As Dan Peterson rushed to examine the body of the victim of an unknown disease, the man he was training fell behind, fearful of what lay ahead.
“Suddenly, I realized this is actually a terrifying situation,” Peterson says. “I was so gung ho to figure this out, and he is thinking ‘this thing could kill us!’”
Peterson was in Zimbabwe to train physicians and nurses on epidemiology. In this situation, they were racing the clock to find the cause of a terrifying disease that was quickly killing young people. After examining the girl’s body, he identified the plague—the same plague that decimated Europe’s population in the 14th century. They took action and were able to prevent it from spreading further.
While he spends most of his time in Wyoming these days, Peterson still chases down and tackles threats to human health. His current focus is antibiotic resistance. He is now using technology to help the worldwide battle from right here in Jackson Hole.
Peterson was raised in Minneapolis, but he was an avid skier and always had his eye on the West where he could shred powder every day. But life kept him from the mountains for a time. He attended the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and then completed his residency at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
After one year practicing medicine, Peterson headed to Eldoret, Kenya, where he trained locals to treat common diseases. He also created HIV prevention programs, which was a major challenge in 1985.
“AIDS hit Uganda first and Kenya got it from the truck drivers en route from Uganda,” Peterson says. “They would visit the sex workers in Eldoret and then head down to Nairobi. You could literally watch it spread.”
Following his work in Kenya, Peterson went to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for eight years, two of which he spent in Zimbabwe. In addition to chasing the plague, he worked on studies about cigarettes, alcohol, and obscure infections spreading through hospitals.
This work led to Peterson’s transition into software development. On his own, he developed software to track hospital-acquired infections. He started his first company, Cereplex, in 2000 and sold it in 2006.
The sale of his company gave Peterson the perfect opportunity to pursue his dream and move to Jackson. In September 2013, he founded his second software company, Teqqa. The company helps doctors make better decisions when prescribing antibiotics to patients.
“Antibiotic resistance is a big scourge on medicine,” Peterson says. “We don’t use antibiotics very well. I started this company to improve antibiotic use so we can continue to use this great resource.”
After five careers—physician, community health organizer, CDC epidemiologist, consultant, and now entrepreneur—Peterson has found his niche right here in Jackson Hole. When he isn’t battling global bugs, he spends his time mountain biking, skiing, and adoring his wife, Kelly.