Frontline ISAVET: Training the First Line of Defense against Animal Diseases

Veterinary field epidemiologists are the first line of defense against animal diseases that can also affect humans. Following the well-established Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) model and the implementation of a veterinary training program (FETPV) across Asia, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in coordination and collaboration with its partners (including the United States Agency for International Development [USAID], the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, Texas A&M University, ministries of agriculture and/or livestock of target countries, and TEPHINET) is implementing the Frontline In Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) program in 14 countries in Africa.

The Frontline ISAVET program uses applied, hands-on, in-service training to build a cadre of skilled frontline veterinarians who can conduct effective surveillance and outbreak response under a One Health approach. In particular, ISAVET’s implementation intends to address emerging infectious diseases and transboundary animal diseases. Like FETP, the program includes approximately 25 percent classroom training and 75 percent field training in addition to projects conducted by trainees with close supervision and mentoring.

The initial pilot implementation period for the Frontline ISAVET program in Africa took place in 2018 in Uganda and Senegal and revealed the need for well-prepared mentors and trainers to support the program’s sustainable implementation in each country. In response to this need, FAO organized Training-of-Trainers (ToT) and Training-of-Mentors (ToM) workshops to prepare this crucial workforce to help ensure the long-term success of the Frontline ISAVET program.

Dr. Angela Hilmers, Senior Associate Director for Science at TEPHINET, participated as a facilitator in the Regional Frontline ISAVET Training of Mentors (ToM) Workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya, from November 18-22, 2019. This workshop trained 27 veterinarians, who work as local and national animal health officers, university researchers, and FAO country team members representing animal health, public health and wildlife health disciplines. Participants were from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda.

Training topics and sessions included, but were not limited, to:

  • Mentorship tools and technical competencies
  • Mentor-mentee monitoring and evaluation
  • Project management
  • Weekly surveillance reporting and report assessment
  • Data quality auditing and report assessment
  • Preparing for field work (biosafety and biosecurity entry procedures, animal handling and sample collection)
  • Collection and recording of field and laboratory data
  • Preparation and submission of laboratory samples
  • Proper exit procedures
  • Field project implementation
  • Field project proposal assessment

TEPHINET would like to acknowledge the trainers for this course:

  • Holy Akwar - FAO
  • Chrisostom Ayebazibwe – FAO
  • Jessica Cargill – Texas A&M, Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases
  • David Castellan – Texas A&M, Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases
  • Dee Ellis – Texas A&M, Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases
  • Cheikh Fall – Texas A&M, Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases
  • Angela Hilmers – TEPHINET
  • Caryl Lockhart – FAO
  • Sarah Manning – Texas A&M, Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases
  • Heather Simmons – Texas A&M, Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases


November 21, 2019, Nairobi, Kenya - Participants being trained receive instructions during the field day of Training of Mentors (TOM) at Kabete Veterinary Farm in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kiambu County, Kenya on November 21, 2019. During the workshop organized within the context of the Frontline In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) program, FAO and partners trained veterinarians on animal handling and sampling collection following biosafety and biosecurity procedures.

Photo credit: ©FAO/Luis Tato