“I graduated from Tufts University in 2016 with a Bachelor’s of Science dual degree in Biology and Public Health. While at Tufts, I was the founder and director of “Tufts One Health” – a cross-university initiative working to integrate the disciplines of human, animal and environmental health. Before returning to graduate studies, I served as the Assistant Program Director at the International Society for Infectious Diseases, establishing our health innovations program, upgrading our infection prevention and control resources and conducting research with ProMED-mail.
A One Health education is necessary for our changing environment and allows professionals to develop interventions that address the underlying cause of morbidity and mortality; effectively use limited resources and protect the health of all species.
The MSc One Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is unique in that it enables students to interact with all fields of public health, human medicine, veterinary medicine and environmental health. As a student, you begin to understand pressing global health challenges from multiple perspectives and develop solutions that address and overcome unforeseen obstacles.
The size of the program varies from year to year. In my cohort, there were 17 students enrolled. The degree has gained popularity, attracting students from all over the globe. We had students from Greece, South Korea, Chile, Canada, the United States, the UK, and Peru, just to highlight a few. Students represent a diverse mix of backgrounds with certified/practising veterinarians; public health professionals; and those with training in public policy, biology, animal behaviour, and emergency medicine.
Over the year, I found myself learning as much from my fellow course mates as I did from the professors. We had incredibly interesting discussions and I constantly encountered new perspectives that helped me think outside of my “traditional” human health focused background. This was coupled with fantastic guest lecturers, who are brought in to teach specialised topics. I was truly amazed by the calibre of teaching. We reviewed research that was just about to be published, debated issues with WHO representatives, and heard first-hand stories about what it is like to promote the One Health agenda on a global scale. This is truly a strong point of the programme.
The animal health aspect was represented significantly. Part of this stems from veterinary medicine championing the cause of One Health, and also because we had seven veterinarians in the program. I was the only human health-oriented individual in our cohort, but I considered this an advantage because I was introduced to an entirely new way of thinking, while at the same time contributing the human health perspective to conversations. The overall focus happened to fall towards the animal side, but that probably depends on the makeup of the course from year to year.
In terms of resources, time is split pretty evenly between LSHTM and RVC. The first term is spent almost entirely at RVC, with once a week Friday sessions as LSHTM alongside students in other programs. The spring term is spent mostly at LSHTM, with one or two sessions each week at RVC. The vast majority of the modules are pre-set. Students have the option to select one module – given the choice of four options. MSc One Health students are at no disadvantage when compared with their peers who are solely enrolled at LSHTM. They are considered equal in all regards.
At the end of the program, students have about four months to complete a research project. Students are free, and highly encouraged, to choose a One Health topic of great interest to them. International travel is considered normal and recommended given the global nature of One Health. For my project, I spent seven weeks in Uganda where I studied the quality of antimicrobial drugs sold in human and animal drug shops. For other projects, a classmate was working to collect mosquitos in Greece to map the distribution of vector-borne diseases; another travelled to Vietnam to work with the WHO as they developed a survey to assess the severity of antimicrobial resistance; while a third conducted rabies research in Senegal.
There are clear guidelines published concerning the scope of the research and what is expected. Administrators are there to help students throughout the process – identifying topics of interest, establishing connections with potential researchers, securing additional funding, coordinating field data collection logistics and assisting with report write-ups/statistical analysis. Additionally, there is a small fund allocated to each student depending on the extent of their research.
Overall, the dual degree is a fantastic way to approach the topic of One Health. I have an entirely new set of skills that will benefit me in my future career as a physician. Everything from economic analysis to risk assessments, it is all here in this program.”
If you’d like to find out more about studying the MSc One Health: ecosystems, humans and animals, visit our website.