On a chalkboard down the hall from Michael Chaddock’s office at Texas A&M University, it says, “The answer to my problem may lie in your toolbox.”
Chaddock says he’s not sure who wrote it – “probably one of the graduate students or researchers,” he guesses – but he says it sums up the whole idea behind “One Health,” a growing movement at Texas A&M that strives to unite the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment using transdisciplinary research, education and outreach.
“I walk by and read that every day, and it reminds me how we must all come together if we’re going to solve society’s greatest problems,” says Chaddock, assistant dean for One Health and Strategic Initiatives within Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Whether it’s global food security, climate change, infectious diseases or the availability of clean water, it’s going to take people from every area of study to tackle these issues.”
This spirit of collaboration is driving the One Health movement forward at Texas A&M, where students and faculty from every discipline – from engineering and science, to business, liberal arts and medicine – are being encouraged to join forces to achieve optimal health globally for all residents of planet Earth.
“One Health approaches problems as challenges, breaking down each aspect and approaching them from multiple disciplines,” says Samantha Darling, a junior psychology major.
The American Humane Association and Texas A&M assembled a multidisciplinary team of students including Darling and six others representing various colleges including Veterinary Medicine, Mays Business School, Medicine, Liberal Arts and Agriculture & Life Sciences.
Joining Darling in the study is Sarah Shaffell, who graduated this month with her bachelor’s in finance from Mays Business School.
“My role in the study is to develop a business plan that will be presented to possible donors, funders and foundations,” she explains. “This plan will list our short- and long-term strategies and will provide a marketing plan and the research papers written by other members in their respective fields. My business perspective applies greatly to this issue because it allows the team to present our findings in a condensed, informative and marketable manner.”
Shaffell says her project participation showed her the value of interdisciplinary research teams.
“I’ve been able to see how people from other fields approach a problem − say from the medical or veterinary side − versus how I might with a business background,” she says. “I believe this approach is important because it allows everyone to keep an open mind and facilitates a positive environment for sharing ideas and continuous learning.”
Chaddock says the future looks bright for the One Health initiative at Texas A&M with plans in the works to offer a certificate in One Health. This would allow students of all majors to learn how to use their talents and perspectives to contribute to a healthy planet for everyone. He says the program will continue to facilitate transdisciplinary collaborations, and “our goal down the road is to offer a master’s in One Health,” he adds.
Darling and Shaffell both say they’ll take the One Health philosophy with them into their future careers by focusing on collaboration with those outside their field and by remembering that humans, animals, plants and the environment are interconnected and depend upon one another for survival.
“One Health is more than just collaborative effort to enhance the wellness of humans, animals and the environment − it is a way of thinking and living,” Darling concludes. “It is the start to a great and innovative future.”
Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by the Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M University.