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Dr. Andrew Maccabe, executive director of the AAVMC, is returning for the second annual U of S One Health Leadership Experience. Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

Health science students unite for One Health

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is hosting the second annual One Health Leadership Experience for health science students from August 16 to 18.

More than 120 students from all U of S health science colleges – veterinary medicine, dentistry, nursing, medicine, kinesiology, pharmacy and nutrition, public health and physical therapy – will attend the three-day event.

The university will welcome a handful of North American speakers with One Health expertise including Dr. Andrew Maccabe, a veterinarian and the executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

"Veterinary medicine is a broad, biomedical sciences profession, and it has so much to offer in terms of addressing societal needs," says Maccabe. "It's really imperative that veterinary medicine become part of the One Health movement and a leader in this area."

One Health is a global initiative that encourages collaboration between all health disciplines – from veterinary medicine to nutrition – to attain optimal health for all people, animals and the environment.

"Veterinary medicine has a role to play in solving these [global health] problems, but we can't do it alone . . . and approaching these issues with a One Health system allows us to do that."

Maccabe first got a feel for One Health when he was just beginning his veterinary career in a dairy practice. He says it was there that he saw the role veterinary medicine has in protecting the food supply and promoting healthy and safe food.

"By applying principles of preventive medicine – that is, preventing animals from becoming ill and taking care of problems before they occur – we were able to avoid the use of antibiotics and other treatments that would create problems of residue in the milk."

Maccabe went on to work as a public health officer in the United States Air Force and as the liaison between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"It's fair to say I've spent my entire career [working with One Health]," says Maccabe.

Now as the AAVMC's executive director, Maccabe is still heavily involved in One Health and is keen to promote the importance of One Health education early on in veterinary students' careers.

"One Health is an exceedingly important topic for all of our veterinary colleges," says Maccabe. "[The AAVMC] has a One Health committee, which includes representation from all of our members. It's certainly one of our top issues – we devote a significant amount of our time here to support that activity."

As global health concerns continue to grow, Maccabe says it will be imperative for all health professions to work together to develop solutions to these problems.

"The veterinarian's oath includes a statement to protect public health. If we don't involve ourselves in One Health, society will not be well served – we'll miss the opportunity to provide our input to the solution to some of these pressing issues."

Maccabe encourages veterinary students to take a broad look at their careers and think of ways that they can apply their education to a range of issues.

"Animal health will always be the foundation of our profession, but there's so much more that we can do when we apply our skills to a wide range of problems."

Maccabe encourages all One Health Leadership Experience participants to step out of their comfort zone for the event and try to meet someone from a different health profession.

"Take advantage of this opportunity to meet somebody new, somebody different. This is your opportunity to meet students from a college you're not part of," says Maccabe, who spoke at the university's first One Health student workshop in 2012.

"I enjoyed myself immensely last year. I appreciated the opportunity to meet with students and was very grateful when the invitation was repeated again this year."

This year, Maccabe's talk will focus on the interconnectedness of various health issues: "Seemingly unrelated issues and how they're all brought together under a One Health approach," he explains.

For more information, visit the 2013 U of S One Health Leadership Experience website.

Melissa Cavanagh of Winnipeg, Man., is a second-year veterinary student and the WCVM's research communications intern for the summer of 2013.
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