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Faces of our CommUNAty: "The alliance is like an organism. In which direction will we evolve?"

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For the upcoming Una Europa General Assembly in Zürich, One Health is stepping into the spotlight, inviting delegates to bring their diverse perspectives and expertise to enrich this interdisciplinary subject area.

As our community prepares to travel to Switzerland, we speak to Adrian Hehl and Laura Tüshaus-Rudin, some of the voices behind the programme’s One Health focus, to understand what One Health means in an Una Europa context, how everyone can get involved, and what delegates can look forward to from the General Assembly.

This interview is part of Faces of our CommUNAty – a series shining a spotlight on the individuals behind Una Europa.

Adrian and Laura, can you share how you came to be involved in Una Europa?

Adrian: I have been involved in the Una Europa Self-Steering Committee in One Health for about two years, since our university joined the alliance. It came about somewhat naturally because we are very involved in One Health at Universität Zürich, and One Health is one of the Focus Areas in Una Europa. It was a natural choice for us to engage because we are already knee-deep in this topic, so this is where we can contribute the most to the alliance.

Laura: Through my position as general manager of Universität Zürich’s One Health Institute, I’ve also been involved in the One Health Self-Steering Committee since the start of Zürich’s journey with Una Europa. I joined our university’s Una Europa kick-off event in 2022, then I was on maternity leave and then officially joined the Self-Steering Committee this year.

What has been your favourite moment with the Una Europa One Health Self-Steering Committee?

Adrian: This is easy: my involvement in the Una Europa One Health Summer School 2023. It really opened my eyes to the whole breadth of topics in One Health, which were covered by the Summer School. With my zoonotic parasite angle I was kind of an outlier, but nevertheless it was very cool to be part of it.

I was on a field trip last summer so I gave two lectures for the Summer School remotely, which was not what I had wished for but what was possible under the circumstances. I hope that will be different this year, that I can be on site in Finland with the students.

Laura: I am really impressed at just how many activities are developed by the One Health Self-Steering Committee, and how strong the interconnection between the researchers is. Because we are involved in the Self-Steering Committee, we hear about a lot of interesting workshops, for example, where we can connect with researchers from our university who are not currently involved in Una Europa and the One Health Self-Steering Committee, but are active in One Health research. It’s great to connect to different researchers, even from outside the alliance, and to be part of all the different projects that are gearing up in the One Health Focus Area.

The upcoming Una Europa General Assembly explores the theme, ‘One Earth, One Future’.

How have you helped to shape the programme around this theme?

Laura: We have mainly been involved in three sessions: an interdisciplinary session between all Una Europa Self-Steering Committees; the plenary session on One Health literacy; and the Una Europa Talk, which will explore building resilience through One Health.

The plenary session will focus on the topic of One Health literacy, highlighted by a project from one of the One Health Self-Steering Committee members from University College Dublin as well as international guests who will share their global perspective. Another highlight will be the Una Europa Talk on building resilience through One Health. We will have highly renowned international guests and speakers from the One Health Self-Steering Committee, exchanging in a panel discussion on what we need from academia, politics, and the healthcare sector to build up resilience to be able to fare well in One Health issues and challenges that await us in the future.

For the first time, members from all the Una Europa Self-Steering Committees [Cultural Heritage, Data Science and AI, Europe and the World, Future Materials, One Health, and Sustainability] will come together for an interdisciplinary exchange. We hope to exchange on how we can work together on interdisciplinary topics, such as One Health, across the alliance. We have been very active in shaping this interactive session and we have representatives from every Self-Steering Committee signed up to the session, which shows that people want to be involved and talk about this topic, even though their connection to One Health may not be obvious. For me personally, this is probably going to be a highlight.

Adrian: I think the interdisciplinary exchange is a great opportunity to expand the One Health topic more towards planetary health, which to me is extremely interesting. It’s also good to gain some insight into what other Self-Steering Committees are doing because we don’t know what they are working on. It’s going to be very exciting.

What does ‘One Health’ mean in the context of Una Europa?

Adrian: To me, One Health acts as an instrument for cultural development in academia, something that is urgently needed and long overdue. One Health aims to overcome this siloed thinking and separation of disciplines we often see in academia – this is something that can hold us back, but working in a One Health context will bring people together who are open to the idea of breaking down silos and really sharing and talking to each other.

One Health can be a powerful instrument to foster this type of interdisciplinary culture, to show people that it really pays off to be open, both for furthering your career and to broaden your perspective. To me, that’s the most exciting aspect and I’m very curious to see whether we can gain traction with these ideas and ‘infect’ other people.

Laura: I totally agree. One Health is really about bringing this interdisciplinary view on specific problems as well, to help us as a society to move from being specialists to being more generalist. We cannot deal with the problems of the world if this is only looked at from one specific point of view, and One Health is a very good concept to teach that to people.

What are you most looking forward to from the Zürich General Assembly?

Laura: I would really like to get a feeling for how the Una Europa community is with each other. I’ve only been able to join previous General Assemblies online, so I’m really looking forward to meeting people in person and see how discussions evolve in an on-site event.

Adrian: For me, the evolutionary aspect of Una Europa is quite interesting. The alliance is like an organism – it has a certain basic structure, a simple framework from which anything can evolve. I am very curious to see in what direction we will go. Where will we coalesce, and in which direction will we evolve? Where will our ideas and interests come together and generate momentum in a specific direction? We don’t know where we will go, and that’s a very interesting process.

Image credits:

  • Adrian Hehl: Frank Brüderli
  • Laura Tüshaus-Rudin: Vetsuisse Faculty, UZH/ Michelle Aimée Oesch