Skip to main content

Guiding the next generation

  • Background

    Guiding the next generation

    Dr. Melinda Wilkins appointed new director of UMN Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine residency program

The Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) and the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine (VPM) at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine have appointed Dr. Melinda Wilkins as the new director of the Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine (VPHPM) residency program.

The UMN is the first of only three formal VPHPM residency programs in the U.S. certified through the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (ACVPM). The two-year VPHPM residency program at UMN uses a multidisciplinary, experiential-based approach to train residents in the ACVPM competencies of (1) infectious and parasitic diseases, (2) food protection, (3) environmental health and toxicology, (4) epidemiology and biostatistics, and (5) public health administration and education.

“The severe shortage of veterinarians working in the fields of public health poses a serious threat to both the health of the U.S. public and the U.S. food supply,” says Dr. Andres Perez, UMN professor and director of CAHFS. “The VPHPM residency program is one of the few opportunities available in the country to fill that need. We are thrilled by the opportunity to have Dr. Wilkins leading the program and, ultimately, contributing to support veterinary public health activities in Minnesota and the country.”

Wilkins is an associate professor of veterinary public health who brings 30 years of experience to the program, previously serving as an epidemiologist with state and federal agriculture and public health agencies in addition to her recent roles in veterinary preventive medicine and public health at land grant universities.

Dr. Melinda Wilkins

“I am delighted to take on this important role, guiding the next generation of exceptional VPHPM professionals,” Wilkins says. “Veterinarians are key in monitoring and managing animal health and zoonotic diseases, ensuring judicious use of antibiotics and serving as first-line surveillance and defense against foreign animal disease threats. The COVID-19 pandemic, the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak outbreak and other emergent threats, such as antimicrobial resistance, have only highlighted the need to expand and upgrade current mechanisms to train and retain more public health and food animal-oriented veterinarians.”

Since its inception in 2002, 49 residents have graduated from the program, and 33 became ACVPM-certified. Former residents have taken positions with academic institutions as professors and researchers; as assistant state veterinarians in Maine, Vermont, and Delaware; and in federal and intergovernmental agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“Dr. Wilkins’ leadership in advancing the VPHPM residency program will ensure we continue to deliver on the College of Veterinary Medicine’s mission to train and prepare veterinarians to meet the public health demands throughout the U.S. and around the world,” says Dr. Monste Torremorell, UMN professor and chair of VPM.