STILLWATER — Whatever the future brings for veterinary medicine, Jean Sander, dean of the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, hopes to prepare for it now.
Sander said she plans to bring together a group of legislators, faculty members, animal owners and others next year to discuss where the profession will be 20 years from now and how the center can best prepare its students to work in the industry in the future.
“We need to be training for the future rather than the past,” she said.
One of the challenges the center needs to face in the coming decades is how to educate people on the importance of veterinary care.
Now that veterinary medicine is available online, she said, many pet owners simply buy their own medicine without seeing a veterinarian. That means veterinarians can’t identify problems and correct them before they become significant, meaning pets suffer in the long run, she said.
In 20 years, Sander said, she expects the role of the center, and of veterinary medicine as a whole, to grow in other areas, including food security and human medicine.
Although they don’t work directly with human patients, veterinary scientists have a critical role to play in human medicine, Sander said. Globally, about 75 percent of the diseases that infect humans come from animals, she said, including SARS and Ebola which are more common in developing regions.
Much of the research done in veterinary science eventually finds its way into human medicine, Sander said. For example, a vaccine to prevent against human papilloma virus, a contributing factor in cervical cancer, has only become available relatively recently.
“We’ve had that in veterinary medicine for decades,” she said.
Veterinary science is also a key player in food security, she said, because many deadly pathogens like salmonella and E. coli are foodborne microorganisms.
In the decades to come, she hopes to see greater collaboration between veterinary and human medicine. As grant funding becomes harder to secure, she said, it’s important that both sides make the best use of all resources that are available to them.
“We need to be more creative in how we collaborate,” she said.