Public Health Doyen to Celebrate 100th Birthday



James H. Steele, DVM, MPH, a leading veterinary medical public health figure in the 20th and early 21st centuries, is celebrating his 100th birthday on April 3, 2013.  Indeed, many of the world’s notable public health figures will be celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of Dr. James H. Steele.  A two day program is scheduled at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, Texas (USA) April 2-3.  Keynote speaker will be Lonnie J. King, DVM, MS, MPA, Dean of the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.  Dr. King, a recognized giant in the One Health movement and public health communities, will present “Seeing Around Corners: A Century of One Health.”  King has served as director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center of Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases in Atlanta, GA and as a former dean of Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.  He also helped found the National Alliance for Food Safety and has authored more than 100 scientific publications.  Other celebratory activities are planned for the upcoming American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois July 19-23.  Steele was born in Chicago.


Among many of Dr. Steele’s public health achievements included his contribution to the One Health movement.  In 2007, at the age of 94, he was a co-author of “Confronting zoonoses through closer collaboration between medicine and veterinary medicine (as ‘One Medicine’)” in the Veterinaria Italiana journal  The senior author Laura H. Kahn, MD, MPH, MPP is a worldwide One Health leader and recognized expert on the subject.  Dr. Kahn is a physician and one of the founding members of the One Health Initiative Autonomous pro bono team.  Steele’s encyclopedic memory and knowledge of historic events and people of past decades was an invaluable resource for enhancing the accuracy and value of this article.


Among Steele’s numerous co-authored and co-edited book publications, will be the 3rd Edition of the authoritative text “Zoonotic Tuberculosis: Mycobacterium bovis and other pathogenic  mycobacteria by Charles O. Thoen, DVM, PhD, James H. Steele, DVM, MPH. and John B. Kaneene, DVM, PhD, in press this year (2013).  Mycobacterium bovis infection is an important global animal and public health problem.  Past book editions have become “the de facto standard resource for up-to-date information regarding this [zoonotic] disease.”  It will incorporate the visionary theme of One Health and utilization of One Health principles for prevention and control.  Dr. Thoen is also a prominent One Health leader, supporter and advocate  He is currently the President of the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society (AVES), founded by Steele in 1964.


The late public health intellectual giant, Calvin Schwabe, DVM, DSc coined the earlier term for One Health, i.e. “One Medicine” and originally championed the concept in the 20th century.  In addition to Dr. Schwabe, Dr. Steele was one of several dynamic, visionary public health veterinarians and physicians (several in both professions being unsung heroes as well as other health scientists), to help integrate ‘veterinary public health’ into the vocabulary of human health significance as it coincides with animal and environmental health.  Steele has been referred to by many as the “father of veterinary public health”—worldwide. 


Brief Biography: Dr. Steele received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (D.V.M.) from Michigan State College in 1941 and a Master’s of Public Health (M.P.H.) from Harvard University in 1942. He established the veterinary division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1947. Steele pioneered introduction of the principles of veterinary public health to the U.S. and countries around the globe. His outstanding achievements have helped save countless human and animal lives and have encouraged the world public health communities to realize higher standards of living through a better understanding of the epidemiology of infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans, i.e. zoonoses.  As a U.S. Public Health Service officer, Steele became the first Assistant Surgeon General for Veterinary Affairs and was later appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health & Human Services with the rank of Admiral (two stars).  He has received numerous awards over his distinguished career including the Surgeon General’s Medallion in 2006, presented by then Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, a physician.


Steele’s official biography is available entitled “One Man, One Medicine, One Health: The James H. Steele Story” by prominent veterinarian, Craig N. Carter, DVM, PhD  All proceeds of sales go to the Steele student endowments at the University of Texas School of Public Health. Drs. Steele and Carter are members of the One Health Initiative team’s Honorary Advisory Board