The Importance of Veterinarians to Human Health
Joann M. Lindenmayer, DVM, MPH, is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Population Health at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Her research interests include public health surveillance, animal sentinels for infectious diseases and environmental contaminants, and, her current passion, the integration of veterinarians into the public health system. She wants to discover how the human and animal health communities can work together more efficiently for the health of all, including that of the environment.
Lindenmayer earned her DVM in 1985 from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine (as it was known then) and her MPH from Harvard University in 1988. She completed postgraduate fellowships at the Massachusetts Health Research Institute and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lindenmayer was a clinical assistant professor at the Cummings School from 1991 to 2005, and was an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health at Brown Medical School (Providence, Rhode Island) from 1994 to 2005.
Past Tufts president Jean Mayer’s innovative vision of “one medicine” is integral to Lindenmayer’s work. “As veterinarians we tend to work cross-species, so the idea of comparative medicine is something that’s ours,” says Lindenmayer. “Including humans in that whole focus of health is certainly a natural for us.” “One health” is a broadening of Mayer’s one medicine concept. Lindenmayer believes that Tufts, with all its schools, is ideally situated to promote the concept of the interconnected health of the world and its inhabitants. “I think we could easily take a leadership role in one health,” remarks Lindenmayer. “Not only to help define what it is but also to ask, What does ‘one health’ mean for education?”
Lindenmayer is promoting the concept of one health through her work on the University Seminar program. She is working with Gretchen Kaufman, J. Michael Reed, and Elena Naumova on the fall 2008 seminar entitled “One Health: Interdisciplinary Approaches to People, Animals and the Environment.” In its inaugural year, this University Seminar is a team-taught class that gathers students and faculty from multiple schools to approach a major problem from various disciplines. “I think this is a metaphor for the kind of work that I like to do, which is break down barriers,” says Lindenmayer. “I like to tinker at the margins and do more global kinds of efforts.”
One health is also a focus of her work as a liaison to the School of Medicine for the Cummings School’s combined Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Master of Public Health (DVM/MPH) program. She advises not only students in this program but all students interested in the population health of animals and people. Lindenmayer believes lessons learned through the University Seminar program will enrich not only the DVM/MPH program but all cross-school interactions. She is especially interested in learning how to facilitate such interactions. A two-year appointment as a faculty fellow at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service provides Lindenmayer with partial support for her efforts to raise awareness of the veterinarian’s role in community leadership and public health.
Lindenmayer believes that adoption of the concept of one health will make the provision of animal and human health care more equitable and efficient. Many animals are vaccinated not only to prevent disease within the animal population but also to prevent disease from spreading to humans. “So should we not look at this as a public good?” asks Lindenmayer. “If we were to divide it up by the amount of benefit, then the public health sector would be funding part of it.”
A Rockefeller Foundation grant is providing support for a study that will assess the need for advanced education and training in veterinary public health and the management of infectious disease. Lindenmayer is principal investigator on this project, which will use Indonesia as a test location and avian influenza as a test infectious disease. The project’s aims include looking at whether Indonesian veterinarians need advanced training in veterinary public health, whether there is a measurable relation between such training and the success of efforts to prevent and control communicable diseases, and the degree to which veterinary and human health professionals interact and collaborate nationally, regionally, and locally. The Lindenmayer group will also look at the feasibility of using the Tufts University Sciences Knowledgebase (TUSK) to increase connectivity among Indonesian veterinary schools.
Lindenmayer would like to collaborate with Tufts faculty interested in further reducing the barriers between schools and campuses. She would like to work with an economist on agriculture and development economics, on public and private goods analyses, and on efficiencies of scale when combining animal and human health care. “For us in our Department of Environmental and Population Health, the folks at Fletcher and the folks at Friedman are natural collaborators,” says Lindenmayer. “One of the barriers has been that we don’t have a good way to collaborate across campuses—it’s involved a lot of travel. I think the University Seminar will take us a long way towards breaking those logistical barriers.”
For more information on Lindenmayer, please go to http://www.tufts.edu/vet/facpages/lindenmayer_j.html.
For more information on the University Seminar, please click http://provost.tufts.edu/1172048132183/Provost-Page-prov2w_1174562916192.html.