Veterinarians Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo and Tamara Vodovoz have different backgrounds and career goals. They share, however, a professional concern for protecting public health and food safety.
The Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine program (MPVM) is proving both veterinarians with tools needed to manage the health of animal populations. Their training will also enable them to develop strategies for the prevention and control of infectious diseases, including those that veterinarians may be the first to recognize as threats to public health.
Dr. Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo earned his veterinary degree in 1999 from the University of Zaragoza, Spain. After he took an MSc in veterinary aquaculture at Stirling University in Scotland, Dr. Beltran-Alcrudo worked two years for the British agricultural ministry. "I was involved in the control of the foot and mouth disease outbreak for six months," he recalls. He then joined in the eradication program of bovine tuberculosis, a disease transmissible from animals to humans, or zoonosis. "Bovine TB is the disease of greatest economic importance to the UK now, " Dr. Beltran-Alcrudo states, and control is difficult in part because cattle herds appear to be re-infected by diseased wildlife.
An ocean away, Dr. Tamara Vodovoz earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine at the Universidad de la Salle in Bogotá, Colombia, in 2001. "After graduation I joined El Centro de Primatología Araguatos, a Colombian primate research organization. I collaborated in field work to assess the health status of free-ranging howler monkeys and monkeys relocated from disturbed forests to a wildlife preserve." Dr. Vodovoz later joined the Wildlife Tracking Center at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for a research fellowship dedicated to wildlife reproductive issues. She completed an internship in zoological medicine and management at the Wildlife Safari Park in Oregon.
Dr. Beltran-Alcrudo is attending the School of Veterinary Medicine as a Fulbright scholar. Of his future plans, he says, "I am interested in zoonoses, emerging diseases and aquatic animal epidemiology. I would like to work for an organization such as the International Organization for Animal Health/OIE that is at the forefront of veterinary epidemiology where I can have a real impact on improving global health."
Dr. Vodovoz intends to join an international wildlife research organization and work toward improving wildlife conservation and health in tropical and highly biodiverse ecosystems.
MPVM training will prepare Drs. Beltran-Alcrudo and Vodovoz to promote veterinary public health as well as animal health and environmental health. "I have worked in research programs and felt that I needed better tools to perform scientific research," Dr. Vodovoz explains. "The MPVM course is a short program where you can acquire a broad range of scientific research skills applicable to many health fields."
In the program, these and other veterinarians are gaining experience with risk assessment models, information management and analysis, epidemiology, research methods, surveillance, biosecurity, disease investigation, and diagnostic strategies. Each MPVM student works with three advisers who oversee the specialized content, course planning, and quantitative skills training required to design and implement research projects.
Dr. Vodovoz's master's project concerns the testing of wild waterfowl for the presence of disease organisms that can threaten humans. "I began doing a surveillance study at a San Francisco Bay Area wildlife rehabilitation center. After testing more than 200 birds for West Nile virus over the summer in 2005, I found none positive. I found something else though—a severe hepatitis in green herons. I hope to evaluate these birds as environmental indicators for the health of wildlife and people, since we share most of our water sources in the Bay Area. Many emerging diseases jump from animals to humans when their environment is altered," she states. "Animals and people all need a healthy environment."
Drs. Beltran-Alcrudo and Vodovoz say that they may one day pursue doctoral training at UC Davis. For now, Dr. Beltran-Alcrudo reasons that the year-long MPVM degree provides a distinct advantage: "I will be able to apply my epidemiology training right away."
***Application deadlines for admission to the MPVM program for the academic year (which begins in early August) is March 1 for international applicants and April 1 for domestic students.