One Health with a Side of Fries
A few years ago, I was in the middle of the Scottish Highlands filming a TV commercial for the latest Whopper promotion for Burger King. This past summer, I was in eastern Africa teaching a course on communications in a One Health context. They may seem like two very different worlds, but my non-traditional journey to, and through, veterinary school, has actually been logical for my unique interests.
From communications to conservation
Prior to veterinary school, I worked in international advertising, enjoying a fast-paced career in Miami, Colorado, and London. Now, I am back in school at Tufts as a dual-degree student in the Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and Master’s in Public Health (MPH) programs, as well as a candidate for the International Veterinary Medicine (IVM) Post-Graduate Certificate. Needless to say, when people find out about my unique background, a common question is how I made the jump from getting people to eat cows to treating them?
I came to vet school with an interest to explore wildlife conservation and the connection with human health. My background in communications and strategic marketing has also fostered a strong interest in health communication and social marketing. The MPH program has been an ideal fit for me, allowing me to explore more human-centric models outside of the traditional DVM curriculum, as well as integrating communications into the health solution.
Teaching in eastern Africa
This past summer, I worked on the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats 2 (EPT2) One Health Workforce Project in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, teaching a course on Communications in a One Health context. Utilizing my background in advertising and marketing, and current focus in public health and veterinary medicine, I designed and taught the course to multidisciplinary health science students in eastern Africa. The course focused on utilizing traditional commercial marketing principles to be a more effective One Health practitioner, whether that means working in an interdisciplinary setting, or designing more strategic community level health interventions.
The students represented the spectrum of One Health professions– human medicine, veterinary medicine, nursing, environmental science, public health, civil engineering, and others. As part of the One Health Workforce Project, the students and I spent time in rural communities learning about the local health issues, designing potential interventions, and implementing them – all with hope of improving the health of the humans, animals and environment that occupy that community. By working in multidisciplinary teams representing various backgrounds – they truly practiced the One Health model.
Marketing for disease prevention
My goal was to get them thinking about how to engage with different audiences, and how to use some basic strategic marketing skills to design more effective health interventions. I was amazed how quickly the students put the learnings into practice – using their new skills to think more strategically about intervention design and community leader presentations.
As hard science students, “soft skills” like communication are usually not a top priority. But, when you are designing an intervention to combat the latest zoonotic infectious disease outbreak, or trying to promote best practices for conservation of an endangered species, all the best research and knowledge can go to waste if it is not effectively tailored to the specific audience.
As a veterinary and public health professional, I am working to facilitate improved health for humans, animals and the environment. Marketing and communications is a key piece of that for me.
Finding a niche
Being in the DVM / MPH program has allowed me to explore my diverse interests, and the IVM program has allowed me to apply them in a global context. It has opened my eyes to the diverse applications of the DVM degree and helped me develop my unique niche in the world of veterinary medicine.
May 22, 2017
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