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Meet Our First Leonardo Fellow: Chapter 2 of 3

Blessed, blessed that day I hit the “send email” button

Discovering One Health

Going back to the question: Can I help animals and make a living out of it? At the end of my Master degree, I was confused and unsure. A lot, and I emphasize a lot, of effort to finding an answer brought me into investigating the concept of One Health. This concept fascinated me; it approaches research through a multidisciplinary lens, integrating the health of humans, animals, plants, and the environment as one. During that stressful period, I accepted my dad’s invitation for a relaxing day at the lake during the holidays back at home. That is when I picked up another book, one in the pile on my bed-side table, “I virus non aspettano” (in English: “Viruses do not wait”) by Dr. Ilaria Capua. That sure was a catchy title. Since the start, I felt a direct connection with this fantastic woman. Call it whatever — admiration, inspiration, desire to conduct a career just like hers, I don’t know — but I read that book in no time and it gave me a feeling of connection and engagement that only a few authors can manage. It gave me hope, desire and passion, and even more than before.

Taking the leap

I am forever thankful for this personality trait of mine which thinks, “what do you have to lose?” This attitude always pushes me to try things without fear of failing, because if you do, whatever, life is young and filled with possibilities. You just have to be ready to catch them or, in my case, seek them. It’s probably this mindset, motivation, determination, and some drafting and re-drafting, which lead me to send an email that Dr. Capua later described as, “the best letter I have ever received.”  I still smile when I say that, even writing that down made me blush! In this email, I told her my academic story, the way I felt, and how I moved across my degrees. I expressed my passion for her work and my admiration of her persona. I asked if she had any advice for me on how to move further. And I thanked her for being such an inspiration and for having written that book. As you know, she replied. Not only did she reply, but she asked me on a Skype call. I still remember the feeling, something between panic and euphoria. I had that same, fiery feeling while talking to her and being offered to join her team for a fellowship at the One Health Center of Excellence at the University of Florida.

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