Muhammad Usman Zaheer

Muhammad Usman Zaheer

When Muhammad Usman Zaheer was growing up in Sahiwal, Pakistan, he often visited his grandparents’ nearby farm, where there were goats, sheep, cattle and backyard poultry. Even in the city, many people kept goats and sheep as subsistence farming.

Influenced by those animals and an uncle who was a veterinarian, Zaheer became interested in public health and the spread of diseases among animal and human populations.

After earning his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, he began working on an M.Phil. degree in epidemiology at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan. While taking a course on disease surveillance, a book by CSU Professor Mo Salman in the Department of Clinical Sciences made a big impact on him.

After completing his master’s degree and working nearly two years in a zoonotic disease surveillance job for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded project in Islamabad, Zaheer decided to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to get his Ph.D. in the United States. His first choice was CSU because of Salman’s book, “Animal Disease Surveillance and Survey Systems: Methods and Applications.”

After securing the Fulbright, Zaheer emailed Salman about earning his Ph.D. at CSU. To Zaheer’s surprise, Salman replied immediately and was quick to accept him into the doctoral program and the lab he directs, the Animal Population Health Institute.

“The campus and the people here are really great,” Zaheer says. “Everyone has been welcoming.”

Last year, Zaheer became the first Pakistani veterinarian to become board-certified by the American College of Preventive Veterinary Medicine. For his dissertation, he’s putting together a computer simulation model to better understand the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in Pakistan and Thailand. He plans to return to Pakistan after finishing his Ph.D. next year to continue working on controlling infectious diseases — including those that can be transmitted to humans.

“I want to serve humanity by working on animals, people and the environment,” Zaheer says.

His advice to students who are new to CSU?

“Try to find someone you are comfortable with, someone you work well with,” he says, referring to his mentors Salman and Assistant Professor Sangeeta Rao. “I couldn’t have gotten that board certification without the support of my advisors.”