Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Microbial, Food Safety Expert Joins School of Veterinary Medicine

George Watson

May 28, 2020

svm main entrance

Colombia native Alexandra Calle brings nearly a quarter-century of experience to the position of assistant professor of microbiology.

Alexandra Calle had forged a very prosperous and rewarding career in her native Colombia, spending more than 13 years in microbiology and food safety.

But as rewarding as her career was, she felt the need to take it a step further, and that meant furthering her education past the bachelor's degree she had earned. Luckily, her involvement in various projects and the networking contacts she made allowed her to pursue that education in the U.S.

Calle took advantage of that opportunity, as well as the others that have come her way, to cultivate a second career in academia. Her applied microbiology and food-safety expertise, with an emphasis in food-producing animals, are a perfect fit for a founding faculty member of the first veterinary school in Texas in a century.

Calle, a faculty member of the Texas Tech University  College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources for the past three years, joined the new Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo as an assistant professor of microbiology, beginning her duties earlier this month.

Alexandra Calle

"Being part of the School of Veterinary Medicine faculty will bring me a great opportunity to develop research and instructional programs to teach students that food safety, public health and animal health are closely related based on the premise that animal health is important to human health," Calle said, "I am excited to work with a team of veterinarians and join efforts to promote animal and public health."

Calle earned her bachelor's degree in biology from the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, and came to the U.S. to continue her education. She earned her master's degree in food science from the University of Nebraska and her doctorate in animal science from Texas Tech.

Upon earning her doctorate, she took a position as a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences before being promoted to assistant professor, a position she has held since 2018.

An expert in microbiology and food safety, Calle's research focuses on improving and promoting public health by investigating mechanisms to control microbial pathogens in food of animal origin. A significant portion of her research has been conducted in Latin America and the Caribbean on projects sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Because animal production has become more globalized through the trade of animal feeds and animal-derived food, the spread and control of illnesses that affect animals and people have become more challenging. Her research to date has identified the differences in pathogen prevalence among countries and helped design country-specific approaches to prevent and control pathogens.

"I am fortunate to have known and worked with Alex for many years," said Guy Loneragan, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. "Watching her grow from an inquisitive student into a wonderful faculty member has been very special. She will add so much to our veterinary program. Veterinary microbiology is so important for public health, and Alex understands microbiology and its connection to our health. She joins a really great team of microbiologists who will collectively help control human and animal diseases caused by viruses, parasites and bacteria."

After earning her bachelor's degree, Calle served as a food safety consultant and senior consultant for more than 13 years with the United States Agency for International Development in Colombia. Earlier in her career, she worked as a director of food safety and quality assurance with Productos Yupi SA in Colombia and as a quality assurance supervisor with Rica Rondo SA in Colombia.

Recently, she was named a Fellow for the Texas Tech Teaching, Learning and Professional Development Center. She also is a member of the American Society for Microbiology-Texas, the International Association for Food Protection and the American Meat Science Institute.

Dr. Calle is joining a great group of microbiologists at the School of Veterinary Medicine," said John Dascanio, senior associate dean for academic and student affairs. "Her area of research in food safety ties nicely with the school's focus on rural and regional communities and service to Texas agriculture. Alex brings numerous ready-made connections from her current work at Texas Tech, which will prove highly valuable as we develop our program. I am excited to welcome her to our team."

Calle joins Loneragan, Dascanio, associate dean for clinical programs Britt Conklin, professor of surgery David Dutton, assistant professor of general veterinary practice Bethany Schilling, professor of medicine László Hunyadi, professor of surgery Nancy Zimmerman, visiting professor Jerry Black, associate professor of Library and Information Sciences Howard Rodriguez-Mori, assistant professor of curriculum and assessment Marcelo Schmidt and associate professor of microbiology Jason Fritzler on the faculty for the School of Veterinary Medicine. Additional faculty members will be added over the summer and fall.

About the School of Veterinary Medicine

Thanks to the generosity of Amarillo and communities across Texas, and the commitment of legislators from around the state, the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, established in 2018, is working to enroll its first class in the fall of 2021, pending approval by the AVMA Council on Education.

The School of Veterinary Medicine will recruit and select students with a passion to practice and succeed in rural and regional communities. Its curriculum is focused on the competencies and skills necessary for success in practices that support these communities. Texas Tech's innovative and cost-efficient model partners with the wider community of veterinary practices across the state to provide clinical, real-world experiential learning.

In June 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law the biennial state budget, which appropriated $17.35 million for the School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo that will go toward operational needs in order to get the school up and running. The appropriation included language directing Texas Tech to move forward in establishing the school.