One-health wonders

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Ronald M. Davis, MD
Ronald M. Davis, MD

Ronald M. Davis, MD, immediate past president of the American Medical Association, was the first public health physician to lead the association and was one of the leaders of the one-health initiative. The 52-year-old died Nov. 6, 2008, at his home in East Lansing, Mich.

Dr. Davis' work in collaborative medicine promoted cooperation among health care providers for humans, animals, and the environment. The AVMA asked a few colleagues who worked with Dr. Davis to comment on his efforts and accomplishments connected with the one-health movement.

Describe your work with Dr. Davis on the One-Health Initiative.

Dr. Roger K. Mahr, 2006-2007 AVMA president:

One of the most rewarding relationships I established during my AVMA presidency was with Dr. Ronald Davis. Soon after I was installed as president and Dr. Davis was elected AMA president-elect, I traveled to East Lansing, Michigan, to meet with him to share my vision for a One-Health Initiative.

He replied, "I'm primed for that, for I'm currently the primary investigator on a project at the Henry Ford Health System that is evaluating the effects of secondhand smoke on pets."

Through our respective leadership roles, we achieved a collaborative relationship between the AVMA and AMA that allowed us to articulate our collective vision for "one health." We both traveled the world, meeting and talking with veterinarians, physicians, public health professionals, academicians, students, government officials, legislators, and other stakeholders about the interrelationships among health science professions.

I was honored that Dr. Davis accepted my invitation to speak at the 144th AVMA Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. At the convention, Dr. Davis and I participated in a joint press conference concerning the one-health initiative. Following the press conference, we presented a collaborative session, "One Medicine—Fly Under One Flag."

In April 2007, the AVMA Executive Board took official action to establish the One-Health Initiative and formed the AVMA One Health Initiative Task Force. We were both privileged to serve as liaisons to this task force, and were proud of the dedicated efforts of its visionary members. The 12 recommendations that came forth from the task force now form the basic outline for the One-Health Initiative.

In June of 2007, under the leadership of Dr. Davis, a one-health resolution was introduced to the AMA House of Delegates, which called for the AMA to engage in a dialogue with the AVMA to discuss means of enhancing collaboration in medical education, clinical care, public health, and biomedical research. It was a privilege to be invited by Dr. Davis to the AMA Annual Meeting and granted the opportunity to testify before the AMA House of Delegates reference committee prior to the resolution's unanimous approval by the House.

A similar one-health resolution was adopted by the AVMA House of Delegates this past July.

It was heartening for both of us that a collaborative relationship was achieved between the AMA and AVMA, and to see that collaboration now further evolving among multiple disciplines and entities throughout the world, including the World Medical Association and the World Veterinary Association.

How substantial were Dr. Davis' efforts in providing momentum early on for the one-health movement?

Dr. Bruce Kaplan, a retired veterinarian, co-manager of the Web site, a former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a former public affairs specialist for the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service:

Without the visionary activities of the late Ron Davis, MD, the early momentum of the one-health movement would have been problematic. Ron recognized the importance of having an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach for public health, biomedical research, and the more rapid expansion of scientific medical knowledge for humans and animals.

During the course of working with Ron beginning in early 2007, my other one-health physician colleagues—Laura H. Kahn, MD, MPH, MPP, and Thomas P. Monath, MD—and I observed how Ron's brilliant political skills maneuvered the unanimous adoption of the historic AMA one-health resolution in June of that year in Chicago. Of course, a great deal of his success was because of his integrity and the high level of respect he enjoyed from his colleagues and many others.

I question whether there would have been any significant momentum without this crucial, single, seminal event. It led to several other national and international scientific organizations adopting similar resolutions.

My other numerous communications with Ron during that time period and not long before his untimely death on November 6, 2008, were marked by gracious, encouraging, courteous, prompt, thoughtful, and important advice for proceeding on a variety of issues related to promoting the One-Health Initiative. His premature death was a tragic loss for his young family, his friends, his medical colleagues, the one-health movement, and the world medical community.

Someday, the history of veterinary medicine—and medicine—will note Ron Davis as a one-health giant in the same vein with the likes of John McFadyean, DVM, MD; Calvin Schwabe, DVM, DS; and Jim Steele, DVM, MPH.

What did Dr. Davis accomplish relative to the One-Health Initiative at the AMA, and what do you see as his legacy in the combined approach to human, animal, and environmental medicine?

Al Osbahr, MD, AMA representative on the current One Health Joint Steering Committee:

Ron was always looking to see how prevention and public health could become more prominent in American medicine as well as globally.

He intended to effect change—though sometimes subtly—in the AMA and in the other agencies or systems he worked in. He worked tirelessly, even when ill, to do as much good in these efforts.

The One-Health Initiative was and is an example of integrating these principles into practice. The coordination of work between public health, environmental health, animal medicine, and human medicine for the betterment of our world promotes the ideals which Ron stood for in his actions as a physician.

Certainly, the success of the One-Health Initiative will serve as a marker for his legacy.