People behind SAFOSO: Isabel Lechner

June 24, 2020

Isabel, in your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in animal health?

How to meet the high demands of the human population for meat and other animal products, without jeopardizing the health of animals and their welfare, that remains the biggest challenge. I think that only a healthy environment will lead to healthy animals. Globalization of the current world adds to this challenge. Animal diseases such as African Swine Fever, or zoonotic diseases such as Avian Influenza spread easily, similar to what we see in humans with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We need to prepare ourselves for the early detection and prevention of more emerging disease events.

Tell us about your work for SAFOSO

As a SAFOSO consultant, I am involved in capacity building projects. I support public institutions mainly in Ukraine and in the Balkans at the moment with the implementation of programs and trainings around food safety and animal health. Some of these capacity building activities lead to new technical directives or even legislation, others to the implementation of further disease prevention or control programs.

In the three years I have now worked for SAFOSO I have learned that, apart from my knowledge as a veterinary public health specialist, interpersonal skills are extremely important. Due to the nature of our projects – we work with people from many different backgrounds – it is helpful to approach clients with an open mind. Our goal is to meet the customers’ needs and work with the available resources, i.e. to find a solution that will best match their circumstances.

Another important part of my work is my involvement in research projects.

What research project are you currently working on?

I am working on two large research projects about antimicrobial resistance (AMR). One is on AMR transmission pathways from animals to humans. This interdisciplinary project, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, is a collaboration with social scientists and is intended to inform consumers about the risks of AMR sources. The other project is about prudent use of antibiotics in veal calves. At the moment veterinarians make an economic profit if they prescribe antibiotics. We are part of a research consortium that looks at alternative economic systems with which veterinarians can compensate for a loss in income if they reduce antibiotic prescriptions. SAFOSO is often called to these projects as a research partner for our expertise in this field from the animal health perspective.

What has been a highlight in your work for SAFOSO?

As capacity building is a large part of my work, a particularly “rewarding” moment was when I inspired a professor during a statistics training course in Ukraine to change her way of teaching. After the 3-day course the professor, who had attended the whole training, told me that my way of transferring information during the course opened her eyes to how teaching can be different and that she wanted to implement this way of teaching in her own classes. I felt this was very rewarding, because it left a lasting effect.


About Isabel Lechner

After graduating as a veterinarian from the Vetsuisse-Faculty of Bern, Isabel performed her doctoral thesis at the Vetsuisse-Faculty in Zürich. After that, she started her residency program with the European College of Veterinary Public Health (ECVPH) at the Veterinary Public Health Institute of the Vetsuisse-Faculty in Bern. In parallel she completed the training program for the Swiss Official Veterinarian and became a Diplomate of the ECVPH in 2016.

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