Dr. Kelsey Ripp: How a One Health Approach in Medical Education at UGHE Addresses Health Inequities
To contribute to a holistic and effective health care delivery, UGHE as an academic institution has a One Health Option in its Master of Science in Global Health Delivery and incorporates it in the medical school curriculum to support the development of competencies that are linked to future global health needs such as pandemics and climate change, among others. One Health involvement in medical schools and global health centers is very important for creating pathways for information flow in clinical medicine and global health best practices that contribute to equitable health systems.
Dr. Kelsey Ripp, an adjunct assistant professor in the Center for One Health and the Division of Clinical Medicine at UGHE, shares how incorporating One Health into the medical education curriculum is crucial to preparing clinicians who will address global health challenges and tackle disparities. Recalling her early interest in One Health when she was going through medical school, it became clear to her that doctors often bandage up problems that could have been prevented. She says, “One health does a good job focusing on prevention and not just treating illness after it happens but coming up with comprehensive solutions that aren’t just human-focused, so we can improve human health and well-being as well as planetary well-being”.
At UGHE, there is no limit to who you can learn from. Students learn from their faculty, staff, and most especially the community. It doesn’t stop there – the staff also learn from their students. Dr. Kelsey, as someone who spends a lot of time with MBBS’25 students, is impressed by their communication and leadership skills and learned a lot from them in these areas. She shares what interests her at UGHE, “everyone, faculty, students, staff, contractors are very enthusiastic, motivated, and willing to work hard, come up with innovative ideas and collaborate with each other. It’s been one of the most exciting things seeing how much you can get out of good collaboration between people from diverse backgrounds.”
UGHE brings together people with different life experiences and educational backgrounds, which supports the implementation of best practices for the teaching of our students. The educational model focuses on active learning for students, asking questions, and ensuring that students feel supported so they can effectively apply what they are taught as critical thinkers and future global health leaders. Dr. Kelsey explains how she prepares students as a medical faculty in One Health. She says, “we are training medical students to ask about One Health. Such as asking patients what animals they’ve encountered, what kind of contact, what environmental health concerns they may face, and more. With this information, doctors or medical students may be able to recognize a patient at risk of a health condition due to their environment or who has a zoonotic disease they otherwise wouldn’t have recognized.”
A One Health approach can improve patient care and health systems resiliency because well-trained clinicians can help pandemic preparedness by recognizing disease outbreaks ahead of time. It also helps clinicians to listen to their patients and learn from them to solve community or global problems. She says, “At UGHE, we teach a One Health approach during the preclinical years, before students enter the hospital. This includes teaching about climate change and its impact on health, as well as antimicrobial resistance and how physicians, veterinarians, and environmental scientists can collaborate to address antimicrobial resistance. Also, for students in the clinic and hospital during clinical years, we teach them to ask for a comprehensive patient history that goes beyond a sole focus on what brought them to the hospital.”
Dr. Kelsey provides an example of how it can be used to dismantle the barriers to quality health care. She says, “One Health helps to address health disparities such as neglected tropical diseases or zoonotic diseases. Many of these diseases primarily affect the poor and others who live close to their environment and animals. Rural communities, regardless of socioeconomic status, are often underserved compared to urban ones. Some of the diseases emphasized in a One Health approach tend to affect marginalized populations more. By focusing on earlier detection, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment, we are focusing our energy on marginalized patients.”
At UGHE, health equity is a common theme that runs throughout the preclinical and clinical curriculum, and this serves to both emphasize the centrality of equity to what physicians do, and to allow students to continue to practice applying a health equity lens throughout their teaching and practice.
“I believe that the utilization of curricular themes, such as health equity and One Health, throughout the medical curriculum is important. This is what we trying to do with the One Health Approach emphasized in different ways throughout the MBBS courses to show how this approach can apply to a variety of diseases on a local and global scale, how it can improve patient care, and how it can be used to address complex global health problems.”
The holistic educational model which involves a One Health approach is important for developing physicians that look beyond their prescription pads, to better improve the health of their patients and to help solve community and global health challenges.