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River Ridge grad Robin Holland contributes to COVID-19 research

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URBANA–Veterinarian and pathologist Robin Holland combined her lifelong love of agriculture with her passion for research and infectious diseases.

The recent University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduate plans to work for the federal government and make contributions toward human, animal and global health.

She put her knowledge and research to the test sooner than expected when COVID-19, an infectious disease, broke out as she finished her doctoral clinical training. She applied her years of schooling to a real-world, catastrophic situation right away.

Holland is the daughter of Gary Holland, Hanover, and Patricia Holland, Galena, and is married to Evan Anderson of French Lick, Ind. Holland graduated from River Ridge in 2007, where she was very involved with FFA and science classes.

“I grew up on a dairy farm between Hanover and Elizabeth, so agriculture has always been important to me,” Holland said. “I’ve integrated my love for infectious disease research with agriculture and animals.”

She earned her bachelor’s degree at Murray State University before attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Holland graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree on May 16. She also completed a doctorate in pathobiology from the University of Illinois through the DVM/PhD Veterinary Medical Scholars Program in 2018.

Holland said the dual degree program works well because DVM students learn a little information about a wide variety of topics, while doctoral students learn a lot of information in one specific area of study.

In college, she completed internships at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, at Veterinary Associates in Galena; at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md.; and at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute in Greifswald, Germany.

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“I love the notion of discovery with research and using science to solve real-world problems,” Holland said.

The global pandemic is exactly in Holland’s area of expertise. She has extensive knowledge about host-based pathogens, infectious diseases and microbiology, and she was supposed to work for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention before the peak of the outbreak in the U.S. In Holland’s mind, COVID-19 is a simple virus that wreaked havoc on the world.

Nevertheless, she has enjoyed answering questions about the virus and converting what she knows about infectious diseases into layman’s terms.

“It’s nice to be that resource for people. They took an interest in something I love and have been studying for years.”

Holland is currently on a COVID-19 research team for the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign. They are working on developing new forms of testing that are faster and cheaper, like saliva testing. She said the platform is looking promising, and she is excited to be involved.

“I’m ending my time at the University of Illinois working to help students and faculty get back on campus in the fall. It’s pretty serendipitous,” Holland said. “Our approach is to test everyone.”

There are not many veterinarians who also do extensive infectious diseases research; however, Holland said it’s crucial to study animal diseases especially when they affect entire food chains.

“About 75% of new infectious diseases are from human-animal contact. We need to research animal diseases to see which ones translate to humans in order to be better prepared for future global pandemics,” Holland said.

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