People behind SAFOSO: Carla Stoffel
Who are the people behind SAFOSO? What inspires them and how do they contribute to solving animal health challenges? Carla Stoffel shares her story.
How do you contribute to SAFOSO?
As a consultant, I work on a variety of projects for both the public and private sectors. Since joining the company, the bulk of my work has been dedicated to African Swine Fever (ASF) prevention & control, as well as to raising awareness on different aspects of COVID-19. Working on these two ongoing pandemics in animals and in people simultaneously creates an interesting perspective on One Health. My work has taken me to new roles, such as investigative journalism and teaching. I often work in close partnership with clients. This allows us to better understand and adapt to the needs of the customer.
What are you currently working on?
One of the things I work on right now is preparing a proposal to build a new high biosecurity facility in Switzerland. The initiative started by Ueli Kihm, our President, is to create a whole new institute for Switzerland to replace the Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI). Since, IVI was established about 30 years ago times have changed a lot and therefore a new biosecurity facility is needed to meet these changing needs. The SAFOSO team organized and led a round table workshop with experts from IVI and other institutions in academia, private industry, and government. We had out-of-the-box brainstorming sessions to discuss the global health needs of today and how IVI can contribute to meeting those needs in a One Health approach. I am preparing a report of the outcomes of the workshop, which will be presented to the Swiss government.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in animal health?
The biggest challenge is raising awareness among the public about the interconnectedness of animal, human, and environmental health. It seems most people outside the animal health field have not heard of ASF and are astounded to hear that we’ve lost about 240 million pigs which is at least ¼ of the global pig population, and over ½ of China’s pigs. And the situation is getting worse as the disease continues to spread. On top of that, COVID-19 has created disruptions in disease reporting and control activities as well as to the food supply chain, such as the shutdown of slaughterhouses, leaving the industry with a surplus of millions of healthy pigs that needed to be euthanized.
In my opinion, COVID-19 has highlighted how intense animal production creates vulnerabilities in human and animal health. The consumer is the driver of the industry. If consumer awareness is raised, the industry can be transformed to being more sustainable and global health friendly.
What has been a highlight in your work for SAFOSO?
A real highlight has been the team effort on the SARS-CoV-2 virus risk assessment in animals, an urgent project requiring four team members to work simultaneously in a sprint-like fashion. This was a super interesting team effort, in which we had to clearly divide the tasks, reconvene at short intervals, and combine the pieces together at the end. We completed the work in just a few days, and the client was really happy with the outcome. All in all, a really good experience in teamwork.
What inspires you to come to work every day?
I get a lot of inspiration from working on projects of importance to current events impacting both humans and animals, and to do this with a team that is smart, motivated and collaborative. It makes for productive and high-quality work - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Apart from the collaboration in the team, I am also highly inspired by the fact that my work is applied: most of what I do results in recommendations for action. For example, the information gleaned from market analysis for ASF diagnostics and a risk assessment for SARS-CoV-2 in animals are being used for decision making processes that will affect short-and long-term policies. Another example is the FAO training on ASF that is tailored to the needs of the Southeast Asia region, so that the recommendations can be directly applied to the ongoing outbreaks.
About Carla Stoffel
Carla joined SAFOSO in 2020 as a consultant. She received a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine (DVM) from Tufts Universityin 2016, a BSc in Animal Science with a minor in German from Cornell University, and is currently undertaking an MSc degree in international development studies with the University of Portsmouth. She also holds a post-graduate certificate in international veterinary medicine.
Following her DVM, Carla did an internship on rabies projects with the OIE Scientific and New Technologies department, after which she practiced as a small-animal veterinary clinician in Manhattan. From 2017 to 2019, she worked as a technical consultant for the FAO in Rome, where her activities ranged from safeguarding global freedom from rinderpest to capacity-building for field veterinarians in Africa.