May 29, 2012
While most Americans took the Memorial Day weekend to relax by the barbecue and remember military veterans, a small group of UC Davis veterinary students traveled to Sabana Grande, Nicaragua, on a One Health project with students from the School of Medicine. Their visit combines approaches from veterinary medicine and human health to address health needs of a poor rural community with limited access to medical care or veterinary services. The students and faculty mentor Cheryl Scott, who heads the School of Veterinary Medicine's Calvin Schwabe One Health Project, were invited to the country as part of an effort in the local community to identify and address health needs in the rural area, especially those that intersect with veterinary medicine.
Cheryl Scott, a veterinarian and registered nurse, leads the students for this service and training effort. She explains the project in the summary below:
We have been formally invited by the community of Sabana Grande, a rural, mountainous area in northern Nicaragua near the border of Honduras, and will be working in tandem with the MEDICOS, a team of students and faculty members of the UC Davis School of Medicine. We also have made firm contacts in the community, including village leader Susan Kinne. The community’s agricultural livelihood is threatened by a lack of consistent veterinary knowledge and expertise. We have the support of both veterinary schools in Managua and Leon, and we will be meeting with faculty and students of those schools once we arrive to establish partnerships.
Dr. Scott's summary of the project in Sabana Grande, Nicaragua:
One Health has become firmly entwined into the culture of the medical and social sciences here at UC Davis because of its interdiscipliary and collaborative nature. One Health assumes that humans, animals, and the ecosystem are inextricable linked in health and well-being. The School of Veterinary Medicine has incorporated this theme into much of its curriculum and research endeavors over the past decade. The development of this project has been in progress for about a year, starting with the Students for One Health organization in 2010. These scientists of the future see global public health evolving into something that should be embraced by many healthcare practitioners and become truly multidisciplinary. Because veterinarians can make a huge contribution to public health through their expertise in issues such as food safety, zoonotic disease education and eradication, wildlife health, ecosystem sustainability and -- of course -- animal health, this project will bring together students in medicine, veterinary medicine, nursing, engineering, public health and eventually law, economics, and the social sciences.
The School of Medicine's existing student exchange program, "MEDICOS," allows UC Davis medical students and UNAN Leon medical students to engage in professional and cultural competency development through hospital and clinical rotations in the respective countries.
The veterinary students join students from the UC Davis School of Medicine who are working in the community on an initiative called, "Improving Health Information Access and Sharing Among Field Workers and Providers Via Mobile Communications: A Needs Assessment."
(The community also supports a cooperative called The Solar Women of Totogalpa, which has ties to a UC Davis agricultural project initiated by the Program for International Energy Technologies to construct a solar fruit dryer in 2010. See a short video about the community here http://vimeo.com/40697553)
The Veterinary School'sTeam
• Fiona Whitton -- Interest in epidemiology primarily the zoonotic diseases that affect both humans and animals and focusing on ways in which to study, predict, and prevent these transmissions
• Rennie Putnam -- Experience in rural mixed animal populations with experience in both Nicaragua and New Zealand. His goals lie in providing health care practices to the animals of those populations of humans that rely on their animals for sustenance and quality of life.
• Jeanette Hendricks -- Interest in conservation medicine and vectorborne diseases, primarily those disease transmitted between domestic and non-domestic species. She has an ecology research background and a talent for teaching with plans to incorporate education into the lives and careers of students in Nicaragua.
• James Lui -- Focus on sustaining biodiversity of species as well as a huge passion for working with villages/communities and their interactions with the environment. His goals include contributing to the individuals of the community, to learn from them and to assist in carving out sustainable mechanisms for their lifestyles.
• Brooke Warner -- Focus on prevention and education. She sees that in remote communities without acess to veterinary care, the best way to provide care is through education, and the longest and deepest impact we could imagine comes with education, understanding and the capability to weave and provide healthcare into their lives.
• Haley McDermott -- For this student of the UC Davis Master of Public Health program, the focus is on health at the interface of the ecosystem and the lives that it supports. Research in water quality, wildlife health , lab animal medicine, and education lend experience to this project that aims to strengthen and connect health care in an impoverished community.
• Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cheryl Scott (http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/onehealth/people.cfm). I Initially trained as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner with international refuge healthcare experience in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. As a veterinarian, I have worked internationally in Africa on public health issues including vectorborne diseases and endangered wildlife issues. I currently hold both human (RN) and veterinary (DVM) licenses with a MS in epidemiology. I have more than 25 years of clinical and research experience.
Value of this Project
This project is not about going into a remote international location and dictating what should be done differently to improve the health of the community. Rather, this project intends to simply start with establishing rapport, gathering information and opinions, and observing and describing the community dynamics through a One Health lens. We feel strongly that once we establish a mutual trust, we can move forward in planning and implementing ideas that work for the whole village in addressing health issues that involve the link between the people in the community and their environment. The project is dedicated to sustainability and flexibility, so long-term plans include being open-minded, loyal, and inclusive. Our hope is that this clinic turns into one that truly embraces One Health; strives to incorporate many more scientists of diverse interests and expertise; and serves as a long-term venue for animal healthcare, human healthcare, ecosystem conservation and community richness.