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Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) Report 2014

Chapter 5: Veterinarian-Scientists

Veterinarians contribute to biomedical research through the application of their specialized training in animal biology and medicine to the modeling of human physiology and disease. The veterinary curriculum is analogous to medical school training but provides comparative overviews of normal anatomy/physiology and abnormal disease states, providing an excellent basis for biomedical disease inquiry. Veterinary contribution in clinical research can be extremely helpful in determining strengths and weaknesses in animal disease models, and thus inclusion of veterinarians on translational research teams can provide an invaluable dimension to pre-clinical studies.

Veterinarian-scientists have made important contributions to research in human diseases. For example, in 1991, Peter C. Doherty received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries concerning the specificity of the cell-mediated immune response in virus infections. James Thomson, a veterinary pathologist, derived the first human embryonic stem cell line in 1998. Veterinarians William Karesh and Jonna Mazet lead large, multi-disciplinary studies at the human-animal interface and wildlife health have been instrumental in elucidating the origins and potential 'hotspots' for emergence of MERS coronavirus, Avian Influenza, Ebola, and other emerging diseases. Work by veterinarian James Fox has advanced the field of infectious disease of the GI tract, including performing seminal studies on Campylobacter and Helicobacter pathophysiology.

The majority of diseases that occur in humans also occur spontaneously in animals.63 Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting humans are diseases of animal origin; approximately 60 percent of all human pathogens are zoonotic.64 Thus, a physician-scientist workforce that includes practitioners with broad understanding of animal anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and diseases is paramount for the advancement of many human biomedical health initiatives. Recognition of this is evident in the worldwide One Health initiative that is dedicated to improving the health of all species — human and animal — through the integration of human health care and veterinary medicine.


63 Zoonoses and communicable diseases common to man and animals, Vols I-III, (Third Edition). (2003). Acha, P.N. and B. Szyfres, eds., Scientific and Technical Publication No. 580. Washington, DC:Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, D.C.

64 U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention. (n.d.). Emerging and zoonotic diseases—at a glance. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/ncezid.