Dean Emeritus of Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine Comments on Comparative Medicine’s Problematic Implementation in Veterinary Medical Education


In an October 30, 2008 letter to Dr. Michael Chaddock, Deputy Director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C., Dr. J. Thomas Vaughan reflected upon the historical aspects of comparative medicine vis-à-vis 19th and 20th century acceptance of the “One Medicine” concept (known commonly today as One Health).  Dr. Vaughan expressed concerns about the educational implementation methodologies in vogue today.  Vaughan also cited an alarming potential problem where the public health community, while ostensibly urging veterinarians to enter public health practice, fails to provide sufficient opportunities for young aspiring, qualified DVMs/VMDs with MPH degrees.


The letter said:


“Reading the history of medicine since the Renaissance, one must resist the impression that our profession does not emphasize comparative medicine today as much as was the case in the 19th and 20th centuries.  During the era of what has been called the veterinary physicians, men like John Hunter and his protégé Edward Jenner, Claude Bernard, Louis Pasteur, Rudolph Virchow, Robert Koch, Daniel E. Salmon, Theobald Smith, Fred Kilbourne, Cooper Curtice, William Osler, and John McFaydean revolutionized medicine for humans and animals alike.  They did this under the banner of one medicine, and condescension toward animal medicine apparently was not an obstacle, at least not insuperable.


A part of the problem, now into the 21st century, may be attributed to the rapid growth of the clinical and species specialties in veterinary medicine since 1951.  Comparative medicine has been largely relegated to laboratory animal medicine, preventive medicine (the specialty), and basic scientists conducting research on human health problems, leaving a large part of the profession uninterested and uninvolved in comparative medicine.  Add to that the failure of the public health community to create opportunities for veterinarians who could be recruited for this service, case in point, Dr. Heather Henderson who has tried earnestly for several years to secure a fellowship (post-MPH) in the epidemiology training program at CDC, (JAVMA, Sept. 15, 2008, pp 865-66).  Three of her colleagues in the United States Public Health Service and I have supported her efforts, thus far in vain.  What she says in her letter to the editor is, I believe, a representative sample of a problem that the profession has either ignored or not resolved.  Conclusions drawn on anecdotal evidence are apt to be flawed, but such reports can be early warning signs and do warrant investigation.


We in veterinary medical education give much lip service to lofty goals that go unmet for lack of implementation.”


Permission to reprint this excerpted portion of the letter was granted by Drs. Chaddock and Vaughan.