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Making the world safe and secure from emerging infectious and neglected tropical diseases by applying One Health – the synergy of animal, human, and environmental sciences – to global health and security.

New Minds, New Ideas in One Health

Science and health are, by nature, collaborative professions.  Networking with fellow researchers, sharing findings, and keeping a pulse on the major trends and issues of your field is vital for students and young researchers.  The 65th James Steele Conference on Diseases in Nature Transmissible to Man met from May 20-22, 2015 in Galveston, Texas, USA. The Texas A&M One Health On-Campus Summer Research team, as well as other members of the Texas A&M University One Health Initiative, participated and attended.  To learn more about the On-Campus Research Program, visit tx.ag/KofLV4L.  Here, Michelle Yazdchi, a Texas A&M pharmacy student, and Amber Nava, a Texas A&M veterinary student, each share a student’s view of the Conference.

For Amber, the best session was the Ebola panel, where she “heard first hand from the entire team the work that had to go into getting Bentley [a dog quarantined in Dallas, Texas after possible exposure to Ebola virus; visit http://vetmed.tamu.edu/ebola-information for more details] back to his owner in a healthy condition and how each person played their own part in it. This was a true depiction of One Health and the joining of different professions, departments, and people who wanted to help and make a difference.”  Representatives from the Texas Animal Health Commission, CDC, Dallas Animal Services, Dean Eleanor M. Green of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), and the Texas A&M University CVM faculty who were the primary caretakers of Bentley, Dr. Wesley Bissett and Dr. Deborah Zoran.

As a pharmacy student, Michelle enjoyed the variety and scope of the talks at the Conference, especially those pertaining to the team’s research this summer given by Dr. Sarah Hamer, Dr. Carolyn Hodo, and Lisa Auckland. “This symposium served as an excellent preview to what we were going to learn even more about this summer in the One Health Summer Research Program.  This also clarified that what we were researching is relevant and important to the community today.”

Amber and Michelle shared more details about their experience below.

Q: What information did you bring back and hope to use in the future?

Michelle: “The lecture that will most impact my care of patients as a future pharmacist would be the topic that Dr. Sara Lawhon from TAMU-CVM presented “Antimicrobial Resistance in Staphylococcus pseudintermedius.”  As healthcare costs climb, a relatively simple clinical intervention for a patient with persistent staph infections would be to learn if the patient has canine pets since this microbial organism can be transmitted between species.  This cycle could have many implications in human healthcare: antimicrobial drug resistance, complications of secondary illnesses, rising healthcare costs, and loss of productivity (e.g., work days lost).”

Amber: “The James Steele Conference of Diseases in Nature Transmissible to Man was a perfect conference to attend before starting our One Health Summer Research Program because it innately included a One Health perspective. All the talks included different aspects of public health, veterinary medicine, human medicine, and what affects our society and ecosystem. I brought back with me this encouragement to continue to work to collaborate with my colleagues and strive to know more about my own profession and others. This conference also gave us great ways to approach our summer research and careers.”

Q: What was the most interesting or odd information you learned?

Michelle: “I learned so much about mathematical models of disease and how scientists can use these models to better define their own research, to use these models to free up research funding for other projects, and as tools for risk assessment in vector-borne disease. Scientists from the Texas Department of State Health Services and from the University of Texas at Austin developed a model to assess where in Texas two different species of mosquito will pose a significant threat for transmission of chikungunya virus.  As more information is provided to the model, the risk assessment becomes better defined like a camera coming into focus.”

Amber: “Dr. Kristy Murray (Baylor College of Medicine) gave a talk about their investigation into an unexplained kidney disease in young sugarcane workers in Nicaragua (“Investigation of an Outbreak of Unexplained Kidney Disease in Sugarcane Workers in Nicaragua”). I was astonished that such a debilitating and devastating disease (“chronic kidney disease”) existed and there was still so little known about the cause of the disease. The people involved in this research were among only a small group who were dedicating their time to find a cause for this unknown disease. It is amazing what research and the collaboration of people can do to change the lives of people.”

When asked if they would recommend other students attend this conference, both students enthusiastically agreed.  Michelle stated, “I would recommend this conference for other students from any of the One Health domains to attend the DIN symposium.  Over the two days I attended five sessions comprised of 17 presentations, and only one was indirectly related to human health.  All of the other presentations had possible implications to animal and human health.”  Amber said “I would definitely recommend other students to attend this conference. People from many backgrounds and many fields gave talks that included research any person from any profession could take part of. It was a great One Health event because we learned things on the spectrum of surveillance and control of mosquitoes to antimicrobial resistance of Staphylococcus pseudintermedius to foodborne parasites and so much more. We were lucky to attend this conference especially before starting our summer research because it gave us insight into the world of research. We are so thankful for everyone who made it possible for us to attend.”

Two additional presentations about programs in the Texas A&M University One Health Initiative were presented by Dr. Rosina C. Krecek (Interim Assistant Dean of One Health) at the Conference. These included two presentations (oral and poster) focused on the Nicaragua Summer Program “One Healthy Village at a Time: Improving Interdisciplinary Ecosystem Health in Nicaragua and Haiti” with pilot results from the 2014 visit and a medical team in Haiti in 2015, and an overview of the entire One Health program “Spreading the Message: Communicating the Texas A&M One Health Program”.  Several Texas A&M Student One Health Association members attended the conference.

Several members of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences also presented at the Conference.  A comprehensive list of presentations can be found here.

Acknowledgements: The students would like to thank Drs. Gabe and Sarah Hamer and Dr. Jeffery Musser for making it possible for them to attend the Conference.  The Hamer Lab hosted the students for this summer, and the Texas A&M University One Health Initiative Program awarded the research fellowships for the students.

Top photo: Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences faculty and student attendees to the DIN Conference. Photo by TE Krecek.

Bottom photo, left to right: Amber Nava, Chloe Goodwin, Dr. Jeffery Musser (DIN Organizing Committee), Nicole Bertolini, Dr. Carolyn Hodo

, Dr. Sarah Hamer, Lisa Auckland, and Michelle Yazdchi.