IVM in Action

IVM in Action

Imagine a newly-minted veterinarian sauntering into a 19th-century Parisian building, home of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Headquarters, ready to take on the world. Nervous and excited, I began a 3-month foray into international veterinary medicine (IVM) at the heart of one of IVM’s major governing bodies.

Paris, France was a far cry from Grafton, Massachusetts where I had spent the preceding 4 years shoulder deep in vet school. While studying for my DVM, I simultaneously took advantage of the Post Graduate Certificate in IVM; an experience that gave me several opportunities to participate in IVM in the field. At OEI, I was ready to put that knowledge and experience into action.

A focus on rabies

Rabies became my forte. I helped develop an e-learning module to assist veterinary medical officers around the world interpret and implement the OIE standards relevant to rabies. I created scenarios such as, what happens when an unvaccinated dog is transported into a rabies-free country, and starts showing neurological signs upon arrival? This was International Veterinary Medicine in action.

My biggest responsibility was assembling and interpreting data on rabies from European Member Countries in preparation for the Regional Commission meeting in Lisbon. Each Member Country submitted a questionnaire summarizing historical, current, and projected data on human, canine, and wildlife rabies cases. The leading scientists in rabies drew conclusions from the data and made recommendations for change. IVM in action.

An intern from the Netherlands does work in the Salon Ramon of the OIE.

An intern from the Netherlands does work in the Salon Ramon of the OIE.

Heated discussions and compromise

In addition to my work on rabies, I also gained some experience in other diseases of international importance, such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Classical Swine Fever (CSF). My introduction to the OIE and international animal health policy came in the form of a 3-day FMD ad hoc group meeting comprised of the world’s leading experts in FMD. The experts discussed and debated policy issues relating to FMD outbreaks and how they may affect international trade. They deliberated over scenarios such as, what happens if an FMD-free country experiences an outbreak and successfully contains and eradicates it? Does the status of the country change? The discussions were heated and compromises were reached. Again, IVM in action.


Carla (center) with the OIE interns at Parc Monceau

Girl Bosses

The best part of the internship was being surrounded by colleagues and role models who had a similar drive for international work and global change. The interns came from all corners of the earth, including Chile, Portugal, the Netherlands, Australia, and South Korea. We bonded over yoga sessions in the main parlor, picnic lunches in Parc Monceau, and excursions along the Seine. We called ourselves ‘Girl Bosses’. This was International Veterinary Medicine in action.

I learned a great deal about diplomacy. Working through a problem and towards a solution across cultural boundaries can be challenging. The important thing to remember is that we are all on the same side, working to improve the world using the tools at hand. By gaining a better understanding of the epidemiology of a disease such as rabies, how it behaves and how it survives, we can better understand how to stop it. This is IVM