New Faculty Focus: Erin Lashnits


Erin Lashnits


Clinical Assistant Professor, Small Animal Internal Medicine


Chappaqua, New York

Educational/professional background:

After growing up in a suburb of New York City, I was ready for a change and moved to California for my undergraduate degree (BS in Astrobiology). I stayed on to earn an MS in Biological Sciences. After my master’s I took a job in a basic science research lab studying angiogenesis and chronic inflammation using a mouse model; it was then I decided that I wanted to go into veterinary medicine. I was drawn back East, completing my DVM at Cornell University and a rotating small animal internship at a private practice in Brooklyn, New York. I then spent a few years as a general practice and emergency veterinarian in Buffalo, New York (while also teaching high school chemistry for a year), before deciding more seriously that I wanted to pursue a career in academia. I had a great mentor in internal medicine during my internship, and finally decided to focus my interest in zoonotic diseases with a clinical specialty in small animal internal medicine. I completed my residency, as well as a PhD in comparative biomedical sciences, both through the clinician investigator program at North Carolina State University, and started at UW-Madison after finishing this program!

What is your field of research, and how did you get into it?

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, growing up in the wooded hills outside New York City gave me my first taste of the many controversies surrounding the inevitable collision of native wildlife with the burgeoning human and pet populations of suburban America. These daily childhood experiences that I took for granted — whether hearing the rifle shots of hunters culling deer just out of sight of my backyard, or picking engorged ticks off my dog after every walk — instilled in me a unique perspective on animals, health and disease. This perspective lies at the root of my lifelong interest in the environment and the animals that populate it. I’m intrigued by the myriad ways that human societies can contribute to — or help prevent — the emergence of infectious disease in pets and their people, particularly those diseases originally acquired from wildlife.

Understanding where infectious agents come from and how they cause disease is critical to disease treatment and prevention. The quest for this understanding motivates my research, which currently focuses on vector-borne diseases in a One Health context.

What attracted you to UW-Madison?

UW-Madison provided a chance to work with the world-class clinicians and researchers at our internationally renowned veterinary school. I also knew the Global Health Institute and the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease would provide ideal opportunities for inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration. And, I’d always heard good things about living in Madison.

What was your first visit to campus like?


Favorite place on campus?

Picnic Point.

This is a unique point in time, as we’re returning after more than a year of pandemic. What do you most look forward to?

As a parent and caregiver of a child who is not yet old enough to be eligible for vaccination, I most look forward to the day when my daughter will be able to be vaccinated and benefit from this protection that we as adults are already afforded. Taking a wider view, I also look forward to the lessons that we as a society will continue to learn from the current pandemic, the improved understanding of pathogen spillovers that continued investigation of the origins of SARS-CoV-2 will eventually yield, and how this knowledge will shape public health practice across scales from the local to global.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.

In my opinion, one of the major implications of the Wisconsin Idea is not simply interaction with those outside the University, but in increasing access to the benefits of the education provided here at UW-Madison. As an educator in the School of Veterinary Medicine, to me this specifically means addressing the historical — and ongoing — lack of diversity, equity and inclusion among veterinary students as well as within the veterinary profession more broadly. I believe veterinary medicine must strive to expand diversity with a more inclusive approach — welcoming and embracing students from different socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, and gender groups — and create a broader pool of thought processes and worldviews to continue to push the boundaries of discovery for animal health.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties, now that we can attend them again?

Like many other parents/caregivers of children who are as yet too young to be eligible for COVID vaccination, I haven’t yet experienced this return to a sense of normalcy or parties!

Hobbies/other interests:

I love riding bikes, snowboarding and traveling, and consider myself a not-very-good Civil War buff. I also have a soft spot for mystery novels and thrift store shopping. I’m learning German as my pandemic hobby in the hopes of planning a trip to Berlin one day soon.

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