One-health visionary receives AVMA Award

Dr. Roger K. Mahr proposed initiative that led to One Health Commission
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Dr. Mahr
Dr. Roger K. Mahr

Dr. Roger K. Mahr started his term as 2006-07 AVMA president with a vision for an initiative to increase collaboration in the fields of animal, human, and environmental health—leading to the chartering of the One Health Commission in 2009.

During AVMA Convention 2019 this August in Washington, D.C., the longtime small animal practitioner received the AVMA Award for contributions to the advancement of veterinary medicine in its organizational aspects.

Dr. Ronald E. Gill, District VI representative on the AVMA Board of Directors, nominated Dr. Mahr for the award. In his nomination letter, Dr. Gill wrote: "Dr. Mahr is a consummate veterinarian. His quiet demeanor can fool those who are not familiar with his 'can do' determined attitude that he applies to all he cherishes. This includes his family, community, colleagues and veterinary profession. He credits the support of others for all that he has accomplished in his career. Those who know him acknowledge the positive changes that he has made in their lives, careers and the veterinary profession."

Dr. Mahr grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa. He said, "Like most of my colleagues, I became a veterinarian because of an early human-animal connection." He also was amazed by the knowledge and skills of the veterinarians who visited the farm. A brother, Dr. Larry Mahr (Iowa State '66), preceded him in becoming a veterinarian.

Dr. Roger Mahr earned his veterinary degree in 1971 from Iowa State University. An externship at a small animal practice in Illinois led to him meeting his wife, Marilyn, and going to work as an associate at another small animal practice in Illinois. In 1974, he founded his own practice in Geneva, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, with his wife as office manager.

Dr. Mahr felt an obligation to serve his profession through involvement in organized veterinary medicine. He got involved in the Chicago VMA, the Illinois State VMA, and the AVMA, eventually becoming president of each.

Of particular importance to Dr. Mahr was the 2005 study "Animal Health at the Crossroads: Preventing, Detecting, and Diagnosing Animal Diseases" from the National Research Council.

In his speech to the AVMA House of Delegates before becoming AVMA president in 2006, Dr. Mahr said: "Animal health is truly at a crossroads. Its convergence with human and ecosystem health dictates that the 'one world, one health, one medicine' concept must be embraced. We need our colleagues in human medicine, public health, and the environmental health sciences.

"Together, we can accomplish more in improving global health than we can alone, and we have the responsibility to do so."

The AVMA One Health Initiative Task Force led to the chartering of the One Health Commission in 2009, with Dr. Mahr as executive director. In 2011, the commission formed an alliance with Iowa State, establishing its headquarters there. In 2014, Dr. Cheryl Stroud became the new executive director, and the commission's headquarters moved to her location in North Carolina.

"Over the past 13 years, it has been heartening to witness the ongoing strength of leadership and support that has continued to evolve towards the advancement of one health worldwide," Dr. Mahr said.

He said the One Health Commission has established global events and alliances, such as One Health Day every Nov. 3 in partnership with the One Health Initiative team and the One Health Platform. The commission supports the International Students One Health Alliance. Among other activities, the commission hosts webinars on one-health issues and initiatives.

Perhaps most exciting, Dr. Mahr said, national and international consortiums are evolving to address specific one-health challenges such as antimicrobial resistance.

Related JAVMA content:

Environment: the bedrock of one health (April 15, 2018)

Nov. 3 is One Health Day (July 15, 2016)

Spreading the one-health concept (Jan. 15, 2012)

One health, from your backyard to the global village (Aug. 1, 2009)

Mahr calls for 'one health' initiative (Sept. 1, 2006)