Workshop addresses veterinarians' roles in global health

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Veterinarians' involvement in global health was the subject of a full-day workshop at the AVMA Annual Convention covering Global Opportunities in One Health.

The keynote session, "One Health in Global Context," examined reasons for veterinarians to become involved in global health. The rest of the sessions discussed how veterinarians can become involved—by starting as students, changing careers, or volunteering for disaster response and other endeavors.

The first speaker was Dr. Lonnie J. King, dean of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and a former director of the National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. King emphasized the one-health concept that animal health, human health, and ecosystem health are interlinked. The world is experiencing threats to all three, he said. "It is a world that is exquisitely interconnected in ways we have never seen before."

Population growth and international travel contribute to emerging infectious diseases, most of which are zoonotic, Dr. King said. A key intersection between animal and human health exists in the developing world, where many poor people rely on livestock for their livelihoods.

Stethoscope and world globeDr. King said the one-health approach of collaboration among veterinarians, physicians, and other professionals can improve global health and alleviate global poverty. The perspective of veterinarians is important partly because of the profession's focus on population health and preventive medicine.

The other speaker for the workshop's opening session was Dr. David M. Sherman, who has participated in a wide variety of international work and is the author of "Tending Animals in the Global Village: A Guide to International Veterinary Medicine."

Dr. Sherman said health professionals need to look beyond specific diseases in individual animals to broader populations and environmental factors. He said looking at environmental factors is already part of practice for food animal veterinarians, who pay attention to many parameters on farms.

In his presentation, Dr. Sherman outlined entry points for veterinarians who want to work in global health. These entry points include work in public health, the health of domestic animals, wildlife health, and ecosystem health.

Dr. Sherman said the veterinary profession in the United States is small in size but could be bigger in vision.

"We need to stop being parochial about what veterinarians do," Dr. Sherman said.

The workshop on global health included a session on "Global Opportunities in Disaster Preparedness and Relief" featuring Dr. Max Millien, Haiti's chief veterinarian, who spoke about the island's veterinary infrastructure before and after the earthquake (see article).

The AVMA Committee on International Veterinary Affairs arranged the workshop on global health.