One Health helps veterinarians boost the health of pets, humans, and our environment in all facets of medicine
Veterinarians take an oath, in part, to use their skills for “the promotion of public health.” There is an ever-growing need, even more apparent in the COVID-19 era, for more veterinarians to serve within the public health sector.1,2 Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to be talented public health professionals because our initial medical training focuses more on population health and preventive medicine than most human medical programs.3-5 This training can be expanded when students participate in joint degree programs in public health or when practicing veterinarians pursue a master’s degree in public health. Although the competencies of veterinary medicine and public health have many commonalities and much overlap,3 most traditional clinical veterinarians view the practice of medicine, even preventive medicine, through a different lens from typical public health professionals.3 Earning a public health degree expands a clinical veterinarian’s worldview, enhances their communication skills, and broadens their cultural competency and social awareness.3
One Health recognizes that the health of people is intimately tied to the health of animals and the environment.6 One Health principles and practice facilitate coordination and collaboration across fields of medicine.4 Public health programs provide a unique set of resources to veterinarians in the areas of emerging and zoonotic disease education and management to foster more effective work with One Health partners. Additionally, this training builds capabilities in diverse areas such as epidemiology, emergency preparedness, sustainability, social determinants of health, and policy.3 This is a fluid list; the profession of public health evolves to meet acute and chronic challenges that impact health.7
The majority of veterinarians would welcome stronger partnerships with human health professionals and public health organizations, survey results show.8 Statistically, veterinarians are already more likely to initiate cross-professional communication than our human health counterparts.3 The synergy of veterinary and public health training spurs opportunities to bridge understanding between human, animal, and environmental health professionals that has the potential to build meaningful links for coordinated effective collaboration and communication across medical domains.3 This diversity of perspective, in turn, can facilitate innovative approaches to prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery—not only in future disease outbreak events but also during a natural or human-made health crisis.3
Public health education gives veterinarians better understanding of how to incorporate One Health into their practice. Simultaneously, it expands the horizon of an individual’s opportunity for professional growth and employment avenues.9 Public health training can open the doors to more nontraditional roles for veterinarians. Moreover, this diversification of experience might be the perfect match for a nation and world in need of more public health veterinarians. Members of our profession experiencing burnout, stress, or compassion fatigue also may benefit from this marriage and hybridization of professions. Public health training can open doors that reignite passion for veterinary medicine through a new and expanded outlook on the role of our profession in One Health.
”A pocket of prevention” is a recurring column brought to you by the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (ACVPM). The ACVPM is an American Veterinary Medical Association-recognized veterinary specialty organization offering board certification in preventive medicine with the option of a specialty in epidemiology. Becoming a diplomate of the ACVPM means joining some of the most distinguished veterinary professionals in preventive medicine and public health at national and international levels. For more information, go to acvpm.org.