Should Medical Doctors and Veterinarians Take a Leaf Out of Each Others’ Textbooks? My thoughts on “One Medicine”

Have you ever wondered why it is that we have such a barrier between medical doctors and veterinarians? Is there something that one, or both parties are missing out on as a result of our societal preference of keeping these two professions so distinct?

Recently I’ve been getting very interested in something called One Medicine. This is a concept that can be traced back to the renowned 19th century German physician Rudolf Virchow, who suggested that there should be no dividing line between human and animal medicine. Later, in the 1960s, the epidemiologist Calvin Schwabe would go on to coin the term “One Medicine”, a movement from which he pushed for the importance of collaboration between human and veterinary medical professionals in the interest of addressing zoonotic disease concerns (with one contemporary example being Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, aka COVID-19). More recently, some readers might well be aware of one advocate in particular – Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, an orthopaedic-neuro veterinary surgeon made famous for his series “Supervet”.

I think all medical doctors reserve some interest about the veterinary sciences, by merit of our shared fascination with trying to work out how bodies work. I remember being friends with an exotic veterinary nurse during medical school, and it was endlessly fascinating to me to recognise all the contrasts and similarities between the biology of humans and cats, dogs, horses, seals, or whatever else they happened to be looking after that week. I also took great interest in reading about high profile collaborations between medical doctors and veterinarians, such as when a team of obstetricians from Bristol, UK travelled to their local zoo to perform a Caesarean delivery of a Western Lowland gorilla!

Now as a medical doctor working in the cutting edge of curriculum development, I find myself in a role where I am collaborating in a mixed human and veterinary medical team every day. It is without doubt broadening my perspective massively, and I cannot help but wonder about the ways in which modern healthcare systems could benefit from a closer relationship between these two distinct areas.

Tomorrow, I’m attending a One Medicine seminar hosted by the Humanimal Trust, an organisation founded by the supervet Professor Fitzpatrick himself. With speakers from a range of human and veterinary medical backgrounds, I am excited to expand my knowledge on this topic, and to see what the future might hold for medical doctors and veterinarians alike!

Picture credit: Austin Community College Vet Tech Program

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