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Veterinary college named WHO collaborating center

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 07 - October 6, 1994

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine has been designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Veterinary Education in Management and Public Health. The college will work directly with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a regional office of WHO, in these activities.

"We are honored to be selected as a collaborating center by such prestigious organizations as WHO and PAHO," said Dean Peter Eyre. "But more than that, we are gratified by this opportunity to make an important contribution to public health in developing nations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The agreement, established in cooperation with Pan-American Health Organization and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, calls for the college to provide programmatic support in three specific areas intended to promote improved public health throughout the Americas.

Veterinary medicine has traditionally played an important role in public-health issues because of the role animals play in the transmission of diseases that also affect humans, according to Donald Cordes, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology who is director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Veterinary Education in Management and Public Health.

"One of the things that PAHO is very interested in doing is conducting training for veterinarians in Latin American countries," Cordes said.

Many of these developing nations need to develop better control programs for parasitic diseases transmitted from animals to people, diarrheal diseases affecting domestic livestock, and environmental pollution as it affects public health, he said.

PAHO is also interested in developing quantitative methods for objectively assessing conditions in some of these developing nations, Cordes said. Veterinarians in these countries need training in conducting epidemiological investigations and using computers to promote greater efficiency with their veterinary medical activities.

The VMRCVM will be required to create and develop specific programs to address these needs in order to fulfill its commitment as a WHO Collaborating Center.

First, the VMRCVM will bolster its training programs in veterinary public health. It will also create training programs for veterinarians in Latin America and the Caribbean nations to study veterinary management and administration in the VMRCVM.

Under a second major provision of the agreement, the VMRCVM will establish an Interamerican Products Pilot Information Network. Working with the Pan American Health Organization, college researchers produced a compendium of veterinary biologicals and pharmaceuticals used in countries throughout South, Central, and North America in the late 1980s.

That compendium has proven useful since food animals can be produced and consumed in countries with different regulations regarding the use of biologicals and pharmaceuticals. But keeping these data-bases current is a difficult challenge as regulations are changed in some countries and new drugs are created and introduced.

As a collaborating center, the VMRCVM will work with five or six countries in establishing a continuously updated information network that can be accessed through the InterNet.

As part of the third phase of the agreement, the VMRCVM will expand its training programs in veterinary informatics, a field which involves the use of information-management principles and computer technology to improve veterinary service, instruction and research. VMRCVM is one of the few veterinary colleges in the nation to offer M.S. and Ph.D programs in veterinary informatics.

Through this interdisciplinary program, veterinarians from throughout Pan-America will be trained in problem-solving techniques by accessing of medical information on national and international computer databases.

In addition to basic practice-management and business applications, computers are being used increasingly in such areas as computer-assisted diagnostics and case management.

The agreement between the WHO and the VMRCVM is for four years with review for continuation at the end of that period.