Texas Tech University

Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine Welcomes Epidemiologist to Faculty

Weston Brooks

January 13, 2022

School of Veterinary Medicine

Gizem Levent, a puzzle solver at heart, seeks to unlock new secrets of what she loves studying most -- epidemiology.

For some, a burning desire to pursue a lifelong passion takes root at an early age. This was true for Gizem Levent, who as a child visited animal shelters and observed veterinarians and their approach to helping animals. 

Realizing at an early age that animals lack the ability to express health-related issues the same way humans do, she saw veterinarians as the true heroes and puzzle solvers. At that moment, Levent felt a calling to try to solve some of the most puzzling mysteries in veterinary medicine. 

Originally from Antalya, Turkey, Levent didn't think one day she would end up in Amarillo. But, interestingly enough, the passion sparked all those years back landed her right in the Panhandle, in the heart of U.S. livestock production. For an epidemiologist, Levent struck gold.

Gizem Levent
Gizem Levent

Now, Levent has an opportunity to make a difference in animal well-being as well as human and ecosystem health. She joins the faculty of the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo (SVM) as an assistant professor of epidemiology. She began her duties on Jan. 3.

“I am very excited to start my new academic journey in such a diverse and rapidly growing community at the SVM at Texas Tech,” Levent said. “I am fully committed to contributing to the core values-based, friendly and stimulating academic environment with the faculty, staff and first-generation RaiderVets.”

For years, Levent has explored epidemiological with the mindset of One Health – the interconnection of animal, human and ecosystem health. She was intrigued to dive deeper and study the interaction between food animals and foodborne pathogens, concentrating on applied and molecular epidemiology. Her focus is now on bacterial population dynamics and antibiotic resistance. 

As she began to grow in her career, she quickly realized her passion for teaching, and through her deep knowledge of microbiology, molecular microbiology and bioinformatics she delivered information in One Health and advanced epidemiology to both graduate and veterinary students.

She brings the wealth of knowledge she's gained over the years to the SVM to continue to research and develop opportunities that focus on food animal diseases and other production-related problems affecting cattle populations. With the SVM strategically located near the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo, not to mention several cattle operations, she will be able to take her research and discovery to the next level through unique ways of collaboration that will benefit animals, humans and the ecosystem.

“I cannot wait to expand my research and teaching, which have primarily focused on the epidemiology of antibiotic resistance, farm-animal origin foodborne pathogens and food safety, with a vibrant research-, teaching- and service-oriented academic environment that complements the dynamic and robust veterinary epidemiology program at Texas Tech,” Levent said. 

Before joining Texas Tech, Levent served the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), located in College Station, Texas, in 2014 as a visiting scientist, working on alternatives to antibiotics to reduce pathogen carriage in food animals. While in this position she pursued her doctorate, then served as a postdoctoral research associate at Texas A&M University. 

Prior to that, Levent spent the majority of her time in various research laboratories. While pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine in Turkey, she found herself in Europe spending every summer as an intern developing skills in microbiology and molecular biology techniques for detecting and quantifying foodborne pathogens. In fact, she spent her entire third year at Bologna University in Italy. Several internships followed suit and not all were academic, such as her opportunity to intern at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

“Dr. Levent is such a wonderful person and scholar,” said Guy Loneragan, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine.  “She will strengthen our community, enrich our School, and she will expand the breadth of our research activities.  She is a fantastic addition to Texas Tech in general, and our School in particular.  I am looking forward to working with Dr. Levent on a number of One Health projects.”

Levent earned her veterinary medical degree in 2012 from Ankara University, Turkey, and her Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from Texas A&M in 2019 with an emphasis in epidemiology. 

She is a member of the Association for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (AVEPM) and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). 

“Dr. Levent's research interest aligns well with the overarching focus of One Health. The longitudinal studies of Salmonella from feedlots to outbreaks in humans provides a great example of how important One Health research can address the complexity of humans, animals, and environmental interaction,” said Thu ‘Annelise' Nguyen, associate dean for research and professor of toxicology.

Levent considers herself a “lifelong learner,” and as an epidemiologist, is a fan of puzzles. She is thrilled to continue her research and help mentor the next generation of veterinarians so they, too, can become true heroes and puzzle solvers.

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 was established in 2018. In March 2021, the school was granted the all-important status of Provisional Accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education (COE) and welcomed its first cohort of students in August 2021.

The School of Veterinary Medicine recruits and selects students with a passion to serve rural and regional communities. Its curriculum focuses on the competencies and skills necessary for success in practice types 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.