Heather Hergert, left, and Kate Stevens are the first veterinary students to be
awarded global animal health certificates. (Photo by Linda Weiford, WSU News)
PULLMAN, Wash. – Heather Hergert and Kate Stevens, both 26, will graduate from Washington State University on Saturday as first-evers. Besides earning doctorate diplomas from the College of Veterinary Medicine, they are the first students – perhaps anywhere – to receive certificates in global animal health.
The new certificate is awarded through the Paul G.
Allen School for Global Animal Health. (Photo by
Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services)
The certificate, awarded through the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, is the only one of that specialty offered in the United States and maybe worldwide, according to WSU veterinary scientist Gretchen Kaufman. She was hired in January to oversee the school’s certification program, started in 2011.
To earn the certificate, students must complete 15 credit hours of course work and a research project in addition to their veterinary medicine degree requirements.
“We’re creating a new crop of leaders to tackle some of the more complex and challenging health issues facing the world today, and Kate and Heather are leading the charge,” said Kaufman.
The extra training and education incorporate the growing interdisciplinary field known as “one health,” based on the premise that animal health, human health and environment are entwined.
West Nile virus, Lyme disease and black plague are examples of diseases that pass between animals and humans. A recent attention grabber is the mysterious H7N9 influenza in China that appears to have jumped from birds to people.
Whether in localities populated by deer mice in the western U.S., the live poultry markets of China or a family’s small goat farm in East Africa, “health is as much about the animals as it is the human population,” said Hergert, whose research project on salmonella-bearing water in Uganda last summer left her with a “sharper world view of the animal-human interface.”
Stevens’ research project landed her for five weeks in Tanzania, a country famous for its migratory herds of zebras and wildebeests. She studied the quality of antibiotics administered to agricultural animals, ultimately to help curb the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“To be able to conduct that kind of science in that part of the world – it was amazing in terms of what I learned about medicine, about research and about cultures,” she said.
Both women plan to take a short break before pursuing jobs in mixed-animal veterinary clinics. Both love four-legged creatures, large and small, they said. Stevens has a soft spot for horses; Hergert likes cows. Eventually, they hope their certificates will get them beyond vet clinic walls and back to faraway lands.
Considering that the planet’s 9 billion people are linked by economic trade and modern air travel, “we’re all in this together,” said Hergert.