Rutgers University Hosts Regional One Health Consortium Conference

Rutgers University

Rutgers Office for Research brought together scientists and experts to form relationships and collaborate on efforts to improve issues affecting the interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the environment

A group of scientists, experts, and representatives from New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia convened for a mid-Atlantic Regional One Health Consortium Conference at Rutgers University last Friday.

In-person and virtual participants shared data and knowledge regarding ongoing efforts in their states on issues related to the health of humans, animals, and the environment. Topics included ticks and tick-borne diseases, zoonotic diseases, wildlife diseases, wildlife mortality, coordinated responses to avian influenza, the management and impact of mosquitoes, rabies, climate change, nutrition, and sustainability on all living organisms and our shared environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines One Health as a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach – working at the local, regional, national, and global levels – with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes by recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.

The event was hosted by Gloria Bachmann, MD, MMS, associate dean for women’s health and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, co-chair of the New Jersey One Health Steering Committee, and core faculty member of the Rutgers Global Health Institute, and by Michael E. Zwick, PhD, senior vice president for research at Rutgers University.

“It is great to have so many representatives of One Health together talking about the importance of an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to understanding and solving today’s problems,” said Bachmann, who moderated the day’s event together with Amy Papi, co-chair of the New Jersey One Health Steering Committee and volunteer at the Women’s Health Institute. Doug Reilly, DVM, public health veterinarian at the Delaware Department of Public Health, and the Delaware One Health Steering Committee Chair also was part of the planning team.

“With the passage of Bills S347 and A1992 signed by Governor Phil Murphy in June 2021, we in New Jersey have legislated the New Jersey One Health Task Force and are leading the way in bringing awareness about the welfare of our state regarding people, pets, wildlife, and the environment with a comprehensive approach. Educating that human health is connected to the health of animals and the environment is necessary for lasting wellness as we learn from scientists, health professionals, public leaders, and researchers,” said Papi. “The importance of the One Health Regional Consortium is to learn and work towards protecting our world and how we can improve our quality of life.”

“COVID-19, health disparities, monkeypox, nutrition, climate change, agriculture, all have to do with One Health. We at universities must create working teams and partnerships to address these large and complex problems,” said Zwick. He encouraged participants to network and engage with one another and build relationships, a theme echoed throughout many conference presentations.

Cheryl Stroud, DVM, PhD, executive director, One Health Commission, and keynote speaker, spoke about the importance of building relationships.

“In today’s world, no one profession or discipline can know everything. We must go out of our comfort zones and take the initiative to make sure we are connected with people in other fields. We must build relationships across the silos that our systems have forced us into, across disciplines so that during an emerging health crisis, we already have in place professional working relationships. As is often said, during a health crisis is a really bad time for health professionals and local government officials to be exchanging business cards for the first time when they need to be working hand in hand,” said Stroud.

In her presentation, Stroud gave a high-level overview of the history of the One Health movement. She spoke about the work that is being done on an international level in terms of the One Health movement, meetings, and summits, and applauded New Jersey for its efforts in establishing a One Health Task Force.

She closed by saying, “We need to integrate One Health into academics, research, faculty, government, and politics, and incorporate One Health thinking into everything we do. We must pool our knowledge and resources together. One Health is a new professional imperative for those of us who understand how urgent it is to adopt this One Health approach. There are so many arenas that are begging us to share interdisciplinary knowledge and resources to combat the problems of our world.”

Dina Fonseca, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers University and a member of the New Jersey One Health Steering Committee, presented the “The NJ Tick Problem” and asked participants in New Jersey to send in their tick samples as part of an ongoing effort called NJTicks4Science that her lab is working on. Joshua W. Miller, professor and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, presented on “One Health – A ‘One Nutrition’ Perspective.”

Virtual speakers from the One Health Conference
Top right: Cindy P. Driscoll, DVM, state fish and wildlife veterinarian at the Department of Natural Resources in Maryland and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Maryland College Park, top left: Doug Reilly, DVM, public health veterinarian at the Delaware Department of Public Health, and the Delaware One Health Steering Committee Chair, bottom left: Stephanie Ringler, DVM, MPH, Veterinary Medical Officer at USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and bottom right: Ashley Kennedy, PhD, BCE, a tick biologist at the State of Delaware.

Cindy P. Driscoll, DVM, state fish and wildlife veterinarian at the Department of Natural Resources in Maryland and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Maryland College Park, spoke about various diseases she encounters, such as avian influenza, and investigations she leads related to animal mortality.

James Holt, VDM, a veterinarian at Brandywine Veterinary Services and chairman of the Pennsylvania One Health Task Force, discussed his work combating rabies in Pennsylvania and encouraged the participants to find ways to think outside of the box when coming up with solutions.

Brint Spencer, director of the Brandywine Zoo in Delaware, talked about a coordinated response between various zoos when faced with an unexpected avian influenza outbreak.

Ashley Kennedy, PhD, BCE, a tick biologist at the State of Delaware, shared her office’s coordinated response to ticks in Delaware and thanked Dina Fonseca and her colleagues for their help in identifying a new species of tick that was discovered recently in the state.

Tom Moran, from the State of Delaware, spoke about novel approaches to manage and control mosquitoes and ticks in the state.

Stephanie Ringler, DVM, MPH, veterinary medical officer at USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), spoke on behalf of the State of West Virginia about an event she helped coordinate to bring state and federal government members together to talk about issues affecting their region and how they could work together to learn more about zoonotic diseases.

And Doug Riley ended the day of presentations by encouraging participants to think about ways they can take the first step to bridge connections with one another and continue the work of the One Health initiative.

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