Veterinarians with an interest in food safety, food security and global health will require an understanding of the agricultural systems and public health networks in other countries, particularly developing countries. While it is possible to learn about some of these national differences in the classroom, a more effective means of education and training is for students to experience these environments first-hand.
Dr. Singer in collaboration with Dr. Keith Hood of the Ministry of Health in southern Chile have developed an externship for senior-year veterinary students in the area of international veterinary public health. Students work with the Ministry of Health in the Región de los Ríos of Chile, based in Valdivia, Chile, assisting with the normal daily functions of the health department. The program has been active since 2006, and 37 students have participated.
The externship has 3 major components:
- Zoonoses in rural ecosystems: The students visit rural health clinics and observe how these clinics deal with illnesses such as diarrheal disease. They assist with control programs for diseases such as Hantavirus, Leptospirosis, Hydaditosis (caused by Echinococcus multilocularis) and rabies, all of which are found in the Region de los Rios of southern Chile where the program is offered.
- Food production and inspection: The students learn about the production of beef, dairy, poultry, salmon and produce in rural Latin America. They follow the flow of the products from the farm through processing and see the differences between products consumed locally and those prepared for export. They gain an appreciation for the types of foodborne disease risks that might enter the U.S. from the imported food supply.
- Environmental health: The students work with the Ministry of Health on issues related to human wastewater treatment and manure management, and how these two issues affect water quality in the area. This component helps the students understand how water quality impacts microbial threats applied to produce via water and how local conditions in a rural area of a developing country can impact food safety in the U.S.