Alma Piotrowicz was one of nine veterinary students attending this year's Veterinary Public Health Association masterclass. Here, she describes their experiences.
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What is the masterclass?
It's a chance for students with a particular interest in veterinary public health (VPH) to explore this field (VR, February 6, 2016, vol 178, p i-ii).
What did you do?
A great variety of activities. We carried out a mock APHA farm inspection. We learnt about the relevance of VPH in the feed chain when we visited a fallen stock yard and a pet food processing plant. We visited Health Protection Scotland and the Salmonella Reference Laboratory in Glasgow, where we found out about the direct interface between veterinary and human public health, and learned how this is communicated on a national and international scale. We also explored the more exotic side of VPH at Stirling's Blair Drummond Safari Park, and learnt about the relevance of VPH at Howietoun Fishery, and crocodile farming in a wild game tutorial at Edinburgh vet school.
Who organised it?
Noelia Yusta (University of Glasgow) and Cristina Soare (University of Edinburgh), who considered no question too stupid, so we quickly felt at ease enough to bring any topic into discussion.⇓
What were the benefits?
Being able to see rather than just being told about different areas of VPH made the experience instructive and fun. For example, even with the excitement of being so close to rhinos and lions, we could identify potential public health risks. As science students we rarely debate issues as we are generally told what facts we need to learn. Here, instead of furiously scribbling notes, we got a chance to think and discuss issues involving the food chain. We quickly became a closeknit team through our discussions on these topics and our joint adventures, such as using the zip-line in the playground at the safari park or joining our Scottish representatives on an educational whisky tour of Glasgow's and Edinburgh's pubs.
What about the future?
The experience certainly opened my eyes to the idea of working in VPH in the future. I know that VPH lectures may seem tiresome; for example, it can be hard to see the appeal when you have spent a Friday afternoon learning about hygiene regulations. However, VPH gives us the opportunity to improve human and animal health at a population level in a way that is collaborative across different disciplines.
VPH is also a changing field. Although some industries work with vets, vets often only have a part-time role, and in some cases there is no official vet involved at all. For instance, carcases arriving at fallen stock yards can be used to produce feed for zoo animals and hounds, despite often arriving with very little history. Shouldn't this raise concerns about disease transmission and antibiotic resistance?
VPH transcends occupational boundaries, ranging from crocodile farming to cheese production, to tracing disease outbreaks at laboratories, and probably will do so to an even greater extent in the future.