Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Campus: Hawkshead

Research Groups: Ecosystems Health, Safe and Sustainable Food

Research Centres: Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health

Katharina is Professor of Veterinary Public Health Policy

Katharina was born in Frauenfeld, Switzerland and graduated from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Zürich in 1988. Her Doctoral thesis on the Risk factors for Enzootic Pneumonia Re-infection in SPF Pig Breeding Herds undertaken between 1989 and 1991 was honoured with the Karl-Pfizer-Award in 1992.

Between 1995 and 1998 Katharina undertook a PhD programme at Massey University in New Zealand in information systems for the prevention and control of infectious diseases in pigs. Following this Katharina then worked for 2 years in Denmark as a research officer for the Danish Bacon and Meat Council. She then took a post as a Head of Section of Monitoring, at the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office which she held for 7 years. Parallel to this Katharina worked as part-time lecturer in Epidemiology and Veterinary Public Health at the University of Bern in 2000. From 2002-2006 Katharina was also a Member of the Executive Board at the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office, Bern, with responsibility for 30 staff.

In 2005, Katharina spent 4 months as a Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Agricultural Life Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Tokyo, Japan. She joined the Royal Veterinary College in January 2007. Katharina had an international role as President of the European College for Veterinary Public Health (ECVPH Website) until 2009. In 2012, Katharina spent time in Hong Kong, teaching at the Hong Kong Polytech.

Since 2010, Katharina is Director with Safoso, Bern, Switzerland. SAFOSO AG is an internationally-active consultancy in the fields of food safety and public health.

The continuing theme of Katharina Stärk’s research is the focus on the design of monitoring and surveillance programmes as part of national disease control efforts. While she was initially conducting projects in the context of respiratory diseases in pigs, the scope was later broadened to infectious diseases in general, including zoonoses and foodborne infections.

A highlight of her early research work was the contribution to the epidemiological understanding of infectious respiratory diseases in pigs and the risk of airborne transmission. This led to the design, pilot testing and eventually implementation of the area-wide eradication of these diseases in the whole of Switzerland. As one of the first countries world-wide, Switzerland achieved this goal and continues to maintain an exceptionally high health status in pigs (Stärk et al., 2007).

Katharina Stärk was later pioneering the use of risk assessment in the context of animal health through applied examples as well as international capacity building. She integrated methods of risk assessment in the design of surveillance programmes providing a methodological basis for risk-based priority setting and resource allocation (Stärk et al., 2006). This method is currently being applied by the Swiss Veterinary Service in a number of programmes, including avian influenza and bluetongue surveillance. There is considerable international interest in courses on this topic.

In her current position, Katharina Stärk is continuing to work on the optimisation of surveillance and disease control methods. She has a strong interest in understanding factors preventing or promoting the change of practice in health systems, specifically in the context of antimicrobial usage. She aims to develop a portfolio of multidisciplinary research focusing on the interface of human and animal populations and its relation to public health. She coordinated the project PILGRIM, which focused on an emerging strain of MRSA in pigs. More recently, Katharina became increasingly involved in evaluation, particularly veterinary public health policy evaluation. Currently, she is involved in several EU projects annd evaluation projects.

An updated publication list is available at ResearchGate

Katharina coordinated a major revision of all Veterinary Public Health teaching at the college until 2010. She has since reduced her teaching activities and focuses on post-graduate and specialist veterinary public health training as well as veterinary public health capacity building. She is particularly involved in the MSc One Health.

Katherina has been interviewed on AcademiaNet, a website which promotes the work of female research scientists. See what she said about Curbing the Spread of Disease.

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