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A Crash Course on One Health

Updated: Jan 22, 2019

Contributor Navia Novosel

Courtesy of

“So,what is ‘One Health’ anyway”?

As a student in one of the smallest BMSc modules, this question is quite common — and for good reason! Many students are unaware of this module because of its recent emergence and its atypical course requirements. One Health is one of the newest modules in the Medical Science program, having its first cohort graduating this year, in 2019.

If you have found yourself asking this question to a friend or counsellor, are a curious sophomore looking into possible Medical Science modules to choose for ITR or are simply interested in this new area of study on campus, this blog post is for you.

So, let’s answer the burning question. What is ‘One Health’?

One Health is more than just a Medical Science module at Western University, it is a philosophy for achieving better human health outcomes. According to the World Health Organization, One Health is an interdisciplinary approach in which experts from politics, medicine, public health, economics and environmental science collaborate to create policies, programs and research to achieve healthier populations both globally and locally. This strategy rests on the notion that human health is interconnected to ecological, environmental and economic “health”. Currently, the One Health approach is relevant in mitigating food safety, zoonosis (diseases that spread between animals and humans; for example, the flu), and antibiotic resistance. These global issues cannot be eliminated or prevented with just one sector of knowledge because many of the same drug-resistant, threatening pathogens affect both animals and humans. For example, transmission through ingesting contaminated livestock emphasizes that humans and animals interact in a common ecosystem. As a result, environmental regulations, public health policy, and economic preference principles must be applied to the food industry. In circumstances such as these, an interdisciplinary One Health approach is necessary.

Now, back to the Medical Science world at Western. One Health is a module mandated by the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in collaboration with the Departments of Sociology and Geography in the Faculty of Social Science, leading to a Bachelor of Medical Sciences (BMSc) degree at graduation.

The idea of One Health is new to Canadian undergraduate education, and Western was the first to develop this module in Canada! One Health also boasts a unique modular structure. Instead of focusing on one aspect of human health, such as pathology, physiology or cell biology, One Health promotes a breadth and depth of knowledge in the life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities – all with a focus on human health. Students are taught to understand human health from different academic perspectives. Because of this, you’ll be able to develop your written and verbal communication skills earlier on in your undergraduate education.

One Health is only offered as an Honors Specialization. The advantages of this degree path is that you are given the opportunity to complete a senior year research project with unique access to supervisors from various departments at Western.

If you are interested in learning more about One Health, and are in your first or second year, check out the Academic Calendar to see if you meet the course requirements for attaining a BMSc degree and studying One Health in your third year.

Because the One Health curriculum is interdisciplinary, the opportunities are endless! Many assume a medical science degree limits a student’s postgraduate agenda to medical school; however, the One Health module surely breaks this stereotype. Professional schools (i.e. Medical, Dental, Law), Masters programs (i.e. Business, Public Health) or Ph.D. programs all utilize the comprehensive skills learned from an Honors Specialization in One Health.

Aside from studying One Health, you can also get involved in One Health Initiatives on Campus. Western has a One Health Club that takes on a “journal club” feel by reading and discussing scientific literature with a One Health focus.

One Health initiatives are also found in clubs that represent the charitable side of public or global health. Western Students for Partners in Health supports the international nonprofit organization, Partners in Health, by raising money to build and maintain sustainable healthcare systems in the world’s most marginalized countries, specifically Haiti and Rwanda. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) Western works towards changing policies behind biomedical research and pharmaceutical patenting practices so millions of people will no longer die from diseases with existing cures.

If you are interested in getting involved, but don’t want the commitment of joining a club, keep an eye out for module information sessions during ITR season (which is around the corner)! Likewise, attend One Health Speaker Series events this semester held by the Department of Pathology, where you can listen to graduates or professors discuss how a One Health and pathology background plays an important role in their career and research.

“So, what is ‘One Health’ anyway?” In my opinion, it is a unique, holistic way to apply medical science concepts towards global, big-picture human health problems – which is pretty awesome if you ask me!

Helpful Links:

Schulich/BMSc on One Health Module:

Western Academic Calendar for One Health Module:

Western Students for Partners in Health:

UAEM Western:

Western One Health Club:



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