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Wednesday, 02 April, 2014

AAVMC Annual Conference Spurs Momentum for One Health

Drs. Lonnie King and Will Hueston (on right) with conference participants.

Washington, D.C., April 2, 2014 – Imagine a future where veterinarians, physicians and other health professionals work together to solve some of the world’s most perplexing problems using integrated approaches and systems-thinking that seamlessly blend the knowledge and strengths of each scientific discipline. Then imagine the effect of that approach on veterinary medical education.


That vision, called “One Health,” inspired the AAVMC’s recent 2014 Annual Conference on “One Health in Veterinary Medical Education,” which attracted a record number of more than 300 attendees.

“Clearly, it’s a topic that resonates with our community,” said AAVMC Executive Director Dr. Andrew Maccabe.

Examples of One Health approaches highlighted throughout the conference included work being done at veterinary schools to control zoonotic infectious diseases (transmissible from animals to humans), improve clinical care for people and animals, and conduct research that enhances the health and wellbeing of both animals and people.

During more than 60 conference presentations from more than 90 presenters, attendees also learned about:

  • Interdisciplinary, often international, educational outreach and partnerships
  • Innovative, interactive, cross-disciplinary teaching methodologies
  • Examples of integrated clinical experiences, research and medical technology

On the first day of the conference, Dr. Bernadette Dunham, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, emphasized the need to communicate a One Health message. “I’m so proud of this profession,” she said, “but we always talk to ourselves. We need to help others understand what we do.”

Some recurrent conference themes included the importance of developing One Health competencies related to communication, problem-solving, strategic, “systems” thinking, leadership, and collaboration.

The conference highlighted some examples of inter-professional education where veterinary students work together with students from other health professions, some international in scope. Veterinary students are also involved in internships and externships in federal agencies, such as the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), where they work closely with students from other professions. “It’s thrilling to see veterinary and human medical students working together on One Health,” said the Hon. Catherine Woteki, the USDA’s chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics.

Both Dr. John Clifford, the chief veterinary office and deputy administrator for veterinary services at APHIS, and Dr. Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, stressed the importance of food animal veterinary care to meet the world’s increasing need for protein.

Worldwide, there are more than 20 “megacities” that have populations of more than 10 million people, mostly in the developing world, and such cities are continuing to grow, creating tremendous sustainability challenges related to food production, disease transmission, and the environment. This growth in the developing world, where livestock is viewed in very different ways culturally and economically, creates special challenges, said Lubroth, requiring a multicultural, One Health perspective.

On the final day of the conference, a closing workshop and wrap-up summarized conference content and solicited audience feedback for the purpose of assessing next steps.

Dr. Will Hueston, who directs global leadership programs of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Lonnie King, dean of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, led the workshop, which Hueston framed as an opportunity “…to brainstorm how we can bring our vision for an interdisciplinary, interconnected medical future to fruition.”

“You are some of the finest minds in academic veterinary medicine, Hueston said, “so how can we take this forward … Ten years ago, we were just starting conversations and One Health was not a big thing, but at this conference, we’ve heard some great presentations by people doing amazing things … We’ve made a lot of progress, but where should we be in another ten years and how do we ensure progress?”

Then, using electronic polling devices, Hueston and King asked the audience a series of questions, including how to move One Health forward, and how to overcome barriers.

Answers included identifying a One Health leader or champion at each school, and communicating the benefits of One Health to funders and the public.

The message that veterinarians do important work that also affects humans and the environment is woven into the AAVMC’s legislative priorities, which college of veterinary medicine deans and their representatives conveyed during 130 legislative visits to Congress on the Thursday preceding the conference.

But no matter how much progress is made, transformation requires relentless focus and perseverance, said Dr. King. “It’s a new way of thinking that requires new skills and new opportunities,” he said. “It’s about transformation successfully executed via a sense of urgency, a guiding coalition, vision, and whatever communications you think might be required – times ten.”

Another recurrent conference theme was the need for veterinarians to lead the charge for One Health.

Access a comprehensive conference summary and photo galleries here.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Its members include 35 veterinary medical colleges in the United States and Canada, nine departments of veterinary science, eight departments of comparative medicine, thirteen international colleges of veterinary medicine, and six affiliate colleges of veterinary medicine:


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Jeff Douglas or Jeanne Johnson:  
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