Two University of Guelph researchers have been recognized for their expertise by the Canadian health sciences community.
Dr. Dorothee Bienzle and Dr. Shayan Sharif, both professors in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Pathobiology, have been elected Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS).
CAHS brings together Canada’s top health and biomedical scientists and scholars to address the country’s major health issues. Fellows volunteer their time and expertise, evaluating these challenges and providing practicable, evidence-based advice to improve the health of Canadians.
“It is tremendous that Dr. Bienzle and Dr. Sharif have been recognized for their outstanding contributions with this richly-deserved honour from the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences,” said Dr. Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).
“These fellowships acknowledge the impact that their research has made to the understanding of health across species, as well as their commitment to leadership, collegial problem-solving, and attentive mentorship to students and emerging scholars.”
With advanced training in both veterinary pathology and human immunology, Dr. Dorothee Bienzle specializes in comparative health research, studying diseases common to animals and humans.
Her work with equine asthma, feline immunodeficiency virus — the feline counterpart of human immunodeficiency virus — and leukemia in cats and dogs has led to fundamental discoveries that advance both animal and human health.
A leading veterinary pathologist, Bienzle has collaborated with veterinarians and physicians worldwide to standardize how specimens for cancers in animals are obtained, tested and interpreted. With her trainees, she has translated lab research into tools clinicians can use to diagnose animal diseases.
“I appreciate becoming a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences because the organization increasingly aims to transcend species,” says Bienzle. “By nature of our profession, veterinarians are multispecies-minded, so we bring a very valuable dimension to understanding comparative aspects of medicine as well as to animal-based research.”
Bienzle brings to the CAHS her experience as president of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, where she led initiatives to update the organization’s certification process and to implement equity, diversity and inclusivity policies.
Dr. Shayan Sharif investigates how the immune system recognizes and responds to zoonotic pathogens — diseases that spread between humans and animals — as well as emerging pathogens.
Internationally recognized for his work on animal-pathogen interactions, Sharif is an expert on the avian influenza virus and studies food-borne pathogens that can be passed to humans via poultry products. He and his research team develop immunization and other methods to curb the impact and spread of these diseases.
Sharif leads the Poultry Health Research Network, a team of poultry health experts from academia, government and industry. He also co-leads a translational health initiative at U of G that brings together veterinary and human health research to usher scientific discoveries from the lab into treatment for animals and humans.
Sharif advocates a One Health approach — recognizing the interdependency of human, animal and environmental health — to address complex health issues.
“Climate change, population growth, changes in wildlife habitats, international travel — so many factors affect the emergence and spread of novel and zoonotic pathogens,” says Sharif. “To mitigate the risk of future pandemics and emerging diseases of animals, we need a One Health approach. This is what I want to promote as a Fellow, to encourage us to bring our different sets of knowledge and perspectives together and work collaboratively across disciplinary divides.”