September 15, 2002


 Veterinary profession deserves bigger role in interdisciplinary health care

Posted Sept. 1, 2002
"Between animal and human health there is no dividing line, nor should there be," said Dr. Charles Hendrix as he led off a July 14 early bird session in Nashville on new opportunities for veterinary medicine in the 21st century. He attributed the quote to Dr. Calvin Schwabe, a veterinarian and leading public health scientist.

In 1936, in a published article on the hierarchy of 25 medical professions, veterinarians were ranked at the bottom of the list, just below chiropractors, but above midwives and manicurists. "Our public has wised up about what we do," Dr. Hendrix said. He went on to recount milestones in the history of veterinary collaboration in interdisciplinary health care.

The National Academies of Practice is our nation's only true interdisciplinary health policy forum, he noted. The roles of veterinary medicine in interdisciplinary health care are fourfold—the human/animal bond, food safety, environmental health/global medicine, and zoonotic diseases.

Dr. Hendrix mentioned some "seminal articles" about veterinary medical involvement in interdisciplinary health care. "In the [July 1, 2002] issue of JAVMA," he noted, "there is an excellent article by Drs. Noah, Noah, and Crowder." The article is titled "Biological terrorism against animals and humans: a brief review and primer for action."

How do we integrate the health care professions? "The answer lies in 'Healthy People 2010,'" Dr. Hendrix said. "This is the owner's manual [for human beings] for the next 10 years and serves as a road map for provision of the health of all U.S. citizens in the 21st century."

"Healthy People 2010: Understanding and Improving Health" is sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with the Federation of Associations of Schools of the Health Professions. The AVMA is one of 350 national members of the Healthy People Consortium, whose Web site is

The two overarching goals of Healthy People 2010 are to increase the quality and years of healthy life and to eliminate health disparities in all of our citizens. Under those goals are 28 focus areas and 467 objectives. Every state, territory, and commonwealth and the District of Columbia has its own version of Healthy People 2010. And each health profession has its own goals and objectives. Dr. Hendrix is one of the authors of a paper to be published in JAVMA Oct. 1, 2002, about the veterinary response to the Healthy People initiative.

A relevant and potentially profitable endeavor for veterinary students is a writing competition that recognizes forward-thinking proposals by health professions students for creative strategies to address goals outlined in Healthy People 2010. The Federation of Associations of Schools of the Health Professions sponsors the competition. Students can submit a 2,500-word paper on health promotion or disease prevention projects.

Veterinary papers are sent to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, which submits the top 10 to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing for judging. There are three prizes each for papers in the single discipline category (top prize, $3,500) and in the interdisciplinary category (top prize, $7,500). As an added incentive, Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. offers prizes for papers highlighting veterinary participation in the competition.

Veterinary students have written several award-winning projects since 1990, Dr. Hendrix noted. A $5,000 winner was an interdisciplinary paper on "The Shot Spot," a project in which free rabies vaccinations were offered to geriatric pet owners who agreed to get flu shots at the same time their pets were being vaccinated against rabies. Another award went to a project in which toxoplasmosis brochures were placed into bags of kitty litter. Dr. Hendrix went on to say, "This academic year, my students are working on a truly novel interdisciplinary (veterinary medicine/medicine) proposal, 'Heart2Heart.' 'Heart2Heart' encourages pet owners to have their blood pressure checked on the same day that they administer monthly heartworm preventative to their pets."

The deadline for the 2003 competition is Feb. 15, 2003. To learn more, visit