Photo by Michelle Mero Riedel
Dr. Stanley L. Diesch is an internationally recognized teacher, practitioner, speaker, and leader in the field of veterinary public health. He has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific papers and chapters in textbooks and has been the recipient of numerous state, national, and international honors and awards, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Public Service Award, 1987; 12th International Veterinary Congress Award; 1998 American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine Emeritus Diplomate; 1996 Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association Distinguished Service Award; 2002 Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award from the Partners of the Americas (presented to both him and his wife, Darlene); 2000 International Society for Animal Hygiene Honorary Award; 1997 Partners of the Americas Nicholas R. Castricone Award for conducting a successful veterinary exchange program between the University of Minnesota and the Republic of Uruguay; and other awards. In addition to his academic appointments, he has held numerous administrative positions over the years, including director of international veterinary medicine programs, head of the division of epidemiology, food hygiene and veterinary public health, director of the Center to Study Human-Animal Relationships and Environments (CENSHARE), acting director of the program in veterinary public health in the School of Public Health, and acting chair of the Department of Large Animal and Clinical Sciences.
Profiles Online: What is your definition of One Health?
Diesch: One Health to me means working with the other professions, the clients, and the animals. My particular interest has been in animal and human health.
Profiles Online: What is the origin of One Health in your experience?
Diesch: I was aware of One Health when I began my studies, and I was aware of One Health growing up on a diversified farm in southern Minnesota. We had diseases such as brucellosis in cattle, and my sister had scarlet fever. We were quarantined, and I saw the interrelationship among veterinarians, public health professionals, and medical physicians. That evolved into my career. I first attended Luther College as a pre-med student, then I transferred to the University of Minnesota in animal industry and agricultural economics. I received a BS degree with distinction in 1951. Next I taught on-farm training to Korean War veterans, and I subsequently applied and was accepted into the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. I received my DVM degree in 1956, then practiced for one year in Freeport, Illinois, in a mixed animal practice before moving to Winthrop, Iowa, where I practiced for six and a half years. The second year, I purchased a practice. During this time I had a close affiliation with the University of Iowa Medical School, the veterinary associations, and Dr. Stan Hendricks, who was a state public health veterinarian. Brucellosis and hog cholera were common diseases at the time.
While practicing in Iowa, I diagnosed leptospirosis in the wife of one of my clients who had delivered newborn pigs. She had a typical case of leptospirosis, which the medical doctor failed to diagnose. I felt it was a real contribution to inform her what I thought she had. She went to the medical doctor who diagnosed leptospirosis and treated her. There are many other instances like this. In private practice whenever I would handle animals, I would have rabies on my mind. I looked at every animal that I touched or treated as a potential case of rabies or other zoonoses. I diagnosed many cases of rabies in practice as well as later in my career. In 1963 I received my masters’ in public health from the University of Minnesota. I then accepted a faculty appointment in the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, where for three years I was one of two veterinarians working on rural health in the Institute of Agricultural Medicine. I was subsequently recruited to the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Public Health.
Profiles Online: Can you tell us about some of your accomplishments in the One Health area while at the University of Minnesota?
Diesch: In addition to undergraduate students in the College of Veterinary Medicine, we had graduate students from all over the world enrolled in the veterinary public health post-doctoral program offered jointly by the College of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Public Health. I advised students from 15 countries throughout the world. My wife, Darlene, and daughters were actively involved; we invited most of these students to our home and they became our lifelong colleagues and friends.
I served as advisor to the Pan American Health Organization (World Health Organization) for many years.
I was active in an area called the Midwest Interprofessional Seminar on Diseases Common to Animals and Man. We hosted two Midwest conferences in 1968 and 1977. At that time, I was the co-chair of both conferences, and we had heavy involvement in the program and planning by the faculty of the University of Minnesota Veterinary College, Medical School, and the School of Public Health. The co-chair with me was Dr. Paul Quie, from the pediatrics program at the Medical School.
A major accomplishment was when Dr. R.K. Anderson, who had a number of productive years in developing the veterinary public health program, transferred to the School of Public Health on the Minneapolis Campus, and we were able to maintain a very close relationship between our programs. About the time he transferred, I was able to shift Veterinary Epidemiology from the senior-year curriculum to the freshman-year curriculum. This was a very dramatic change, but it was widely accepted by the students. The change was made first in Minnesota and then adopted by most veterinary colleges and schools in the United States and Canada. It created population medicine for veterinary students early and exposed them to the One Medicine concept in all four years of the veterinary program under my leadership and that of my colleagues in the veterinary public health program and College of Veterinary Medicine: Dr. Mike Pullen, Dr. Ashley Robinson, Dr. R.K. Anderson, and earlier Dr. Jim Libby. We emphasized to the students—by piquing their interest in public heath—that they could utilize veterinary public health skills as private practitioners, because at that time, even more than now, the vast majority went into private practice. Most went into large animal practice, then small, and some went into mixed animal practice. Some also went into public practice, i.e., military, state and federal government, and international organizations, and they had an opportunity for post-doctorate studies in public practice.
Another important aspect of the One Medicine approach was when the College of Veterinary Medicine became part of the Academic Health Center in 1970. Before that, the college was more closely aligned with the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics, which we have been able to continue, but I believe One Medicine was enhanced by becoming part of the Academic Health Center. The faculty had to vote on this. Dr. Ben Pomeroy, who was a proponent of animal agriculture, particularly in the poultry area, was acting dean, and he agreed with the change. I served on the committee from the College of Veterinary Medicine that recommended the first academic vice president for health sciences, Dr. Lyle French.
One Health was once called One Medicine but the phrase used more frequently was “The team approach of health professionals to solving a problem.” When I was in the masters of public health program in the School of Public Health in 1962 to 1963, one of assignments was to use a team approach to find the solution to a health problem in the community. The team was made up of a veterinarian, a medical doctor, an environmental science specialist, a nurse, and the public health educator. It was an excellent approach. Most of the college’s deans continued in strong support of One health, which really strengthened this concept in Minnesota. Our national and international opportunities and abilities also really enhanced the University’s and the college’s positions as leaders in One health.
My research was in zoonotic diseases, leptospirosis, rabies, and salmonellosis. On one project we worked with agricultural engineers looking at animal waste disposal and the survival of pathogens in animal waste. Much of this was done using the organisms of leptospira and salmonella. The agricultural engineers supplied the technical ability, and we determined survival times of the pathogenic organisms in livestock waste to determine how humans working on livestock farms were affected. Prior to that time, I was on a three-month sabbatical in Western Europe. They were ahead of us and were using a new method for waste disposal that better protected the environment and prevented odor. It was an oxidation ditch in which animal wastes were aerated.
Another research project that we conducted for 10 years was called the Minnesota Disease Reporting System. That was an application of clinical epidemiology. We did extensive work in conjunction with the Board of Animal Health, state and federal veterinarians, private practitioners and farmers. People in the School of Public Health and the Minnesota Department of Health were also interested in this system. We completed a validation of the study, and the system became the prototype of the national livestock system we have today. During this time, I spent a week in Canada lecturing and talking to veterinarians about this disease reporting system. Canada soon adopted something similar. This reporting system is very important in the detection of diseases, and it is critical that we diagnose and report zoonotic and other diseases.
I along with Dr. R.K. Anderson, Drs. Bill and Michael McCulloch (Michael was an M.D. psychiatrist), and Dr. Joe Quigley developed the concept of the human-animal bond. We did additional work to show the value of animals, especially pets, to people. The Delta Society subsequently developed and moved to the state of Washington. We then developed CenShare (Centers to Study Human Animal Relationships and Environments). I was the first director of CenShare and served for two years, before Dr. R.K. Anderson took leadership of that. We also did work on the utilization of horses and other animals in improving human health.
In Eastern and Western Europe, a scientific group called The International Society for Animal Hygiene existed in which I became involved with in 1973. I attended an early conference in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, which at the time was still under Communist rule. I had worked in 1973 with some in this group from Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, and The Netherlands. I observed the interaction between veterinarians and animal scientists in Eastern and Western Europe, and in spite of the political differences in governments, there were still scientific relationships between the two. I participated in their conferences, which were held every three years, and then I became president of the organization and held the first U.S. conference in 1994, the first time the conference was held outside of Europe. More than 30 countries—14 from the former Eastern Bloc countries—participated. Because of my early and continuing association with Mexico, South America, and Central America, participation in the U.S. conference was very good from the Latin countries, and subsequently the conference three years later was held in Mexico City.
Eleven months after the Berlin Wall had come down, I was part of the organizing committee meeting in Eberswalde, (East) Germany, for selecting papers for the Congress held in Leipzig Germany in 1991. I was serving as the U.S. Representative by that time.
Profiles Online: Do you think One Health has changed veterinary medicine?
Diesch: Yes. Through our veterinary public health program we emphasized to our veterinary and post-graduate students the important contributions they can make to animal and human health through affiliation with their medical doctor, their nurse, their public health officer, and their pharmacist. I lectured in the College of Pharmacy and Nursing here and in Iowa City at the Medical School about veterinary agricultural medicine. There was a time during my career when the leadership at the college wanted to throw veterinary public health out of the curriculum. They thought they no longer needed us to teach it because they said the entire faculty teaches public health. But we survived and expanded the curriculum that Dr. R.K. Anderson had developed. We had two weeks of clinics, called veterinary public health clinics, in which we had students in small groups. We were able to develop this relationship and engage in the type of problem solving that you can’t conduct in a lecture room.
Profiles Online: Do you think One Health has changed human medicine?
Diesch: I really do. I think those in human medicine have gradually developed more research relationships with veterinarians and others. With some of my personal health problems, I see various specialists, and when I visit them and they hear I am a veterinarian, they often will say, “Oh, I’ve done some work with veterinarians in orthopedic surgery, medicine, or zoonotic diseases.” So I definitely think One Health has influenced human medicine through our role in organized veterinary medicine at the local, state, national, and international levels.
I also served as director of international programs in the college for 13 years, so I got to see this on an international level as well. In fact, in South America I worked extensively in a NGO (non-governmental organization) called Partners of the Americas. It was one of our programs in veterinary medicine and I was able to see how it evolved into creating more opportunities for veterinarians in One Medicine internationally. As a result of the success of some of these programs, in 1990 Uruguay President Alberto Lacalle asked me to serve as Honorary Consul to Uruguay in Minnesota, a diplomatic position I held for six years. I then also became a member of the Minnesota Consular Corps.
As the concept of the human-animal bond developed, I had opportunities to speak at many of our Twin City metropolitan hospitals on the role of animals in zoonoses and in infection control. In every instance in which it was publicized, the lecture room was full. That veterinarians’ work in population medicine gets the attention of medical doctors, nurses, and others helps in curing and preventing diseases that are already in existence and in detecting future diseases.
Throughout my one-half century of activity in veterinary medicine and public health, I have always participated in organized veterinary medicine and emphasized the importance of this to students and colleagues. I was a member of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) and served as committee chair of the Public Health and the Infectious Diseases committees. I also was member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and served 11 years on the Council of Veterinary Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine. In the United States Animal Health Association, I chaired the Public Health and Environmental Quality Committee and the Leptospirosis Committee. I now hold lifetime membership in all three organizations.
Today, as one of the pioneers in the One Health concept, I observe continued growth and interest in veterinary public health, and that awareness has been greatly increased throughout the world in emerging diseases, food safety, and bioterrorism in human and animal populations.
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