On November 2, 1807, before a
medical school class at the University
of Pennsylvania, Dr. Benjamin Rush
delivered a speech that ultimately
inspired the creation of Penn Vet—
the first veterinary school born from
a medical school. In his prescient
lecture, Rush pointed to the critical
links between the health of people, animals, and the
environment. More than two centuries later, Dean Joan
Hendricks has continued to champion this cross-disciplinary
approach, now termed “One Health,” as fundamental to
Penn Vet’s mission.
Hendricks is known to use the phrase “Always One
Health, all ways,” suggesting Penn Vet’s legacy of One
Health (always), as well as the multiple paths that One
Health efforts can take (all ways). During her tenure as
Dean, she has helped bridge the veterinary and non-veterinary
professions while focusing on five major One
Health areas—each with the power to benefit countless
lives, both animal and human, as well as the planet itself.
Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses
Zoonotic diseases are caused by infections that are shared
between animals and people. Scientists estimate that three
out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in
people are spread from animals, according to the CDC.
“Veterinarians are often aware of serious infectious
diseases before human health researchers,” Hendricks noted,
pointing to examples such as West Nile virus, Ebola, and
avian flu. Because of this, she added, veterinarians can work
with MDs and play a key role in identifying and sharing
information—which can help stem potential epidemics.
Hendricks has bolstered this sort of veterinary leadership
by deepening the partnership between Penn Vet and
the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. She was
instrumental in creating the Pennsylvania One Health Task
Force to bring together environmental, animal, and human
health stakeholders, unified by the One Health vision.
“Agriculture is our number-one industry in Pennsylvania,
with animal agriculture being the core. And I challenge
you to find a food safety scandal,” she said. “Tuberculosis
in dairy cattle is something emerging around the U.S., but
it’s not a problem in Pennsylvania. We have a phenomenal
public health-animal health interaction in Pennsylvania.”
“She’s planted this powerful seed [in the Pennsylvania
government]. It’s a credit to her legacy,” said Russell C.
Redding, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary.
“She’s started a transformative conversation about how we
approach animal health and human health systems in the
Commonwealth. It’s good both for animal agriculture and
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding provided closing remarks at Zoobiquity Conference 6, which showcased collaborative studies between experts in veterinary and human medicine. Held in Philadelphia in 2016, the event was co-sponsored by Penn Vet, Penn Medicine, and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association. Dean Hendricks is pictured at right.
Penn Vet’s One Health efforts in Pennsylvania are
contributing to animals’ well-being, productivity, and
environmental impacts. And the lessons learned are valuable
well beyond the Commonwealth. During Hendricks’
tenure, Penn Vet has spearheaded programs around the
world as the global demand for animal protein continues to
For instance, in 2016, Penn Vet’s Center for Animal
Health and Productivity (CAHP) began to develop a dairy
management training program in China; these programs
now impact more than a million cows. In 2017, a similar
program was developed to reach the massive Chinese swine
industry through the work of Dr. Thomas Parsons, V'86, GR'89, Associate
Professor of Swine Production Medicine and Director of the
Penn Vet Swine Teaching and Research Center.
“It has been estimated that more food will need to be
produced in the next 50 years than has been consumed over
the entire history of mankind,” said Dr. David Galligan, V'81, Professor of Animal Health Economics and CAHP
Section Chief, who is leading these projects.
“Improvements in milk yield per cow have not only
dramatically enhanced the economic sustainability of dairy
producers, but have also significantly reduced greenhouse
gas emissions. Penn Vet is helping to define how animal
production systems can be an integrated part of a global,
sustainable food system,” he added.
Dean Hendricks and Dr. Zhengxia Dou (center), Professor of Agricultural Systems at Penn Vet, traveled to China to help educate dairy farmers on improving cow nutrition, milk production, and environmental management.
The health of wildlife, and the importance of animal and
environmental conservation, are also important parts of the
One Health equation. To help address these issues, Dean
Hendricks has served on the Philadelphia Zoo’s Board of
Trustees, and has spent years strengthening the partnership
between Penn Vet and Zoo staff. (See below.)
It’s not just a research effort, however. Hendricks has
also helped to expose diverse groups of people to the Zoo’s
awe-inspiring species, which she believes sparks compassion
and awareness of the natural world. “The hope is that you
can get a big urban population to care about having these
animals survive somewhere that’s not a zoo, and to think
about global care for habitats and environments,” she said.
Radiology technician My Inderelst and Dr. Raphael Vezina-Audette, Anesthesia Resident at Ryan Hospital, prepare an Aldabra tortoise from the Philadelphia Zoo for a CAT scan.
This sense of compassion extends to common domestic
animals. Penn Vet’s Shelter Medicine Program, launched
by Dean Hendricks in 2006, helps strengthen the human-animal
bond by supporting owners as well as pets.
According to Dr. Brittany Watson, V’10, Director of
Shelter Animal Medicine and Community Engagement
at Penn Vet, “More and more, we’re not just providing
medical care to those [animals that] need it, we’re also
engaging with people and working with the community
to try to increase welfare and prevent animals from ever
entering the sheltering system in the first place.”
For instance, since 2013, Penn Vet has partnered with
Pets for Life, an initiative of the Humane Society of the
United States that provides free spay/neuter and wellness
care for pets in underserved communities. As part of the
shelter medicine rotation, Penn Vet students in their third
or fourth year do neighborhood outreach with Pets for
Life—checking on animals that have been neutered or
vaccinated, addressing conditions like skin and ear disease,
and sometimes simply striking up conversations with
residents about their pets’ care. The idea is to keep pets in
the homes they already have, enhancing quality of life for
animals and owners. The Philadelphia location of Pets for
Life has become a model of success and has since expanded
to dozens of cities, concentrating on pet service deserts.
Dr. Brittany Watson (far right) helps Penn Vet students vaccinate a dog at Pets For Life on World Veterinary Day.
The health of pets and their owners is a two-way street,
Hendricks added. By developing new and innovative
therapies for animal patients, Penn Vet scientists are also
helping speed the development of human treatments. That’s
the principle that guides the new Penn Vet Cancer Center,
which marked its official launch last fall. The Center
integrates research and clinical care, enabling promising
discoveries in the lab to rapidly find applications in the
“It’s good for both species,” said Dr. Nicola Mason,
Associate Professor of Medicine and Pathobiology at Penn
Vet, who runs a translational research lab that focuses on
harnessing a dog’s immune system to kill cancer. The
approach—immunotherapy—is among the most promising
new developments in cancer research in many decades. The
results of Mason’s dog studies have paved the way for similar
clinical trials in humans.
The Cancer Center builds upon Penn’s strong and
varied expertise in cancer—helping unify, streamline, and
accelerate progress across the campus. According to Dr.
Ellen Puré, Director of the Penn Vet Cancer Center, “It’s
about people collaborating, bringing truly complementary
expertise and ideas to build a much more concerted effort to
attack the problem.”
Dr. Nicola Mason poses with Denali, a ten-year-old Spinone Italiano enrolled in her osteosarcoma clinical trial.
The Future of One Health
Dean Hendricks has worked to advance the concept of
One Health across Penn and beyond. She helped create
the cross-disciplinary One Health Award and established
a One Health communications group among Penn’s
schools, to find commonalities and increase exposure of
the One Health initiative.
One Health has been part of veterinary medicine
since its very early days, but figuring out the best way to
articulate the vision—and incorporate it more broadly
into medicine and public health—is an ongoing goal.
“It’s almost rebranding veterinary medicine as having
an impact on human and environmental health,”
Hendricks said. “The public needs to understand vets’
important and multifaceted roles. One Health is a way
to spark that conversation.”
As awareness of One Health continues to grow,
Hendricks is widely recognized as a trailblazer.
“Dean Hendricks has been a national and
international leader in One Health,” said Dr. Keith
Martin, founding Executive Director of the Consortium
of Universities for Global Health (CUGH), who
recently collaborated with Hendricks to organize the
first One Health satellite session at CUGH’s annual
international health conference.
“She is able to see the very big picture that is One
Health in a way that is creative, dynamic, and inspiring,”
Martin continued. “She is an innovator in looking at
systems in an integrated way across disciplines. That is
much needed as we move forward in addressing the
challenges we face.
One Health and the Zoo
“My connection with the Philadelphia Zoo has been one of the most fulfilling and exciting parts of being Dean. The Zoo brings us close to awe-inspiring animals that we would never normally see in an urban setting. The Zoo is a way that people can connect with a panther, or an orangutan, or a baby gorilla, and start to wonder about where it came from and where its wild relatives are. If people aren’t fully aware of the wonder and the importance of these animals, they accidentally destroy habitats, and they don’t take care of the planet very well.” — Dean Joan Hendricks
“During the past 12 years, driven by Joan’s passion for One Health, we’ve collaborated on efforts to expose young people to animal and veterinary science. Our youth development program, ZooCREW, introduces area high school students to the front lines of veterinary medicine. This exposure helps kids understand more about the animals in their neighborhoods and beyond, and how animals, humans, and our planet are interconnected in so many ways. Joan’s knowledge and commitment to One Health and to our region’s youth has been an inspiration to all of us.” — Kimberly Lengel, Vice President for Conservation and Education, Philadelphia Zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo's youth development program, ZooCREW, introduces area high school students to the front lines of veterinary medicine.
“Historically, much of our work with Penn Vet, benefiting from our proximity, has involved the clinical care of Zoo animals. During Joan’s tenure, we’ve strengthened and expanded our partnership with the School to advance cross-shared learnings. A longtime Zoo Board Member, Joan has been instrumental in helping the Zoo orient and mature our thinking around One Health. In her position at Penn Vet and as a deeply respected voice on the Zoo Board, her One Health efforts will prove to be influential and pioneering.” — Dr. Andrew Baker, Chief Operating Officer, Philadelphia Zoo
Philadelphia Zoo sought specialty care at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital for a lion showing blood in her urine.
Checking in with Penn Vet's First Commonwealth One Health Scholars
In 2015, Allyson Anderson and Amy Kraus received full-tuition scholarships to
attend Penn Vet as the inaugural Commonwealth One Health Scholars. Three
years later, they are about to enter their clinical year as food animal majors.
Bellwether spoke with them about their interests and the impact that the
scholarship has had on their lives.
ON THEIR INTEREST IN FOOD ANIMAL MEDICINE
ANDERSON: Agriculture has historically been a part of my family. I love that I
can combine my passion for agriculture with veterinary medicine.
KRAUS: Joining my local 4-H club during grade school gave me an
appreciation for agriculture. I knew that I wanted to be a dairy veterinarian
when I started milking cows at my neighbor’s dairy farm.
ON CAREER GOALS
ANDERSON: I plan to be a large animal veterinarian in rural Pennsylvania.
Thanks to this scholarship, I can return home to practice right out of school.
It is great for me, but also great for the area. In the entire county, there is one
part-time large animal veterinarian.
KRAUS: My goal is to work for a progressive dairy practice in Pennsylvania
after graduation. This scholarship allowed me to spend my summers visiting
dairies in the western United States and New Zealand. Learning from
different management systems has broadened my perspective on the dairy
ON THE IMPACT OF THE COMMONWEALTH ONE HEALTH
ANDERSON: When I found out I had received the scholarship, my dad tackled
me into the snow. I had never dreamed such an opportunity existed. It has
been an unbelievable blessing.
KRAUS: It gave me the opportunity to stay in Pennsylvania for vet school
and build connections with bovine veterinarians and producers in my home
state. With less school debt, my goal of eventually owning a dairy practice has
become more attainable.
ON ONE HEALTH
ANDERSON: It sets the stage for communication between different sectors.
We can learn so much from both human medicine and environmental
science, and vice versa. The potential to achieve would be so high if we could
get these fields collaborating and working towards common goals.
KRAUS: As a future veterinarian, I have a responsibility to keep cows healthy
so they can produce high-quality milk for humans. Ensuring the safety of our
food supply is a key aspect of One Health. And the work excites me!