Photo by Michelle Mero Riedel
A 1946 graduate of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Dale Sorenson received his master’s and PhD degrees in microbiology with a minor in pathology from the University of Wisconsin. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 scientific publications as well as chapters in veterinary textbooks on swine dysentery, equine hemorrhagic diseases, and the bovine urinary system. In 1953, Sorensen began his 39-year career at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, becoming a full professor in 1959. He has held several department head positions and became acting dean in 1972. He later assumed the role of associate dean for academic affairs and research, a position he held from 1980 to 1987. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2005 Alumni Recognition Award from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine and its Veterinary Medical Alumni Association. In 2011, he received the Veterinarian of the Year award from the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association.
Profiles Online: What is your definition of One Health?
Sorenson: From my perspective, One Health originated from the comparative medicine program, in which various scientists study problems of disease transmissible from animals to humans. There were and still are many diseases that are common between animals and humans needing further study. From that program, the concept of One Heath developed.
Profiles Online: Tell us about your work in One Health.
Sorenson: Perhaps my most important work in One Health was a research project in bovine leukemia, which was a relatively common problem in cattle. The U.S. public health service and others were interested in studying diseases of animals that were similar to humans, so we obtained a large research project grant to study bovine leukemia, which we did for several years. We finally isolated the virus that was the cause of bovine leukemia. This had an impact on the thinking and philosophy of leukemia in humans. The study was done to determine the cause and pathogenesis of leukemia and how it might impact the study of leukemia in humans.
Before that, in about 1955, congenital porphyria in humans was a disease that was commonly studied. We determined that cattle had the same disease, congenital porphyria, so research was initiated to study the disease in cattle. We bought part of a herd of cattle that had congenital porphyria and studied the cattle jointly with Dr. Sam Schwartz and other scientists from the University of Minnesota Medical School. A lot that we know about congenital porphyria in humans today is the result of study initiated with this research project.
In the 1950s, I spent a year at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. One of the studies was the treatment of acute radiation syndrome in humans. We were very concerned about atomic bombs at that time, and there had never been any research done on how to treat people that received life-threatening radiation. One of the studies I did was to treat acute radiation syndrome in dogs. I successfully saved them through treatment with antibiotics and platelet-rich plasma.
Profiles Online: Has One Health changed veterinary medicine?
Sorenson: Yes, I do think it has changed veterinary medicine. It has broadened the horizons of veterinary medicine. The sole focus of veterinary medicine is not on animals, like dogs and cats and horses and cattle and swine. It has been broadened to include humans, since humans are also animals. It has been broadened to include research, particularly on common diseases.
Profiles Online: Has One Health changed human medicine or the way human medicine perceives veterinary medicine?
Sorenson: Yes, I think it has changed human medicine in a number of ways. For example, at the present time, there is a joint study between the Medical School and the College of Veterinary Medicine to study brain cancer. It has been found that there are comparable tumors that occur in both humans and dogs. It is much easier to study these tumors in dogs than humans. In past years, much of the research on human diseases used laboratory animals as a very important part of the research effort. There are more cooperative studies today using animals as models in clinical trials for common diseases that affect both humans and animals.
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