Penn Vet Researchers Advance One Health Concepts in Education

Drs. Stephen Cole and Shelley Rankin, two researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, are promoting One Health concepts by developing two case studies for use in health education.

Left to right: Drs. Shelley Rankin and Stephen Cole are promoting One Health concepts by developing two case studies for use in health education.

University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

Stephen Cole, VMD, and Shelley Rankin, BSc, Ph.D., two researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet), are advancing the One Health concepts by developing two case studies for use in health education. One Health is the idea that the health and wellbeing of humans, animals and the environment are interconnected.

“In the veterinary field we talk about One Health almost every single day, but there are few people in the medical profession who actually understand what that means,” said Dr. Rankin, an associate professor of microbiology. “With these case studies, we can really demonstrate why One Health is a meaningful concept for clinicians across fields.”

In medical training, a case study approach to learning asks students to imagine that they are already practicing professionals and walk through how they would handle a challenging scenario, Penn Vet noted.

Dr. Cole, a postdoctoral fellow, felt that students could benefit from more exposure to case studies in their education as a chance to truly engage with the material they learn in lectures.

“I wanted to put together case studies to make the material more tangible and really bring the One Health concept to life,” he said.

Last year, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), together with the Association for Prevention, Teaching and Research and the Healthy People Curriculum Task Force put out a call for such case studies as part of their One Health Interprofessional Education Initiative, which aims to increase collaboration across health professions.

Cole and Rankin submitted four case studies and had two accepted for further development, and the scientists were named One Health Scholars. Cole presented the case studies at the AAVMC conference in Washington, D.C., in March. Those cases, along with 13 others, are available on the AAVMC website for use by instructors in a variety of health professions.

The interactive nature of case studies allows students to confront and explore challenges that could arise in practice that they might not otherwise encounter in the classroom, according to Rankin and Cole. And using an interprofessional approach allows them to appreciate the limitations and obstacles that other professionals may face.

“It raises the idea that we need to come up with different channels of communication between health professions so we can protect the health of an entire household or an entire community as opposed to animals and people as completely separate entities,” Cole said.

Rankin and Cole hope to eventually feature the case studies — their own as well as the others selected by the AAVMC — in a new course offering at Penn, one that may be open to both veterinary and medical students.

“Often times in the various health professions we’re all talking in our own boxes,” Rankin said. “We’re trying to coax people out of their separate boxes to come together to take on health challenges. We’re stronger together.”

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