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Do you remember when you applied to veterinary school that you explained why you wanted to be a veterinarian? During this time in my life, I viewed veterinarians as people who directly cared for their animal patients – and as the ones who indirectly helped people who depend on animals for milk, food, and / or companionship.
Long before I heard about the One Health concept (the connection between the health of humans and animals and that of plants and our shared environment), I was already demonstrating a One Health mindset. I answered this application question many years ago, and today, as a predominantly small veterinary clinic, I always think about One Health approaches to veterinary care.
Why good health is important
In collecting a patient’s medical history, were you trained for the subjective, objective, evaluative / analytical plan (SOAP) to learn more about the patient’s environment? Is the cat only inside? Is she the only pet in the house? What flea and / or tick protection is she given? When was your last dose? And when you find out a client is pregnant or a young child is at home, do you think twice about prescribing a topical drug versus an oral one?
As veterinarians we are very influential. People tend to trust us. We become part of a family, receive thank you cards after euthanizing a geriatric pet, and protect people from various zoonotic diseases through our one-on-one meetings after we are diagnosed.
Not convinced yet? Are you familiar with these questions about One Health ?:
- How many times have you discussed the risk of Toxoplasma in cats with expectant mothers?
- Have you helped a Giardia positive puppy from accidentally sharing this parasite with other animals and humans?
- Are you thinking about how families can be protected if their dog has leptospirosis?
- What do you say to older owners of a dog who you suspect may have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection?
If you answered yes, then you took a One Health approach without realizing it.
The time is now
Educate your customers about One Health by simply discussing the pet’s condition, the consequences of the disease, and the potential impact the disease may have on the customer and their family’s health. The answer to why we should educate our customers about One Health is also simple: we chose this great and influential profession to improve the health and wellbeing of others. By maintaining a One Health mindset, we can accomplish this mission and more.
Deborah Thomson, DVM, is the founder and president of One Health Lessons. She is also a 2019-2020 AVMA Congressional Fellow and a practicing clinician in Virginia.