One Health Champion Dr. Ron DeHaven Sits Down With OCSA To Discuss The One Health Initiative

Earlier this month, we introduced you to a remarkable professional in the veterinary field, Dr. Ron DeHaven. As the July One Health Champion, Dr. DeHaven was kind enough to sit down with OCSA to answer a few questions abou the One Health Initiative.

OCSA:  Congratulations on another phenomenal AVMA Convention, we were excited to learn about the new AVMA “brand identity” – new logo & tag line: “Our Passion. Our Profession”.  Can you tell us a little bit more about the evolution of the tag line?

Dr. Ron DeHaven: We have spent the last 18 months listening and learning from our members – what do they want, need and expect most from the AVMA – and then building a “new AVMA” based on that feedback.  Clearly our members look to us to promote what they do, protect their ability to practice, and advance the science of veterinary medicine.  To show that this truly is a new AVMA. We have also created new visual elements, specifically our logo and tag line, as evidence of the change.

Both were developed through extensive market research with our members.  The tag line was particularly interesting.  From among the 5 choices presented to participants of multiple focus groups, “Our Passion. Our Profession” was the unanimous choice. Everyone loved it – and so do I.  It explains the reason we sought a career in veterinary medicine – not for wealth or recognition, but rather because we are passionate about providing care to the animals we love and, in doing so, promote their health and well-being as well as that of their owners.  Everyone benefits.

OCSA: What can you tell us about the Partners for Healthy Pets Program?

PHP was formed about 5 years ago in response to a decade long decline in the frequency with which pets were being seen by a veterinarian.  There was an initial coalition of about 7 organizations, but has grown to 123 members from state and national veterinary associations, most of our colleges of veterinary medicine, and corporate partners.  We all share one common goal – to ensure pets receive the preventive healthcare they deserve through regular visits to a veterinarian.

I have the honor and pleasure to serve as the Chair of PHP and along the way it struck me that, as a profession, we have been doing a disservice to our clients and patients.  While we may be the world’s best at treating illness and injury, we need to do a better job focusing first on keeping our patients healthy through comprehensive programs of preventive care.  Part of that job is to explain to pet owners the value and importance of preventive care since our pets truly have become members of the family.  We love them and veterinarians need to do a better job of keeping them healthy.

We are starting to see this transition happen within the profession; ultimately, it is my hope veterinary medicine will go through the same kind of transformational change that we have seen in the dental profession. 30 years ago it was all about “drilling and filling.”  Today, clearly the emphasis is on preventive dentistry.

OCSA: When you were the Administrator for the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) you gained national prominence in 2003 & 2004 when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and H5N1 avian influenza were making national headlines.  In the United States, for the most part, we did not panic, how did you manage the publicity so effectively?

RD: With BSE, it starts with a good program and having appropriate safeguards in place to protect our public.  Because we did have a good program, the situation was really one of “crisis communication” more than crisis response. We also realized that we had to be consistent in our message and repeat it over and over.  My job was simply to calmly and openly acknowledge the concerns and then show that we had a sound, science-based plan in place to minimize the human health risk and to stop the disease from spreading within our cattle population.  Truly, the danger of driving to the store to buy the beef was far greater than the risk of eating it.  We knew that, but could not say so at the time.  I am proud of the fact that consumer confidence in the safety of US beef actually went up during this period.

For H5N1, it was a bit different.  We created the largest wildlife disease surveillance program this country has ever known for the purpose of ensuring that, if the disease ever did come to the US, we would have been able to quickly find it and quickly eliminate it.  And to this day, I think we could, and would, have done just that.  The frustrating thing was that the vast majority of emergency funding was going towards response to a potential outbreak in humans, rather than working to reduce the amount of disease in animals and thereby reduce the chances that it would spread to humans.  We continue to fight that same funding dilemma today with most zoonotic disease outbreaks – take Ebola, for example.  It is a disease that has it origin and reservoir in nonhuman primates, yet there is virtually no effort to eliminate the disease in them; rather, we wait to respond when it infects people.

OCSA: How does the AVMA interface with the Global Community?

RD: We collaborate with veterinary organizations around the globe, most notably the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (representing national veterinary organizations in 39 European countries) and through a group called the International Veterinary Officers Coalition representing the national veterinary organizations from the UK, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and of course, the US.  We share many of the same challenges with these organizations from antimicrobial resistant bacteria to animal welfare concerns. By working together we can more effectively advocate for consistent, science-based solutions. Additionally, a former AVMA President, Dr. René Carlson, is currently serving as the president of the World Veterinary Association and working to improve veterinary medicine in developing countries.  Similarly, I serve as chair of a working group on veterinary education for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that has, among other things, created some minimal global standards for veterinary education.

Our AVMA Council on Education (AVMA COE) is not only the accrediting body for veterinary colleges in the US and Canada, we are sought out by schools from around the world that want to attain this recognition.  Ultimately this effort is helping to raise the quality of veterinary care globally by promoting the high standards of education required to attain AVMA COE accreditation.

OCSA:  From your point of view, how can all of us participate in the “One Health Conversation”?

RD: Speaking for veterinarians, I can tell you that we “get it.” The challenge has been to get our human health colleagues and the public at large, to see and understand the inextricable link between human and animal health.  And it goes way beyond just the risk to people from zoonotic diseases.  One Health includes the BENEFIT people realize when they enjoy a strong bond with animals; the value of good nutrition from a safe, abundant, and affordable supply of animal protein; and much more.  And of course, OCSA has recognized this in the context of the amazing ability of dogs to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage in women.  Wow, that truly is “One Health.”

We need to use examples such as this to convey the importance of One Health to other health professions, the media, and the public at large.  Veterinarians, and the AVMA, need to do more in this regard.

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