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CVM professor lends expertise to No. 1 movie

by Rodney Tanaka

September 13, 2011

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WesternU College of Veterinary Medicine Professor Tracey McNamara, DVM, DACVP, served as a consultant on the film “Contagion,” which debuted at No. 1 at the box office last weekend.

The film, directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh and featuring an all-star cast including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law, focuses on the threat posed by a deadly disease and on an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak, according to IMDb.

Dr. McNamara was approached in 2009 at the earliest stage of development of a story line. Initially, the writers were considering making the hero of the story a veterinarian based on the West Nile virus experience, but this was subsequently changed in the final film, Dr. McNamara said.

“The filmmakers wanted to make the story as realistic as possible and technically accurate from a scientific point of view,” she said. “They reached out to a number of scientists for input and actually listened to them. They succeeded in making a gripping movie about what could very well happen in the future.”

Dr. McNamara played a pivotal role in tracking and identifying West Nile virus in New York in 1999. She specializes in the recognition and understanding of the disease of captive and free-ranging wildlife. Her training led her to pursue a link between viral encephalitis in birds and humans during the summer of 1999 while serving as the head of the Department of Pathology for the Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo. She joined the College of Veterinary Medicine faculty in 2007.

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