You are here

One Health approach critical in globalized world

Ask Bernadette Dunham what prompted her to pursue an opportunity with the Milken Institute School of Public Health and she’ll point to the importance of the One Health concept. 

“During my career I realized that no one discipline or sector of society has enough knowledge and resources to prevent emergence or resurgence of diseases in today’s globalized world,” says Dunham. “One Health is a worldwide strategy for expanding interdisciplinary collaborations in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment.” 

Bernadette Dunham, Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.Dunham envisioned a career in private practice when she graduated from OVC in 1975 but the “door of opportunity opened and I walked through it.” Following a few years in private practice, she returned to academia, obtaining a PhD from Boston University, and as her career continued to unfold, she gained experience in teaching, research, policy and government service. 

Most recently she served as director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, where she ensured that animal drugs and medicated feeds are safe and effective, and that food from treated animals is safe to eat. 

Today, as a visiting professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., she focuses on a One Health approach to training public health professionals. She envisions a far-reaching impact. 

“The more that we can bring faculty and students from a wide range of disciplines together, the greater their comfort level,” says Dunham. “Hopefully throughout their careers they will continue to break down the barriers and work across professions to solve issues of mutual concern under a One Health approach.” 

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat that requires not only a better understanding of it and how resistance genes spread, but also strengthening knowledge through research and surveillance, and judicious use to protect human, animal and environmental health, she notes. 

The One Health approach brings together experts from multiple disciplines to address this critical issue in a collaborative manner. 

Veterinarians play a vital role, bringing their expertise in both animal and public health to the table. Their role in stewardship and prudent use of antibiotics in production agriculture and companion animal medicine is quintessential, she adds. 

Antimicrobial resistance threatens human, animal and environmental health on a national and global level. “Microbes travel and don’t acknowledge geographical borders,” she adds. A coordinated global surveillance effort is needed to adequately capture the various factors contributing to AMR. A One Health approach is critical. 

Today’s technology enables veterinarians to use rapid diagnostics, courtesy of smartphone-based lab-on-chip diagnostics, and smartphone apps for real-time disease surveillance and reporting in the field, says Dunham. This in turn assists in decreasing unnecessary prescribing, allowing for more accurate antimicrobial use.

Photo: Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D.

As seen in the Fall 2017 issue of The Crest. Read the entire issue on the OVCAA webpage.

If you are an OVC alumni you can update your address through Alumni Affairs.