One world, one health and one COPH doctoral student

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Venita Ramirez is a USF College of Public Health (COPH) doctoral student studying advanced practice leadership in public health.

She’s also a public health consultant at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, a consulting, research and educational organization for the U.S. Air Force that’s located in Ohio. Ramirez helps public health personnel stationed at Air Force installations around the world investigate disease outbreaks and clarify public health policy.

Ramirez recently returned from Bangkok, where she took part in an initial planning conference with Thai military personnel. The group worked on developing an early-warning system for pandemics and disease surveillance.

“We don’t necessarily want to standardize every single practice,” Ramirez commented. “But we want to have systems and policies that are standard enough that we can all be on the same page.” She and her team hope to eventually expand beyond Thailand and include military agencies across Asia.

Venita Ramirez (right hand side, second from bottom) and colleagues discuss disease surveillance with Thai military personnel. (Photo courtesy of Ramirez)

Ramirez and her colleagues will be using the “One Health” concept to fight diseases around Asia and the world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), One Health is an approach that recognizes that human health is connected to the health of animals and the environment. Consider the impact of salmonella infection, rabies and the West Nile virus on human health. One Health is a collaborative endeavor that brings together physicians, veterinarians, ecologists and public health professionals to learn about and control the spread of diseases.

“When it comes to public health issues, it’s best to work together and not in a silo,” said Ramirez. “We have a transient society, and outbreaks don’t just stay within one area. Even if we’re not sharing all the details [some information may be withheld for national security reasons], at least if we have open communication and can see what’s going on with different control and outbreak measures, we can have an effect on slowing disease progression.”

Ramirez shows her Bull pride in downtown Bangkok. (Photo courtesy of Ramirez)

While the One Health initiative is in its infancy stages, Ramirez hopes it will be fully embraced by global health agencies around the world in the next few years.

“Right now we’re working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN], which consists of 10 Asian nations, to develop points of contact and agencies we can work with on this initiative,” said Ramirez. “There is definitely a need for an international and interdisciplinary harmonization of systems.”

On June 17, Venita Ramirez presented a flag to the USF COPH that was flown on its behalf in Afghanistan. (Video courtesy of Peggy Smith)

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health