CAHFS’ Growing Global Reach
CAHFS geographical reach and influence has expanded greatly since its formation in 2001. And nowhere has CAHFS’ growing influence become more apparent than in its work as an OIE Collaborating Center for Capacity Building in Veterinary Services—a prestigious distinction that CAHFS has held since 2009. CAHFS is one of only six such centers worldwide, and it recently helped a veterinary public health center halfway around the world attain similar status.
In early August, following years of collaboration with Chiang Mai University, Dr. Scott Wells and Dr. Will Hueston traveled nearly 8,000 miles to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to help celebrate the Veterinary Public Health Center for Asia-Pacific’s newly attained status as Asia’s first OIE Collaborating Center for Capacity Building in Veterinary Services.
The acronym OIE stands for the World Organization for Animal Health, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to improving animal health worldwide. Currently, the OIE has 180 member countries, regional and sub-regional offices around the world, numerous OIE reference laboratories, and 50 OIE Collaborating Centers with a variety of focuses. It also serves as the global standard-setting organization for safe trade in animals and animal products for the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“The role OIE plays in fighting animal diseases at the global level and in creating global standards with the help of Collaborating Centers is critical to animal health and the good of society,” says Dr. Scott Wells, director of CAHFS and a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “It is also critical that veterinarians working with national authorities are trained at the level set by the OIE, so that they can protect animal health and safeguard public health at the international level and when necessary help to prevent trade issues.”
As a center of excellence and a reference to OIE, CAHFS trains veterinarians and others who work in government and non-governmental organizations.
“The capacity building work we do helps national veterinary services be more effective in preventing the spread of zoonotic diseases, which spread among animals and people, responding to catastrophic animal diseases, and anticipating emerging diseases,” says Dr. Will Hueston, former director of CAHFS and an emeritus professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
CAHFS has long worked to develop responses to disease outbreaks that minimize negative impacts on animals and people by focusing response on the animal movements most likely to spread disease. As an OIE Collaborating Center, CAHFS can now showcase this work at the global level, which can help reduce the knee-jerk reaction of some governments to implement trade bans on countries when and where a disease outbreak occurs.
The road to becoming an OIE Collaborating Center is a long one. In 2007, CAHFS applied for OIE Collaborating Center status with the endorsement and support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a process that took two years to complete.
CAHFS has worked with the Veterinary Public Health Center for Asia-Pacific at Chiang Mai University for more than six years to help position it for application to become a collaborating center. An OIE-sponsored veterinary education twinning project helped build the Minnesota-Chiang Mai partnership.
“We, along with Chiang Mai, evaluated the curriculum at both veterinary schools to strengthen alignment with OIE standards for day-one competencies for new veterinary graduates,” Wells says. “In doing so, we also expanded the ability of both universities to train post-graduate veterinarians working for government.”
The University of Minnesota also partnered with Chiang Mai University to establish the annual Global Health Institute in Thailand, an intensive two-week continuing education program, and co-created the International Masters in Public Health (MPH) program, a collaboration that enables post-graduate students to earn a MPH from both Chiang Mai University and the University of Minnesota through a combination of in-person and on-line courses.
OIE Collaborating Centers for Capacity Building in Veterinary Sciences
- St. Paul, Minnesota—Center for Animal Health and Food Safety
- Buenos Aires, Argentina—Centro Buenos Aires para la Capacitación de los Servicios Veterinarios
- Lyon, France—Ecole Nationale des Services Vétérinaires
- Teramo, Italy—Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Abruzzo e del Molise G. Caporale
- Dakar, Senegal—Ecole Inter-Etats des Sciences et Médecine Vétérinaires
- Chiang Mai, Thailand— Veterinary Public Health Center for Asia-Pacific
Story by Fran Howard