Human, Veterinary Doctors Establish Partnership Under “One Medicine” Concept

Human and veterinary doctors will work together on issues affecting the health of pets, people, and the environment as a result of a partnership between the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) announced on July 16, 2007.

Roger Mahr, past-president of the AVMA, joined Ronald Davis, MD, president-elect of the AMA, to announce the collaboration during the AVMA’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

The partnership epitomizes goals set forth by Mahr’s “One Health” initiative, which he outlined when he was sworn in as president a year ago this month. “The veterinary profession is responsible for taking the lead for the One Health initiative,” Mahr told a group of journalists on July 16, 2007. “No other profession has as much impact on both animals and people.”

Davis, who participated in several “One Health” sessions at the conference, added “We will work together to promote the health of all those who inhabit the earth.” The AMA House of Delegates approved the collaboration June 25, 2007, during its annual meeting in Chicago.

As a physician, Davis said he looks forward to working with veterinarians on several issues that affect people, pets, and the environment. He pointed to secondhand smoke and obesity as two examples where doctors can effect positive change in people that in turn affects the health of their pets.

Ongoing AMA research, cited in a USA Today article, shows that 3,300 survey respondents who smoke would stop smoking inside their homes if they knew their actions hurt their pets. In fact, studies show that dogs living in smokers’ homes have a higher risk of developing lung and nasal cancer while cats are more likely to get feline lymphoma.

The AMA survey, conducted through pet stores, showed that 64 percent of smokers – half of whom smoke in the house – would change their habits or try to get a family member to do so if they knew it was adversely affecting their pets, Davis said. “Some people connect more closely, more intimately with their pets, and that may be the final motivating factor to make them quit [smoking],” he said.

In addition to the new DVM-MD partnership, the AVMA appointed members of the One Health task force, which comprises professionals from academia, government, industry, and private practice, as well as two students from human and veterinary medicine colleges. Mahr hopes the task force’s work will be used as a national One Health action plan.

"My vision was to bring together animal health, human health, and ecosystem health,” Mahr said. And although the 13-member task force has identified challenges and barriers to achieving that goal, Mahr ends his yearlong presidency by taking a first step toward achieving that vision.