One Health Fellowships Awarded to CVM Doctoral Students

April 14, 2023

Recently, the University of Arizona’s One Health Research Initiative awarded graduate research assistantships to two doctoral students conducting research at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Maggie O'Haire and Sarah Leighton pose together in front of a sign that reads, "College of Veterinary Medicine Human-Animal Interaction House." The house, a research building, stands in the background.

Dr. Maggie O'Haire and Sarah Leighton

The University of Arizona’s One Health Research Initiative awarded its inaugural graduate research assistantships to two doctoral students conducting Human-Animal-Interaction research at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Sarah Leighton (Advisor: Maggie O’Haire, PhD) and Stephanie Hargrave (Advisor: Evan MacLean, PhD) were selected based on their achievements, the fit of their respective projects with the One Health mission, and the potential they display for future success. Funding was available to five master's students and ten doctoral students with positions beginning in Fall 2023. The two fellowships cover up to $200,000 in funding for two years.

Advisers Maggie O’Haire and Evan MacLean expressed their joy and gratitude at these outstanding students' recognition. O’Haire, Associate Dean for Research, shared,  

“The College of Veterinary Medicine is honored and delighted to have our PhD students participate in the University of Arizona’s One Health Initiative Program. Our College is committed to pursuing research that optimizes health outcomes through human-animal interaction. This program will enable our students to drive impactful research through a collaborative, transdisciplinary approach.” 

MacLean was similarly enthused and stated, 

“The work that Stephanie and Sarah are pursuing aligns perfectly with a One Health framework, recognizing the interconnectedness of the environment, humans, and nonhuman animals, and seeking advances that will promote health and welfare in both human and veterinary medicine.  CVM research brings an important perspective to UA’s One Health Initiative, and we’re delighted that our students are participating in this important program.” 

Professional headshot of Sarah Leighton, a brunette woman wearing a ponytail.

Sarah Leighton

The students’ Human-Animal Interaction research is an excellent example of our University’s One Health initiative in action, as “One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach with the goal of achieving optimal outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment,” as described by the One Health Research Initiative. Sarah Leighton’s project explores the bond between veterans with PTSD and service animals. She shared,  

“With increased attention to the importance of One Health, there is a push to recognize the link between humans, animals, and the environment, and to work together to better understand how they relate to one another. We are all connected, and so is our health and well-being. My project takes a One Health-based approach to answer questions about the bond between veterans with PTSD and their service dogs. We will use motion detection (or “actigraphy”) to understand how the service dog impacts the activity, sleep, and social environment of their veteran partner, and vice versa."

This One Health fellowship will provide Sarah with critical funding to complete a project near to her heart. Before beginning her PhD program, she spent ten years working for a nonprofit service dog provider. When asked what receiving this fellowship means to her, Leighton said,  

“My research is inspired by having met and worked directly with hundreds of individuals with disabilities whose service dogs enhance their independence every single day. My hope is that my research will put much-needed scientific evidence behind the intervention of a service dog, so that policy makers, insurance companies, and doctors can make recommendations and policies that are based on science, and so that we can increase funding and access to service dogs for those who would benefit. I am immensely grateful to the University of Arizona One Health Research Initiative for their support of my project!” 

This spirit of exploration displayed in this research is part of what makes the College of Veterinary Medicine an excellent place to study, research and uncover greater understanding of the impact human-animal interaction can have for both humans and animals. Under the guidance of experienced researchers like O’Haire and MacLean, learners can investigate the questions that captivate them and find answers that can impact community health and wellbeing.