UI epidemiology professor elected to National Academy of Medicine discusses One Health, Election Process

Christine Petersen was elected to the National Academy of Medicine earlier this month.


Contributed photo from Christine Peterson

Virginia Russell, News Reporter

A University of Iowa professor is one of 100 members elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

Christine Petersen is a professor of epidemiology and the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the UI. Petersen specializes in zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that spread between people and animals.

“I felt excited and a bit astonished and very humbled,” Petersen said about her acceptance.

Petersen received the news on Oct. 7, but the process was much longer. In January, Petersen was contacted by Michael Lairmore, the former dean of the University of California Davis Veterinary School of Medicine, who asked if she wanted to be nominated to the National Academy of Medicine.

Lairmore, alongside James Roth, a professor in the department of veterinary microbiology at Iowa State University, created a package with her credentials for the nomination.

“They asked me for a little bit of information, especially because you have to kind of build the candidacy with your scholarships, so the articles you’ve written, the work you’ve done — those sorts of things. So, I provided some of that info for him,” Petersen said.

To be selected for the NAM, an individual must be nominated by two current members who are well-acquainted with the candidate’s work, according to its website.

She is the second epidemiologist to ever be selected from the UI.

Robert Wallace, the UI Irene Ensminger emeritus professor of epidemiology and internal medicine, was the first university epidemiologist elected to the NAM in 2001.

Wallace has served on the NAM for 21 years. As an active member, he is on a committee that evaluates the safety effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

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Wallace said being a member is about taking his experiences at the NAM and integrating them into the UI to benefit the epidemiology department.

“It’s not so much that it benefits us, but it benefits the people around us as we participate in academies activities and then bring those experiences back to the other faculty, and to the students and staff,” Wallace said.

Elizabeth Chrischilles, professor and head of the department of epidemiology at the UI, said she believes Petersen’s election will boost the epidemiology department’s enrollment.

“We have a fair number of students who applied to our program who are really interested in infectious diseases, and she’s definitely one who they really like to work with, so I would imagine we would have more students who are interested,” Chrischilles said.

Chrischilles believes Petersen’s election will bring nothing but progress.

“I’m very happy for Christy. She does incredible work,” she said. “It’s really important, and we’re really thrilled that she’s received the honor. I really look forward to more great things from her in the future.”

Petersen hopes to expand her work on what she calls “one health,” which is the idea of interconnectedness between people, animals, and what makes up their environment. Coming from a veterinary background allowed her to see health in an inclusive, transdisciplinary way.

“So, being able to help remind everybody that we’re not just looking to help ourselves, but we need to keep everybody around us healthy too is something I really hope that people do take home, and I think that message is something that all of us epidemiologists would appreciate more people understanding,” she said.