One Health Learning Community Provides High-Impact Educational Opportunities
Posted August 31, 2015
One Health Learning
Community members pose with faculty members from the antimicrobial
resistance panel. (Photo by Katelyn Kuhl)
“It has shown me that everything influences health,” said
Katelyn Franck, an animal science major at Texas A&M
University. She was talking about the One Health learning
community, a non-credit course experience for first-year students
majoring in any of a variety of fields. It introduces them to the
concept of One Health: the collaborative effort of multiple
disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain
sustainable optimal health for the ecosystem.
The goal of the One Health learning community is to “allow
students to have the opportunity to see One Health in action,” said
Merrideth Holub, the One Health program coordinator. This
community, which is for college freshmen and occasional sophomores
at Texas A&M, is being offered for the third time. Since its
inception, this community has hosted over 50 students. Lectures,
field trips, and other activities show how humans, animals, and the
environment are interdependent.
Holub, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Texas
A&M, was hired in part to develop educational programs in One
Health, including the learning community. Students don’t pay or get
academic credit for participating, but the course does appear on
The learning experiences for the community cover a diverse array
of topics illustrating One Health. These topics include
antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, and architecture
influencing health. Students visit the Clinical Learning Resource
Center at the Texas A&M Health Science Center to see the
birthing station and participate in taking vital signs. They also
talk with the Veterinary Emergency Team about field preparation and
deployment. “These hands-on experiences help solidify relationships
between the students,” said Dr. Christine Budke, associate
professor in Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
“The students are inquisitive and engaged. It’s after normal class
hours; they really want to be there.”
Students learn the importance of the environment through a
variety of case studies. For example, in a neighborhood just east
of downtown Austin, people can walk from their homes to
destinations such as grocery stores, theaters, and shopping areas.
Therefore, the design of the community helps to ensure residents
incorporate exercise into their daily routines. The area is
reclaimed from the site of the old Austin airport in a
“sustainable, economically viable way,” said Dr. Xuemei Zhu,
associate professor of architecture at Texas A&M.
students practice taking blood pressure.
The first event for spring 2015 was a panel of experts
discussing antimicrobial resistance. Students dressed
professionally because they were interacting with members of the
panel. Ashley Vargas, a member of the learning community, said, “It
was a little intimidating, but it was really neat to be exposed to
that right off the bat.” Franck, another community member, said,
“It was really cool to see professors enthusiastic and so into
Students from the learning community are challenged to
“incorporate One Health throughout their education,” Holub said.
Previous learning community members have said they plan to apply
the principles of One Health in their careers. Melodie Raese, in
the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, hopes to become a military
veterinarian and take the One Health initiative with her when she
accepts a commission.
Beyond the weekly meetings, community members are talking with
one another and other students. Taylor states the students “have a
willingness and excitement to talk to their cohort members and
classmates about these issues outside the learning community.”
Vargas said, “If I see a face I know then I’m like ‘Oh! Hi, I know
you. You’re in my community.’ I can start conversations that
Holub publicizes the learning community to students in a variety
of ways. For example, the entire Texas A&M first-year class is
emailed about it. In addition, Holub speaks to introductory classes
in architecture, biomedical sciences, environmental sciences, and
geosciences. Both Holub and Dr. Matthew Taylor, associate professor
of animal science and the faculty advisor for the One Health
learning community, talk about the community in animal science
The learning community is still growing and developing.
Eventually, it may be offered to multiple groups of freshmen and
sophomores. In addition, a more intense experience may be offered
to juniors and seniors, including those previously in the learning
community. “It would be a wonderful way to reconnect with the
students and find out where they have gone,” Taylor said.
Students indicate that being in the One Health learning
community has transformed their perspective about their career
plans. For example, Franck said she has learned there are other
ways to use a veterinary medicine degree besides clinical work.
“Being in the learning community has really shown me different
options that are out there.”
Contact Information: Megan Palsa,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 979-862-4216, 979-421-3121 (cell)
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