One Health Seminar with Dr. Katie Clow - Bianca Baldan

As an OVC student heading into third year, I have a few One Health lectures under my belt, but not many. This summer as part of the CORE program, I had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Katie Clow, who is a professor in the Department of Population Medicine at OVC. She started us off with a brainstorming session by showing us multiple photographs and getting us to think about what we thought of the concept of One Health and how interconnected we are with animals and the environment.

Dr. Clow made sure to clarify the difference between the words “complicated” and “complex.” A complicated problem is something that is very hard to do or requires specialized skills, but it ultimately has a solution. Dr. Clow gave us the example of a TPLO surgery – to a non-surgeon vet, a TPLO is complicated and difficult, but a veterinary surgeon is able to work through the steps and complete it. On the other hand, a complex problem has lots of different elements and perspectives, but there are also a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. In order to solve a complex problem, you have to integrate all the knowledge available to you and work with that uncertainty; however, there may not always be one perfect solution, so you have to take into account other perspectives to determine the best outcome.

Systems thinking means thinking about a system holistically and all its interconnected components. This also means we must be aware of the consequences of our actions, intentional or not. In order to come up with a solution to a complex problem, we take into consideration all the information we currently have; however, there will always be uncertainties and therefore may be unintended outcomes. Despite the possibility for inadvertent consequences, we still need to be able to come up with solutions that lead to the best outcome for all the parties involved. Complex problems require transdisciplinary thinking – this means not only working within our discipline, but also bringing in others from other disciplines as well as getting community and stakeholder involvement. Increased collaboration will lead to more effective interventions.

As someone who is aiming for a pathology residency, I believe One Health is a very important component of a pathologist’s work. Disease surveillance is not only important for herd health, but also for tracking zoonoses and for protecting human health. Dr. Clow has given me a new appreciation for One Health approaches in my future as a veterinarian and as a general member of society.