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Program inspires exchanges at the borders ... of communities and professions

One healthSince 2009, a partnership between Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC) and the Cayuga Medical Center has ensured that WCMC medical students have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with community and rural medicine by completing a six-week primary care rotation in Ithaca. This year, faculty and students at the College of Veterinary Medicine helped to expand the initiative, now giving participants the opportunity to also look at issues from a One Health perspective.

“The One Health initiative recognizes that the health of our planet and the species that inhabit it is a tightly woven fabric that depends upon the stability of every thread in the fabric: humans, animals, and the environment,” said Dr. Kelly Hume, a veterinary oncologist who helps to organize the sessions with the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Sessions at the vet college are designed to tap into this interconnectedness and to help students understand that answers to some of the most pressing medical issues will likely only be found at the interface of animal and health. Our program emphasizes the value of collaborating and leveraging the knowledge that resides in human and veterinary medicine for the benefit of all.”

Piloted with a session that compared and contrasted hyperthyroidism in cats with Graves disease, an autoimmune disorder that leads to overactivity of the thyroid gland in people, the idea has expanded to include student presentations from students from Weill and the veterinary college followed by interactive, faculty- and clinician-led discussions. Since then, sessions have explored veterinary and human medical conditions that range from lymphoma and breast cancer to Lyme disease and diabetes.

“The presentations have been very interesting,” said Dr. Adam Law, an endocrinologist with Cayuga Medical Center who initiated the collaboration with the College. “We’ve had cases with a lot of overlap between species and some that are very particular to one species. In all cases, we’ve found value in the comparisons. How are the cases investigated in the veterinary and human worlds? What are the standard treatments? We’ve identified some very fascinating information as we’ve discussed the differences.”

These afternoon sessions with faculty and students at the veterinary college are just one component of the experience. Throughout the year, WCMC students shadow local physicians, gaining clinical experience often different from that found in Manhattan hospitals, such as managing mononucleosis on a university campus or conducting family medicine in rural villages and farms. The partnership with the College, according to Dr. Law, gives the students from Weill an opportunity to meet similarly-minded students while in Ithaca and to experience first-hand the intriguing similarities between veterinary and human medicine.