal production: pigs in 1992. Subsequently, she obtained a master’s degree in the same area in 1994. She obtained her PhD in Veterinary Sciences in 1998. She has 30 years of experience in teaching and swine production. In 2006 she became a full member of the Mexican Veterinary Academy. Currently, she is the president of the AVM for the period 2020-2021.
Issues at the Mexican Veterinary Academy
The Mexican Veterinary Academy has more than half a century of history in the country. What is the role of the Mexican Veterinary Academy today and what does it represent for Mexico?
The AVM is a leading national association promoting excellence in education, scientific research and innovation, and the dissemination of veterinary sciences and zootechnics. In Mexico, it has become an organization with academic and scientific authority thanks to the participation of all its members.
How was this first year as president of the AVM?
It has been a year of hard work, we managed to double the number of conferences, we changed the statute so that the Academy adapts to the current context, we participated in several events, and we had representation in national and international organizations.
What challenges do you face in 2021 as president of the AVM?
Undoubtedly, the AVM had to adapt to the global context and the changes that arose because of the covid-19 pandemic, which made us look to the future and define the pending challenges. One of them, on which we are already working, is to modernize our means of communication, work, and dissemination, to increase our leadership in the field of veterinary medicine.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many sectors in the world and the health professions have taken the lead to overcome this moment. What role has played veterinary medicine in Mexico during this COVID-19 pandemic?
Veterinary medicine has sought to work in multidisciplinary teams to maintain the “One Health” approach. From our organizations, veterinarians in Mexico, we have held sessions in which we have issued some recommendations that arise from the experience of our academics and guests in the control of emerging diseases and research of the different coronaviruses that affect some animals’ species.
Public health policies in many countries include veterinary medicine in their programs. What participation does veterinary medicine currently have in public health in Mexico? Does it play a leading role or is there a lack of inclusion?
We actively participate in preventive medicine and public health. Governmental agencies in Mexico always request the consultancy of organizations such as the Academy to elaborate complex programs in favor of public health.
How is the relationship and support between the productive sectors (poultry, swine, cattle) regarding AVM nowadays?
Among the members of the Academy, there are experts in each of the species, and in their particularities of production, they are the contact between the productive sector and our Academy. In such a way that they bring them closer to our activities of dissemination of research, technology, and innovation in each of the branches.
Considering globalization and the imminent arrival of virtuality and technology to the academic world: In what aspects do you consider that veterinary education should be strengthened in Mexican universities?
The teaching of veterinary medicine must adapt to carry out activities in a hybrid way, this will force teachers to adapt their teaching strategies according to the digital tools and students to appropriate them so that they can adapt them to the needs of veterinary medicine.
What are the scientific areas in which the academicians of the Mexican Academy stand out?
Our academicians stand out in multiple areas of specialty. Some of them have research or teaching experience in the subjects that form the basis of veterinary medicine and zootechnics, for example, parasitology, bacteriology, virology, immunology, pharmacology, history, surgery, etc. We have experts in the clinical aspects of the profession, prevention, control, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of domestic or wild animals. Some academics have made significant contributions in the production of animal species for the benefit of humans and others are distinguished for their exceptional work in the areas of zoonosis, safety, and quality food of animal origin, preventive medicine, and epidemiology.
What is your opinion regarding the level of public and private investment in veterinary science research?
There is no doubt that public and private investment in veterinary science research should be increased. The crucial role of our research contributions to public health, animal health, plant health, and the environment has become clear.
Challenges for veterinary medicine
Considering your extensive experience in the pig farming sector: How do you see the global and Latin American perspective for pork production in the nearest future?
Pig farming worldwide has always had great challenges and satisfactions, being pork the most consumed meat in the world and recently competing with chicken meat. It is satisfying to contribute to the feeding of the population in sustainable systems nowadays.
Within the challenges have been diverse, in Mexico and other Latin American countries we deal with the myths of meat consumption and its negative effects on human health, which are an absurdity when in Latin gastronomy most of its emblematic dishes are based on pork.
Nowadays, worldwide, before and during the pandemic, there have been some concerns: on the one hand, a disease that produces high mortality in pigs, the African Swine Fever, which for several years has had an outbreak in China and has been moving through Asia and has already reached Europe, mostly in wild pigs; however, biosecurity measures have led to shortages of meat in some countries. This is a great concern, but we do NOT have it in the American continent and so we must continue to take continental biosecurity measures to the extreme.
Another important aspect of productive systems is to achieve sustainability, to take care of the welfare and the environment. We still have a long way to go, but I am sure that in a short time we will be on our way to achieve it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the product of a zoonosis that is still under investigation. What is your opinion on the future of veterinary medicine in the world for the prevention of new zoonoses?
To prevent new zoonoses we must carry out multidisciplinary work, we must share information between the governmental, academic, and productive sectors to implement complex programs for the prevention of new zoonoses.
The world population continues to increase and therefore the demand for food is growing. Considering that animal products are a basic food source for the world: What challenges should Mexican/Latin American veterinary medicine take on to strengthen the food security of countries versus of the world population?
Our main challenge must be to adapt research to the context of each country and ensure that the results of this research reach food production at all levels, to the benefit of the population.
Norman Borlaug researched Ciudad ObregĂłn on the improvement of wheat cultivation in desert areas and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Are there any similar projects to improve productivity in the swine and poultry industry in Mexico?
Very good question, the Academy has always been concerned about developing different lines of research, to guarantee food safety through sustainability.
Great achievements have been made in the development of biologicals for the different diseases particular to each species and zoonotic diseases. Unfortunately, in none of the cases, they were awarded the Nobel Prize, but they did receive the satisfaction of controlling and eradicating diseases, as was the case of Dr. Pablo Correa with his vaccine for Classical Swine Fever, which led to the eradication of the disease in the country.
In the field of nutrition, research in swine and poultry species has led to great advances in the improvement of daily weight gain and feed conversion.
We need more in terms of environmental care, use of water resources, and animal welfare.