Melissa Hefferin Berquist, PhD
Melissa Hefferin Berquist, Ph.D., has served as the Institute’s director since March 2017. As director, she oversees the executive operations of the center – providing scientific leadership, ensuring overall strategic continuity, facilitating communication with stakeholders, and synchronizing and coordinating the Institute’s efforts related to strategic management, budget, regulatory compliance, and efficiency.
Berquist previously served as IIAD’s associate director for six years and joined IIAD following almost three years at BAI, Inc. – a professional services company in Alexandria, Va., first as a senior biosurety analyst and then as a senior analyst and program coordinator. While at BAI, she worked with biodefense research sponsored by the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where she served in a contract support role for the DHS Office of University Programs, specifically managing IIAD and related DHS Science and Technology Centers of Excellence.
A graduate of Northwestern University with a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering, Berquist earned her doctorate in molecular medicine/molecular and cellular biology from the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine.
Heather Simmons, DVM, MSVPH
Heather Simmons, DVM, MSVPH, serves as IIAD’s associate director and as Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s associate department head and extension program leader for Veterinary Medical Extension.
As associate director, Simmons assists the Director in the executive operation of the Institute. She provides scientific leadership for all day-to-day project management oversight, works in close concert with the project directors/management and provides direct supervision to employees. Simmons also oversees ad-hoc project teams, coordinates development and submission of associated proposals and budgets, works closely with the Director to ensure overall strategic continuity and, along with the Director, is responsible for facilitating ongoing communication with stakeholders in partner universities, agencies and private industry.
In her previous role at IIAD, Simmons served as Education and Outreach Theme Leader, overseeing a multi-million dollar education and extension portfolio, and building a program portfolio which continues to span K-12, graduate and professional training globally. Simmons has co-developed and implemented six research and extension programs. Internationally, she has provided training to veterinarians worldwide in over 20 countries. She has also authored two textbooks, 15 online courses and 36 Extension training manuals.
Simmons is a member of the United States Animal Health Association and the Texas Veterinary Medical Association. She serves on the OIE ad hoc Working Group for Veterinary Para-professionals.
Jessica Cargill, MPH
Jessica Cargill, MPH, serves as assistant director for Evaluation and Portfolio Management. Cargill works across the Institute to develop and implement evaluation strategies, implement research to improve unit-wide performance, and direct evaluation activities operating across multiple thrust areas. Her program evaluation duties include developing evaluation plans, designing data collection instruments, and collecting and analyzing data. In addition, she works with staff to link project-, portfolio-, and unit-level activities to the Institute’s strategic plan and develop methods for tracking and monitoring strategic objectives. Cargill holds a Masters of Public Health from the Texas A&M Health Science Center, School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Texas A&M University.
Rachel Whisenant serves as chief of staff for the Institute, where she works closely with the Director in managing day-to-day office activities, including oversight of administrative staff and directing logistical activities to promote program success and the Director’s strategic vision. She also oversees the coordination, logistical planning and implementation of IIAD events and manages special projects.
Whisenant holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and has served at IIAD since 2009. She brings extensive experience and training in project and organizational management, executive level support and financial management.
As chief of staff at IIAD, Whisenant also:
- Facilitates external communication with project partners, including international, federal, state, and industry officials.
- Assists in monitoring agency compliance with rules and procedures.
- Recommends and assists in implementing changes to enhance and strengthen existing programs.
- Coordinates strategic and responsive requests for programmatic information.
- Maintains and oversees filing systems and protocols for project management task lists and databases.
Justin Buenger, MIA
Justin Buenger, MIA, has joined the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD) as a program coordinator effective September 12, 2018. Buenger will be working with the Institute’s Frontline In Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Program (ISAVET) team to support projects in Africa.
As program coordinator, Buenger will work closely with the ISAVET Program Technical Lead, Dr. David Castellan, DVM, MPVM, ACPVM, in developing and implementing the ISAVET program in East, Central, and West Africa. He will coordinate training activities, facilitate communications with the ISAVET team and international stakeholders, monitor budgets, prepare program reports and presentations, maintain
databases, and assist in logistical implementation.
Previously, Buenger has worked on projects in Ghana, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo supporting public health and entrepreneurship. Buenger holds a Bachelor of Science in University Studies with a focus on biomedical sciences from Texas A&M University and a Master of International Affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
Sarah Caffey, MPH
Sarah Caffey, MPH, serves as a program manager for the Institute, providing daily management oversight of research and training programs, specifically those focused at the nexus of animal health and information technology.
Caffey assesses the needs of and facilitates communication with principal investigators, customers, stakeholders, and sponsors. She also assists in developing and tracking program objectives, milestones, deliverables, timelines, and budgets; ensures timely completion of milestones and oversees individual program reporting; and drives program to achieve stakeholder goals and vision. In addition, Caffey manages training material development and delivery across assigned programs, performs data analysis in support of program activities and provides appropriate communication of such in reports and presentations to external stakeholders and sponsors.
A graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in biomedical science, Caffey also earned a Master of Public Health from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health. She also has experience as an intern working with the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in infectious disease prevention.
David Castellan, DVM, MPVM, ACPVM, ACPV
David Castellan, DVM, MPVM, ACPVM, is a veterinarian at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, serving as an international animal health subject matter resource expert and epidemiologist for the Veterinary Field Epidemiology Training Program with international stakeholders.
From 2008 to 2015 he was the Senior Veterinary Epidemiologist, FAO ECTAD, Region of Asia and Pacific where he was engaged in supporting the development of regional epidemiology capacity, including the Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians (FETPV) training centers in Thailand, China and Indonesia as well as delivering FETPV training programs in Southeast and South Asia countries.
He holds the degrees: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Guelph; Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine and Poultry Medicine Residency, University of California, Davis; and is board certified with the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and the American College of Poultry Veterinarians.
Additional professional contributions in Canada, USA, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, include the development and delivery of: 1) country contingency plans for avian influenza; 2) an avian influenza vaccination planning tool; 3) an epidemiology mapping tool; 4) the Tripartite Joint Risk Assessment Methodology; and 5) outbreak investigations, surveillance and field research studies in developed and developing countries.
His work supports evidence-based decision-making using epidemiology and poultry medicine to promote human health, animal health and food security using a One Health approach.
Matt Cochran, DVM, MIA
Matt Cochran, DVM, MIA serves as a Program Director at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases and is responsible for managing IIAD’s federal engagements and portfolio. Dr. Cochran applies diverse work experience, training, and skills to build multidisciplinary partnerships that provide strategic advancement at the nexus of technology, agriculture, veterinary medicine, and One Health. His work history and training include: veterinary medicine, international policy and economics, infectious disease, diagnostic laboratory operations, emergency management, animal agriculture policy and regulation, statistical analysis and informatics, and technology systems integration. Dr. Cochran previously served in executive management of the Texas Animal Health Commission and of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. Dr. Cochran completed his veterinary medical training at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, and he subsequently completed additional quantitative and policy education at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, with a master’s in international affairs and economics.
Susan Culp, DVM
Susan Culp, DVM, is a veterinarian for the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD). Culp provides veterinary technical expertise to IIAD animal health-related projects and programs and serves as a subject matter expert related to companion animal veterinary medicine, livestock and poultry regulatory issues, and animal disaster response and planning issues. In addition, Culp will be assisting the other IIAD veterinarians with the roll-out of the AgView program and providing end-user support for AgView users.
Culp previously served as a Staff Veterinarian for the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) in Austin, TX where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and management of the TAHC Authorized Personnel Program for veterinarians and non-veterinarians. Prior to working for TAHC, she practiced in small animal medicine and surgery in Austin, TX. Culp has been actively engaged in disaster preparedness and response for animals at a local, regional and state level since she graduated from Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2001. She currently serves as a member of the Texas Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps.
Culp holds a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science, and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M University. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology from Texas State University.
Culp is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, the Capital Area Veterinary Medical Association, and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians.
Dee Ellis, DVM, MPA
Dee Ellis, DVM, MPA, is a veterinarian at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), serving as a livestock and animal health subject matter resource for the Institute and Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Ellis’ expertise is specifically sought after for issues related to zoonotic diseases such as bovine tuberculosis, and bovine and swine brucellosis, avian influenza, cattle fever ticks, transboundary diseases, feral swine issues, and animals in disaster response and planning issues.
As an IIAD/AgriLife veterinarian, Ellis delivers presentations, lectures and demonstrations on the Texas A&M AgriLife portfolio and serves on project teams as appropriate. Ellis assists both entities in writing research proposals, grant applications and other funding requests in addition to the development of long-term programs and strategic initiatives. Ellis is also directly involved in field activities related to cattle fever tick research and national livestock industry business continuity planning in the event of a catastrophic disease outbreak. Ellis also works closely with state and federal animal health officials nationwide on a variety of initiatives.
In December 2015, Ellis retired after more than 30 years of service to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency, where he had served as the state veterinarian and executive director since 2010. In June 2016, Ellis joined the IIAD team.
After graduating with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M University in 1984, Ellis began his veterinary career as a mixed animal practitioner at the Gonzales Animal Clinic in Gonzales, Texas. In the Fall of 1985, Ellis began his career at TAHC as a field veterinarian in Wharton, Texas focusing on the Texas effort to eradicate bovine brucellosis. Ellis then went on to serve TAHC as a region director for central Texas, staff veterinarian and assistant state veterinarian in Austin, before being appointed as the state veterinarian and executive director. Ellis served on many state and national level industry working groups for disease response and business continuity related to both endemic regulatory diseases and transboundary diseases such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease.
Ellis holds a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science, and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M University. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and a Master of Public Administration from Texas State University.
Kerry Garner serves as an Administrative Coordinator for both the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases and Cross Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense. She provides administrative support to IIAD and CBTS leadership in the areas of travel arrangements and itineraries, calendar management, and maintenance of files and records. Garner reviews administrative documents for Unit leadership, attends meetings or committees, and documents meeting minutes and action items. She formulates, interprets, and implements management policies and operating procedures. Garner prepares promotion and tenure packets and award nominations for Unit personnel. She supports coordination of meetings, seminars, and other special events. Garner holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Texas A&M University. She brings ten years of administrative experience to the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases.
Miguel Gonzalez, MIA
Miguel Gonzalez. MIA, serves as program manager at IIAD, managing and overseeing the planning, development and implementation or projects and programs within the Institutes international portfolio. He prepares and monitors budgets, implements timelines, develops portfolio objectives.
Gonzalez came to IIAD in July 2016 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, where he served as an international agricultural programs specialist. There, he managed food safety technical assistance and trade facilitation programs in Bangladesh, Colombia, North Africa, South America, the Caribbean and Central America.
Gonzalez holds a Bachelor of Science in public administration with a minor in Spanish from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and a Masters of International Affairs from the Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service. He is also a certified Project Management Professional®.
Garrett Hancock, MA
Garrett T. Hancock serves as a program coordinator at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD). His role allows him to serve as a member of the AgView team through the development and implementation of the program. He assists in the creation, supplementation, and design of instructional and informational materials and provides end-user support to AgView customers.
Hancock previously held positions within the educational field as an agricultural science instructor. He taught at Knippa ISD, where he was the head advisor for the FFA chapter. Hancock took students across the state to numerous competitions and conventions with a strong emphasis in agriculture. He also started the National Archery in the Schools Program where, in their inaugural year, Knippa advanced to the state competition. Most recently, Hancock taught within Round Rock ISD at McNeil High School. He primarily taught agricultural mechanics with supplemental classes in animal sciences. His lead in the swine barn kept him close to animal sciences and provided opportunities for organizational growth and conflict management within the program.
Hancock earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences (Teaching Option) through Texas A&M University. He currently holds his Agricultural Food and Natural Resources grades 6-12 and Theatre Arts grades EC-12 teaching certificates in the state of Texas. After his time at A&M, Hancock pursued his Master of Arts in Rural Sustainability at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). His graduate work in Ireland also merited him a certificate in Train the Trainer through NUIG.
Carrie Hunt, PhD
Carrie serves as a Program Manager at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, managing projects within the federal portfolio related to the optimization of organizational workflow for high-containment laboratories. She also assists with managing projects within the Cattle Fever Tick portfolio. Carrie brings extensive laboratory experience to the Institute with expertise in immunology and vaccine development, having previously held numerous research positions and managed federally-funded grants. Carrie holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from Texas A&M Health Science Center, as well as degrees in Animal Science from Texas A&M University (M.S.) and the University of Wisconsin- River Falls (B.S.). She is also a certified Project Management Professional.
Manning serves as a program specialist at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD) assisting with collecting, analyzing, and evaluating data from the institute’s projects and activities. Manning conducts and compiles statistical analysis sharing detailed feedback to staff for the enhancement and development of programs. Manning holds a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science (with a concentration in Animal Industries and a minor in business) from Tarleton State University.
Efrain Cancel Medina, MS
Efrain Medina serves as a laboratory technician at IIAD. Previously, he worked at the University of Puerto Rico in the division of the Agricultural Experimental Station as a Research Associate. Among his duties were the data collection, planning, and coordination of field research. He was also the administrator of the dairy farm in the Agricultural Experimental Station in Lajas, Puerto Rico from 2003 to 2010. From 2011 To 2017 Efrain worked in the Isabela Experimental Station in Investigations of bananas, roots and cover crops. He also worked with the commercial project of citrus and avocado trees. He has a master’s degree in animal science, and a minor in dairy cattle nutrition from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus.
Maryn Ptaschinski, DVM
Maryn Ptaschinski, DVM, is a veterinarian for the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), as program manager. Ptaschinski provides veterinary technical expertise to IIAD animal health-related projects and programs and serves as a subject matter expert related to livestock for IIAD commodity-related projects. In addition, Ptaschinski provides technical expertise for projects focused at the nexus of animal health and information technology, international capacity building and industry extension.
Ptaschinski previously served as a senior staff veterinarian at Cargill Pork/JBS Live Pork in Cantril, Iowa where she was responsible for herd health primarily in swine grow finish operations. Since 2013, she has served as a field veterinary service officer in the U.S. Army Reserve Veterinary Corps – a position she continues to serve in – where she is a veterinary team officer in charge, physical security officer and supply officer.
Ptaschinski received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor of Science in agricultural education from Iowa State University and a Executive Veterinary Program certificate in swine health management from the University of Illinois.
Carlos Aguilar Rodriguez
Carlos Aguilar serves as Animal Caretaker at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), assisting with the Cattle Fever Tick portfolio research. A graduate of National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Aguilar served for three years as Livestock Inspector with the Texas Animal Health Commission’s emergency response crew for the Cattle Fever Tick outbreak at Cameron and Willacy counties. Aguilar’s
duties include observing animals to report needs for special attention, feeds and waters animals, supports scientists and laboratory technicians with treatments, samples collection, inspections, and activities related with current IIAD Cattle Fever Tick investigation projects.
Charluz Rosario, MS
Charluz Arocho, serves as a research specialist at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, assisting with field research for arthropod-borne diseases, specifically those focused on the Cattle Fever Tick portfolio in the Institute.
Arocho assists in the design, planning, implementation and coordination of experiments in support of various research projects in the IIAD industry portfolio related to Cattle Fever Ticks for antiparasitic treatments and vaccine development, or analysis. She also aids in the development of new proposal concepts related to arthropod-borne disease research. Her responsibilities include evaluation, selection, and application of standard techniques for routine research, as well as recording and analyzing detailed data. In addition, she trains and supervises undergraduate and graduate students, as well as other laboratories, technical staff, or field staff involved in research.
Arocho holds a Bachelor of Animal Science with an associate degree in Pre-Veterinary Medicine from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. She is currently pursuing a Master in Veterinary Entomology from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.
Siems serves as Administrative Coordinator for the Institute, where she coordinates the administrative support functions maintains the ongoing and daily operations of the office. Her everyday duties include: answering phones, receiving and routing mail, maintaining office equipment and conference rooms, and keeping up with office supplies. She also serves as liaison for departmental service contracts and with service providers for IT, phone/fax and facilities services.
Siems acts as HR Liaison to provide support to employees and prospective employees in the areas of human resources and procedures. This includes serving as the unit liaison with AgriLife Human Resources, coordinating the maintenance of personnel and confidential files, preparing correspondence on a wide variety of human resources, and creating forms or HR process as needed.In addition to her office duties, Siems coordinates extensive and complex domestic and international travel for IIAD staff and visitors, ensuring all travel policies and procedures are followed. She also anticipates travel needs to assist with productivity and safety for all travelers, while working with the travelers and system agencies on back-up documentation, voucher compliance, submission and tracker.
Prior to joining the Institute, Siems worked as the Graduate Admissions Coordinator (Lead Office Assistant) for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Siems holds an associate degree in Applied Science in Medical Office Management from Blinn College and she is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Western Governor’s University.
In addition to her office duties, Siems coordinates extensive and complex domestic and international travel for IIAD staff and visitors, ensuring all travel policies and procedures are followed. She also anticipates travel needs to assist with productivity and safety for all travelers, while working with the travelers and system agencies on back-up documentation, voucher compliance, submission and tracker.
Prior to joining the Institute, Siems worked as the Graduate Admissions Coordinator (Lead Office Assistant) for the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Siems holds an associate degree in Applied Science in Medical Office Management from Blinn College. She is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Western Governor’s University, and is expecting to graduate in January 2018.
Christine Stetter has 35 years of experience in curriculum development, illustration, and book design. She serves as graphic designer and editorial assistant for print and web-based publications at IIAD and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Before joining the Institute for Infectious Animals Diseases (IIAD), Stetter served as Extension Associate for the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, where she assisted in development of curriculum materials for publication. From 1993-2010, she was the art department supervisor at Instructional Materials Service, Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Prior to joining Texas A&M, Stetter served as a graphic designer for the Desert Research Institute, University of Nevada, Reno, and as technical illustrator for Kaiser Aerospace and Electronics in the Silicon Valley.
Stetter has worked as a freelance illustrator and designer for books published by the University of Nevada, Texas A&M University, Southern Illinois University, and Iowa State University.
Stetter received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the California College of the Arts.
Mandy Tabrizi, MAg
Mandy L. Tabrizi serves as a program coordinator at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases. She works closely with the members of the AgView team on the development, enhancement, and implementation of AgView. She assists in providing end-user support, designing educational materials and informational documents, and recognizing evaluation opportunities.
Tabrizi previously served as an Extension Assistant and TX First Detector Coordinator for the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (TPDDL/TX Plant Clinic) in College Station, TX. At the TX Plant Clinic, she managed the business functions, maintained the website, provided service knowledge and friendly customer service to clients, organized trainings and developed materials for the TX First Detector program, designed promotional materials and marketed the clinic at tradeshows, coordinated with extension specialists and governmental employees on the implementation of plant health trainings, and developed educational videos under their social media strategic design.
Tabrizi holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Science and Horticulture Science from Texas A&M University, where she specialized in agriculture education and nursery/greenhouse production and management. She currently holds her Agriculture Science teaching certification for grades 6-12. She then obtained a Master of Agriculture in Agricultural Development where she received a certification in International Agriculture & Resource Management as part of her graduate work.
Jimmy Tickel, DVM
Jimmy Tickel, DVM is a veterinarian at the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), serving as a livestock emergency management subject matter resource for the Institute. Tickels’ expertise is specifically sought after for issues related to emergency management on a national and international level.
As an IIAD veterinarian, Tickel overseas and is involved with three projects focused on emergency preparedness. He serves as a technical expert on the FAO Good Emergency Management Practices (GEMP) Technical Working Group. GEMP TWG members serve as international subject matter experts to assist countries in planning and preparation for animal health emergencies. Tickel is also working on a gaming simulation funded by the Department of Homeland Security for critical infrastructure emergency preparedness.
In September 2018, Tickel retired and ended his 28 years of service to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, where he had served as the NE Regional Veterinarian for Emergency Programs Division since. Tickel is also CEO of JLT Consulting LLC. Over the years, he has had the pleasure of training/presenting on Transboundary Animal Disease and Disaster Response/Preparedness in 42 states. Tickel holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (summa cum laude) from North Carolina State University.
Tyler Vogel, MS
Tyler Vogel joined the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, effective June 1, 2018. Vogel is housed in the Institute, serving the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Veterinary Science Certificate Program (VSCP) in Amarillo. Vogel will help with the implementation of the VSCP that has students in 47 states. He will represent the Amarillo, Lubbock and Fort Stockton districts in the 4-H program and the Amarillo, Lubbock, West Texas and East Texas areas in FFA as well as home school students in the Panhandle. He will also assist with national programming when needed.
Vogel earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science from Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He previously worked at the Hearne and New Baden veterinary clinics owned by Drs. Trey and Jennifer Skiles in Hearne.