Letters to the Editor

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The one-health challenge for academic veterinary medicine

An important challenge for veterinary medicine is deciding how to embrace the concept of one health in ways that will enhance the profession's role in society. We argue that the place to begin addressing this challenge is in the veterinary colleges and suggest that it is essential that students be schooled in one-health principles throughout their veterinary education. In addition, colleges have an obligation to develop a cadre of veterinarians with the advanced knowledge and skills necessary for careers in population health. This will require specialized education.

At a minimum, we believe that colleges should develop a one-health track that provides a focus on population medicine within the veterinary curriculum.1 However, individuals wanting to enter one-health careers will need to seek additional training. For example, they should consider pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. Veterinary students could fulfill the requirements for an MPH degree during the 4-year veterinary degree program by completing public health coursework during summer recesses and choosing public health courses as veterinary college electives. An MPH degree program encompasses population and environmental health, social and behavioral sciences, and health policy.

Those with a greater interest might consider a PhD degree in one health that includes human, animal, and environmental health education and research. As with a MPH-DVM dual degree, a PhD could be integrated with the veterinary medical degree. If students were to undertake 1 or 2 years of PhD-level research and coursework prior to entering the veterinary degree program, the PhD degree could be completed in 1 year after graduation from veterinary college.

Some individuals might even consider pursuing both a veterinary and human medical education. A veterinarian could become a physician by completing the third and fourth years of medical school training.2 However, before beginning their human clinical education, veterinarians would need training in human anatomy, physiology, pathobiology, and clinical techniques. Environmental health electives could be integrated throughout the combined curriculum. Graduates would become leaders in teaching, research, and administration at the interface of human, animal, and environmental health.

Finally, colleges might consider instituting a multidisciplinary, population-based one-health residency program that would, ideally, include research and a master's degree. In addition, it would be helpful to have flexible part-time education opportunities that would allow veterinarians to maintain their employment while earning a degree. Most teaching and learning could be done online, and a master's degree in one health could be attainable in 2 years.

All of these arrangements potentially increase veterinary medicine's value to society. If the profession is to fulfill its one-health promise, veterinary colleges must take action. Otherwise, other health professions will readily take our place.

Peter Eyre, dvm&s, bvms, bsc, phd

Professor and Dean Emeritus Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Blacksburg, Va

Robert C. Brown, dvm

Cherrydale Veterinary Clinic Arlington, Va

  • 1. Nielsen NO, Eyre P. Tailoring veterinary medicine for the future by emphasizing one health. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2017;250:502504.

  • 2. Eyre P. Combined veterinary-human medical education: a complete one-health degree? J Vet Med Educ 2015;42:283.

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