At the end of May 2017, Sweden, through its development agency Sida, decided to sponsor a secondment of a senior Swedish animal health and AMR (residues and pathogens) specialist to support FAO work. She has now been appointed – below you will find a short presentation of Dr. Eklund.
Dr Gunilla Eklund is a veterinarian with a Ph.D. in food hygiene. Her thesis discussed children’s exposure to heavy metals in children’s food and the concomitant risks. Dr. Eklund’s veterinary inclination became apparent early in her development; as a little girl she cared for earthworms run over by cars in an animal hospital built out of a shoebox. At that point, she aimed at becoming a veterinarian for small animals. Starting her tertiary education at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, dr. Eklund was taught by dr. Greko, eminent bacteriologist, which was a turnaround moment in dr. Eklund’s career. She has spent her professional life dealing with veterinary public health issues, i.e. risks for people from animals or food. Dr. Eklund has been working for the Swedish Government Offices for a decade with these questions.
What made you apply for this secondment?
It was high time for me to venture outside my comfort zone! The Swedish government has consistently, over time, prioritised antibiotic issues and my background matched the qualifications demanded by FAO. I saw the possibility and decided to take the chance of applying. One factor I particularly appreciated was the fact that the post focusses on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the links to the environment. I have previously worked with issues around harmful substances in the environment as a risk assessor at the Swedish Chemicals Agency.
In what way will you contribute to FAO’s work with AMR?
With my specialized knowledge, extensive network and a deep commitment to veterinary public health issues, where AMR is firmly to be found. My entire professional life has been dedicated to risk assessments or risk management of infections and harmful substances in the environment for animals, people and food. One day you found me in wellingtons in a manure gutter, the next you could find me in an EU council working group discussing rules for flame retardants.
What do you hope to gain from your three years at FAO?
One of the purposes of secondments is to strengthen the multilateral competence at the Government’s Offices and I very much look forward to getting to know FAO and the United Nations from the inside. Furthermore, I hope to improve my ability to sort the chaff from the husks as well as growing my network to be global, which will assist me in the future at the Government’s Offices.
Tell us about your expectation of working in a multilateral environment and living in Rome!
I expect to work hard as usual – the rest will sort itself out with the help of my family. During my time with the Swedish Chemicals Agency, we had meetings in Italy, so I have some experience, but as I share the Italians’ interest in family, football and good food, I look forward to truly live in Rome.