By Dr Martha Bower, President of the RSM’s Comparative Medicine Section
Why should those working in human health be concerned about the health of other animals and the environment? When homo sapiens first joined the myriad life forms on planet earth, somewhere between five and seven million years ago, man’s health and wellbeing and our very existence was subject to the natural laws prevailing at the time. Since then, these laws have been refined and distilled yet the inextricable co-dependency of both environmental factors and the health of all species, including man, remains clear.
The concept of One Health recognises this co-dependency and is based on three pillars – animals, people and environment. Today it is clear that insights from the One Health approach will be needed if the environmental and global health challenges thrown into stark profile during the current circumstances of a pandemic and the climate emergency can be tackled with any degree of completeness.
The RSM, with its mission to advance health, through education and innovation, plays a pivotal role in promoting the concept of One Health by bringing together those who work in both human and animal health.
Indeed, this is illustrated on the scroll presented to the RSM’s Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, a copy of which hangs at No. 1 Wimpole Street. The scroll declares that the RSM is the largest independent society of doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons and allied healthcare professionals, committed to propagating its educational activities to all corners of the globe.
Today much of the RSM’s work in the area of One Health is led by the Comparative Medicine Section, which brings together experts in the distinct discipline of medicine that uses animal models of human and animal disease in translational and biomedical research. The purpose of the Section is to advance human and animal health through research, education and training.
A notable RSM President, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, was a prominent veterinary surgeon and pioneer in the field of One Health, inspiring colleagues and students to view animal and human medicine as one continuous health-related tapestry. He is the only person to have served as President of both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (1984 – 85) and the Royal Society of Medicine (1998 – 2000).
Before he died in 2017, Lord Soulsby, with the foresight and commitment to the principles he had held close throughout his life, founded the Soulsby Foundation.
Established to support the very best of talented veterinary and medical researchers at an early stage of their career, the Foundation competitively awards travelling scholarships each year and encourages its fellows to become leaders and influencers in the area of One Health.
In 2018 the inaugural Soulsby Travelling Fellowships were awarded at a ceremony at the RSM which included an address from the then lesser-known Professor Chris Whitty, speaking in his role as Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health & Social Care.
With the support of Dr Judy MacArthur Clark, chair of the trustees of the Soulsby Foundation, the RSM has the privilege of hosting the sixth annual Soulsby Lecture on Monday 29 November 2021.
The lecture will follow on from a day-long meeting of the Comparative Medicine Section, which will explore in some depth a selection of One Health topics.
The RSM is uniquely placed to advance healthcare through the inclusive education of all healthcare professionals to the benefit of man, animals and environment alike. All are invited to support the work of the Comparative Medicine Section and to celebrate One Health within the Society.
Bookings for the November meeting and Soulsby Lecture will be available on the RSM website in due course.