Dr. R.K. Anderson (1922-2012) was an internationally recognized teacher, speaker, author, practitioner, and consultant in the fields of veterinary public health, animal behavior, and human-animal relationships. He authored or co-authored more than 75 scientific papers and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2009 George T. Angell Humanitarian Award from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; 2005 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Lifetime Achievement Award; 2005 International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants Animals Other Nations Award; 2004 American Association of Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine; Calvin W. Schwabe Award for Lifetime Achievements; 2002 Student Chapter of American Veterinary Medical Association, Iowa State University, Gentle Doctor Award; 2000 American Humane Association Waco E. Childers Award for Lifetime Achievements in animal welfare; 1998 Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association Award for Distinguished Service; 1977 Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association Minnesota Veterinarian of the Year Award; 1992 American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine Distinguished Diplomate Award; 1992 Michael J. McCulloch Award in recognition of outstanding contributions related to the human-animal bond; and 1987 Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Bustad Award. Over the years, he held numerous positions, including chair of the Animal Behavior Resources Institute, president of the American Teachers of Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine, and president of the Minnesota Public Health Association. From 1964 to 1971, Anderson also served as associate dean of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.
Profiles Online: How would you define One Health?
Anderson: I would define One Health as encompassing the health of all human beings, animals, and plants on the planet. We are here as one family. As mammals, we have a lot in common with other animals. We are finding that animals actually have similar physiology to humans. Humans are only one step in the evolution. We are now finding that plants have many characteristics of humans in terms of communication with each other and the ability to respond to the environment. We are all here in the environment. Veterinary medicine is just one part of One Health. I first learned of One Health in 1946 from a book that I read, Diseases Transmitted from Animals to Man. Actually the title should be between people and animals, because people actually can transmit disease to animals.
Profiles Online: What is the origin of One Health in your understanding?
Anderson: One Health has had several stages. There was a conference at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor in the early 1950s for people involved in veterinary public health. It was the first time I had heard mentioned “one health,” along with the book Diseases Transmitted from Animals to Man by T.G. Hull. I don’t know that they referred to the conference as “one health,” but it involved a number of people in public health.
Profiles Online: Did One Health stem from the companion animal side of veterinary medicine or the food animal side?
Anderson: Both. The veterinarians involved were pioneer professors in veterinary medicine, but they recognized the relationship early on between the health of animals and the health of people. There were many veterinarians involved and a few physicians. We need to go back to the origins of veterinary medicine in France in the 1800s. In the United States, the leaders were the founders of the schools of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University. Our first look at One Health was in diseases like tuberculosis and rabies that are transmittable between humans and animals. Animals and humans share many things, including diseases.
Profiles Online: Tell us about your work in One Health
Anderson: I have had four careers. I was raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, about a half a mile from the College of Veterinary Medicine. My mother worked for a physician who was interested in dairy cattle. When I was 11 years old, we moved to a farm, and I became a student farmer. I became a breeder of purebred dairy cattle and won a number of ribbons. The physician bought the cattle with my brother and me. Some of the professors of veterinary medicine used our herd of cattle as part of their teaching program. We called them out, and they took care of our herd of cattle. I was associated with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State since I was 11. I was accepted in the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1941, and I graduated in 1944 because we were on an accelerated schedule due to the war. We went to school year-round. My plan at that time was to become a dairy cattle practitioner. Today we would call it a theriogenology specialty. I was very interested in reproductive health of dairy cattle, and I became very good at everything to do with the reproductive cycle. They used my herd as a study herd for students, and I was able to practice year-round with the professors in theriogenology, but because of the war I became exposed to public health, epidemiology, and laboratory science. I had the opportunity to work in laboratory science and to go back to school. The Navy sent me to school in epidemiology and laboratory science.
When I came out of the service, they were starting a new health department in Denver. I applied for the job of director of veterinary public health for the city and county health departments. I got a scholarship to go the University of Michigan in 1949, where I received a master’s degree in public health in 1950. The Denver Department of Health and Hospitals hired me back. They had had an outbreak of rabies in 1949 in Denver, and so made me director of the animal control program and animal shelter. So I went from being an “expert in theriogenology” to an “expert in handling animals and epidemiology.”
The vaccines were very poor at that time, so they had to vaccinate every year. Fortunately, we were in on the development of a new vaccine—a live vaccine, not a killed vaccine, and you only had to vaccinate every three years. So I was considered an
“expert” in animal control and rabies. One of the people who later hired me at the University of Minnesota said, “He will come and solve our rabies problem.” In Minnesota, it was a different problem. It was skunk problem, with skunks biting primarily farm animals, but also non-vaccinated dogs and cats. The first time I spoke to veterinarians in Minnesota, I was introduced as an “expert in rabies.” I developed a reputation I didn’t deserve.
In 1944, Dr. Gaylord Anderson was hired to come to the University of Minnesota to establish a School of Public Health. Veterinarians getting out of the services had an interest in public health and went to schools of public health at Harvard, Johns’ Hopkins, Yale, and others. A number of them also came to Minnesota. Gaylord Anderson had students like Stan Hendricks, who became the director of public health and epidemiology for the Iowa Department of Public Health. There is a biography of Dr. James Steele, which gives the history of veterinary public health in this country.
I came to Minnesota to teach veterinarians in the School of Public Health and the College of Veterinary Medicine. I taught protection of the food supply, zoonotic diseases, and epidemiology. I was in the Department of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health and spent half my time teaching public health students in the master’s program and veterinary students in the DVM program. I was the first professor hired by Gaylord Anderson and W.T.S. Thorp, director of the School of Veterinary Medicine. They decided together to establish a program in veterinary public health. They hired me in 1956 to run the program for veterinarians in the veterinary school and for veterinarians in the School of Public Health.
Decades later, Dr. Carl Osborne and Dr. Shirley Johnston were in Osborne’s office talking, and I stopped by because I was thinking of retiring in a few years, and I had become interested in animal behavior. They suggested I take a sabbatical. I went to the University of California, Davis, in 1980. I took a sabbatical leave from the University of Minnesota and spent a year studying psychology and animal behavior taking morning classes from professors with PhDs in animal behavior as well as from professors of psychology. In the afternoon, I was a student of Dr. Benjamin Hart, a professor of animal behavior from the University of California College of Veterinary Medicine. He was a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, and as a student he helped me with a project, the first publication put out by the University in 1958 to publicize the College of Veterinary Medicine.
In 1981 the Center to Study Human Animal Relationships and Environments (CENSHARE) was established by myself, Dr. Stanley Diesch, and Dr. Joe Quigley at the School of Public Health and the College of Veterinary Medicine. I served as the director of CENSHARE (except for the first two years, when Dr. Stan Diesch was director).
CENSHARE followed the earlier development of the Delta Foundation in 1977 by me and Dr. William McCulloch, Dr. Stanley Diesch, and Dr. Joe Quigley, all three veterinarians and former graduate students of mine, and Dr. Michael McCulloch, a psychiatrist. Michael McCulloch was a brother of William McCulloch and became the first president of the Delta Society in Portland, Oregon. The Delta Society is now headquartered in Renton, Washington.
Profiles Online: Did your work in Denver in animal control fuel your interest for a more humane collar?
Anderson: I had very good animal handlers who taught me a great deal about handling animals who were terrified while being captured and confined. I soon learned it was not as efficient or humane or as safe to use force and punishment as it was to use humane methods and to use motivation. Because I was leader of the program, the trainers in town and the people who used a lot of force and punishment to control behavior called me a “cookie pusher.” We found force and punishment did not work on these terrified animals, and that we could handle them much better if we used motivational methods. I developed the method of using food. We used a lot of tasty food, particularly hot dogs, because they didn’t make dog treats in those days. The dogs responded well and were happy to please us rather than be anxious and wanting to bite to protect themselves. We saved a lot of time and effort in handling, and we greatly reduced the bite rate. That gave me the impetus to think about humane handling of pets.
Force and punishment was the rule to train dogs and was developed by a German army officer and expanded to the U.S. army. In the 1950s, all trainers and the books written on training were based on force and punishment as the way to train dogs. I was an outlier.
When I came to Minnesota, I was busy with research on brucellosis and research on diseases of dogs and cats, and I was not concerned with behavior. I met Ruth Foster, who was president of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, and I found she had the same feelings I did about not using punishment and not using force. We decided we needed to develop something owners could use instead of choke chains and prong collars and all the cruel devices that had been developed to control dogs through choking and causing pain. I had a background in cattle and horses, and we didn’t use choke chains on cattle and horses, but we did use halters. I said, “Why in the world can’t we use halters on dogs?” I was jeered and laughed at again as I was in Denver when I wanted to use food, because it wasn’t done. But Ruth Foster had enough stature and clout to convince others that maybe this guy wasn’t so crazy.
She and I together developed a head collar for dogs. We made it ourselves. My son made parts of it because he knew how to use a welding torch. A person who worked at the Veteran’s Administration as an orthotist who had a sewing machine also helped. The three of us developed the Gentle Leader® collar, and the University patented it.
Profiles Online: Please tell us about your work in brucellosis.
Anderson: I became a member of the National Brucellosis Technical Commission—a five-member commission consisting of two veterinarians, a cattle rancher, an economist, and a representative from the National Cattlemen’s Association—when the livestock industry, particularly the beef cattle industry and powerful U.S. senators from the South, were going to do away with the brucellosis program in the United States. Since the USDA was running the program, it needed an outside commission. Congress asked the USDA to appoint a commission to study the question of whether brucellosis could be eradicated. Many veterinarians and much of the industry said brucellosis could never be eradicated. In those days, there were more than 5,000 human cases a year of brucellosis. It was considered a very important zoonosis. One of the reasons the government was involved was because of the impact on humans.
At that time we had to draw blood to look at antibodies to determine whether an animal was infected. Dr. Martin Roepke, who developed the brucellosis milk ring test, which led to the USDA’s ability to test milk instead of blood in dairy cows, was a PhD and faculty member in the Department of Veterinary Medicine before the College was started. He had a lab when I came here in 1956. The USDA was establishing a new program for animal disease control in Iowa known as the National Animal Disease Control Laboratory. That lab hired Roepke to be a director of its brucellosis program. When I came to Minnesota, it was his last year on the faculty here, and he was searching for someone to take over his program. Since I was the only person in sight that had experience with dairy cattle and an interest in epidemiology and zoonoses, he grabbed me and said, “I want you to work with me for a year.” I spent years working on brucellosis.
Our major breakthrough was that we established new tests that could distinguish between vaccinal antibodies and antibodies due to infection. The problem they had with eradication is that many animals that were testing positive were positive due to vaccination and not disease. This allowed the USDA to say these animals are infected and these animals are not. The key factor was we were able to verify our work by bringing the animals into the veterinary school. We milked them, did tests on them, and then slaughtered them. We took tissue samples, cultured them, and isolated the organisms. That made the difference between belief and disbelief. We had data. We developed tests that could detect antibodies produced by the organism, not by the vaccine.
When Dr. Wesley Spink, a world authority on brucellosis with the University Medical School, read the article that we published in Science, he called me on the phone and said, “I have several hundred blood samples from prisoners at Stillwater prison whom we vaccinated for brucellosis to see if the vaccine would protect them. I’d like one of my residents to come and work with you using your test and my blood samples to see if we can find the same thing in humans that you are finding in cattle.” We published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine that established that humans produce the types of antibodies that can differentiate between infection and vaccination.
We developed the rivanol test, which became one of several supplemental tests to differentiate vaccinal antibodies from brucellosis infection. The supplemental tests became a standard because they were fast and easy and people liked them.
Profiles Online: Has the One Health concept changed veterinary medicine?
Anderson: Public health veterinarians have been the leaders. They recognized that some organisms, like rabies, tuberculosis, and brucellosis, were infecting humans as well as animals. It became politically correct. To get research funding, you needed to say a disease affects humans.
Profiles Online: Has the One Health concept changed human medicine?
Anderson: It certainly has changed some aspects, but we still are not comfortable in general with the term One Health, at least in my view.
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