PennVet | Dean's Message
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Dean's Message

By: Joan C. Hendricks, V'79, GR '80 Published: Sep 16, 2014

What is One Health, exactly?

How would you respond to that question?

Dean Joan C. HendricksThis past spring, during an interview with the Penn Current, I was asked to define the One Health concept. I faced a familiar conundrum. What snappy sound bite could explain One Health and its essential role in our work at Penn Vet? How could I succinctly communicate One Health so that its tremendous importance—to animals, people, and the planet—resonated with an audience beyond the veterinary community?

I am not the only vet perplexed by these questions. The topic inspired the AAVMC’s Annual Conference, One Health in Veterinary Medical Education, which drew a record number of attendees in March. A recurrent theme was the necessity of developing a clear, concise One Health message so that it may finally reach a “tipping point” of awareness and understanding.

I attended the conference with Penn Vet’s Director of Communications, Ashley Berke (who, I might add, recently led our Communications team to winning the inaugural AAVMC Communications Excellence Award). She took copious notes on tactics and terminology that may help us spread the word about One Health.

The challenge is not a lack of language or stories about One Health in action (as evidenced in the following pages). Several leading veterinary organizations have developed their own compelling ways of articulating One Health. Even at Penn Vet, we each have our own take. Gayle Joseph, from our Office of the Vice Dean for Research & Academic Resources, adds this eloquent note to her email signature: “Human health and animal health are so closely associated that neither can prosper effectively without the other.”

However, finding the most effective words and having a unified message would serve our profession well—especially when we are asked point-blank to define One Health. I’d like to get your input. What words are you using to inform your families, clients, and colleagues about the impact of veterinary work on human and environmental health? What messages are helping you build interdisciplinary partnerships and projects?

When I was reappointed as dean in 2011, I made a decision to be purposefully open to global opportunities that would further Penn Vet’s mission to become a leader in One Health. Penn Vet is a proud member of the One Health Initiative, a movement to forge collaborations between physicians, veterinarians, dentists, nurses, and other scientific and environmentally related disciplines.

And as you’ll read in this issue, our students and faculty are One Health pioneers. Dr. Zhengxia Dou, Professor of Agriculture Systems, is spearheading the first-ever conference to tackle food loss and waste in America—bringing together experts from diverse fields (see page 4). Our Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center, directed by Dr. Dorothy Cimino Brown, is developing new drugs to heal both animals and humans (see page 8), while Dr. Ronald N. Harty is making major leaps toward effective treatments of zoonoses (see page 12). VMD-PhD student Laurel Redding is tracking antibiotic use on small Peruvian farms (see page 14), and our Student Inspiration Award winners continue to cultivate global well-being through groundbreaking projects (see page 18).

I hope this issue of Bellwether provides food for thought as you read about the many ways Penn Vet exemplifies and advances One Health. And I hope you’ll drop me a line with your ideas on how we can inspire even more “a-ha moments,” as we work to improve the lives of all species through the integration of human medicine, veterinary medicine, and environmental science.