Focus on Faculty

Hemant Naikare

Hemant Naikare (Photos by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Hemant Naikare, director of the Georgia Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory in Tifton, is committed to introducing students—in 4-H, middle school, high school and at the undergraduate level—to the field of veterinary medicine.

Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?

I earned my Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry degree (BVSc & AH) in 1998 and a master’s degree in veterinary microbiology (MVSc) in 2000 from Bombay Veterinary College in Mumbai, India. I received my Ph.D. in veterinary biomedical sciences in 2005 from Oklahoma State University. In 2009, I became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists. Subsequently, I obtained my MBA (marketing) from West Texas A&M University in 2014. This has helped me develop a customer-centric focus and apply business concepts to laboratory processes. Currently, I am the director of the Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory in Tifton, which is part of the College of Veterinary Medicine. At TVDIL, I serve as the section head of diagnostic bacteriology and I am an associate professor in the department of infectious diseases. I have a 40 percent administration, 45 percent service and 15 percent research commitment.

When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?

I joined UGA on May 1, 2017. Prior to moving to UGA, I was the section head of the bacteriology and molecular diagnostics sections at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory for 10 years, from 2007 to 2017. While working at TVMDL, I participated in the Texas A&M AgriLife Advanced Leadership Program. Before joining TVMDL, I was a postdoctoral scientist at the Biosensor Development and Molecular Diagnostics laboratory at Oklahoma State University.

The opportunity to serve as the laboratory director of one of Georgia’s only two full-service, all animal species premier state veterinary diagnostic laboratories brought me to the UGA-Tifton campus. The UGA Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories (Tifton and Athens) are members of the USDA-National Animal Health Laboratory Network, a coordinated network and partnership of federal, state and university-associated animal health laboratories.

What are some highlights of your career at UGA?

Under my leadership, our team was instrumental in preparing our TVDIL laboratory for its on-site audit by our accrediting body, the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD). These audits occur once every five years, and TVDIL received full accreditation in February 2018 that is valid until December 2022. The AAVLD accreditation is a symbol of the high-quality diagnostic services offered by TVDIL to veterinary and animal industry stakeholders in Georgia and beyond, thus contributing toward safeguarding animal health and public health through disease diagnostics, surveillance and investigational research work.

Another highlight is receiving funding through President Jere W. Morehead’s New Approaches to Promote Diversity and Inclusion grants program to support the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented, underserved students at UGA. For the first time in rural southwest Georgia, we are conducting a series of full-day workshops on opportunities to explore veterinary career options, with special emphasis on veterinary laboratory diagnostics. We expect approximately 100 students from local high schools and undergraduate colleges to benefit from this program, and 10 of these students could apply for a two-week competitive paid internship at TVDIL for summer 2019. This program will potentially lead to the development of an “exploratory academy” model that could be applied to other rural parts of Georgia.

How do you describe the scope and impact of your research to people outside of your field?

I am passionate about developing novel microbial detection assays for the rapid, accurate and cost-effective diagnosis of infectious diseases of our livestock and pet populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals, and more than half of known infectious diseases in people are spread from animals. Meeting the animal agriculture needs for diagnostic testing to detect endemic, emerging, remerging, foreign and economically significant diseases and diagnoses of zoonotic diseases is a critical responsibility that requires accuracy and timeliness in testing, and my research offers solutions to some of these unmet needs.

Describe your ideal student.

My ideal student is someone with an inquisitive, open mind who is interested in strengthening his or her fundamental concepts. My ideal student also is optimistic and enthusiastic about exploring uncharted territories, and someone who can think outside the box to find solutions.

Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is …

When I am at the Athens campus, I love to stroll through the beautiful State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Beyond the UGA campus, I like to …

I am a globe-trotter with a lifelong love of traveling, meeting new people and experiencing diverse cultures. I enjoy traveling with my wife, Nikita, and our daughters, 8-year-old Riya and 4-year-old Ritu. I also enjoy watching movies, playing cricket and table tennis.

Community/civic involvement includes …  

I am very keen on exposing the next generation of students (4-H, middle school, high school and undergraduates) to the field of veterinary medicine. It is my fervent desire to encourage students to pursue a career in science, and I continuously work to create opportunities to make that happen.

Favorite book/movie (and why)?

“Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” from the Arbinger Institute. I read this book for the first time for an assignment while going through the Texas A&M AgriLife Advanced Leadership Program in 2014, and it had a profound effect on me. It is human nature to actively resist alternative perspectives, and this book was an eye-opener, as it made me reflect and challenge my thinking, attitudes and perceptions toward others. It is packed with thoughtful pertinent examples and advice for leaders from all walks of life.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …

UGA’s New Faculty Tour was such a great experience for me! I was stunned by the magnitude of the impact that UGA has on the state. It gave me a deeper understanding of UGA’s land-grant mission, and it was inspiring to see the immense opportunities that exist for service, research and instructional activities in Georgia.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I have a strong interest in providing hands-on training and leveraging my expertise in microbiology and disease diagnostics to benefit resource-limited settings around the world. In the past, I have offered diagnostic workshops on bacterial diseases to veterinarians, livestock handlers, public health personnel and laboratory technicians. These workshops have covered salmonella detection in Honduras, Streptococcus suis infection diagnosis in Vietnam and, most recently, Brucella diagnostics in Ethiopia.

(Originally published on Jan. 6, 2019)