A Direct Impact

COVID-19 changed everyone’s lives.

Not only did it change Dr. Molly Lee’s life but it also thrust her into a new, public role.

As one of five voting members of the Story County Board of Health, all of a sudden, Lee was making decisions that directly impacted Story County including the City of Ames and Iowa State University.

“When I was appointed to the Board in 2019, I didn’t expect to have such heavy decisions resting on my shoulders so soon,” said Lee (DVM ’14), the 2021 College of Veterinary Medicine’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient. “It’s been a little intimidating, sometimes stressful, and certainly busy.”

Lee is no stranger to advocating for public health. As an associate director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine, she is part of a small, but dedicated, group of public health professionals working on tough topics at the intersection of human and animal health.

It’s an arena she has wanted to be a part of for years, despite starting out in a mixed animal medicine practice in Kansas after graduating.

“I’ve always gravitated towards the food security aspect of veterinary medicine,” Lee said, “and how our animal husbandry practices and the way we practice veterinary medicine ultimately impacts the food that winds up on our plates.”

At the Center for Food Security and Public Health, Lee leads the Center’s $1.5 million international collaborative project to develop a “Day 1 Platform for Veterinary Education.” Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lee leads a team that is developing an online platform to house educational resources and teaching tools for use by veterinary faculty around the world.

Working with veterinarians and educators from around the world, Lee is taking this vision and distilling it down to specific resources and actionable steps. The platform includes PowerPoint lectures, case-based learning tools and resources to improve teaching and learning. The educational resources align with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) competencies.

“We believe improving veterinary education in these areas will be transformative in ensuring quality veterinary services, thus promoting food security, public health, economic stability, and even gender equity,” Lee said.

Those responsibilities alone would be enough for most people. But Molly Lee isn’t most people.

“All of the personality tests I’ve taken over the years put me somewhere firmly at the intersection of a helper and a perfectionist,” she said. “The helper part of me is enthusiastic about figuring out what’s needed to make life better for me and others and advocate for those changes.

“The perfectionist part of me has difficulty delegating, which means this often looks like me seeing what things from my own skillset might be useful in bringing about change.”

All of which means she was the perfect fit for the Story County Board of Health at a critical juncture in history.

“Despite the pressures, and knowing we are never going to please everyone, all of us tried to do our very best to navigate our way through the pandemic,” she said. “Being a veterinarian trained in population medicine and infectious diseases (she also holds a Masters of Public Health degree from the University of Iowa and is boarded in veterinary preventive medicine) came in very handy, as did my capabilities in public health communications.”

October 2021