Written by Emily Clarke @E_Clarke_Sci @LabPeffers

One medicine promotes collaboration between doctors, vets, scientists and other medical professionals so veterinary and human medicine can evolve and improve so both benefit from equal medical progress (1).

One health focuses specifically on how the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment (2).

History of One Health, One Medicine

The concept of one medicine and one health has been around for a LONG time…

It was first referred to by Rudolf Virchow, regarded as the father of modern pathology (3) whose discoveries on Trichinella spiralis in pork led to valuable public health measures.

Even today Vets are heavily involved in food production to stop contamination or disease entering the human food chain. Virchow was one of the first to coin the term “zoonosis” and proclaimed that there should be no dividing line between human and animal medicine (4,5).

Sir William Osler, regarded as the father of modern medicine,was another key figure in promoting one medicine, as he taught medical students at McGill College and veterinary students at the Montreal Veterinary College in the 1870s.

Demonstrating how one subject area could co exist and benefit the other. Osler published on the relation of animals to man and promoted comparative pathology and the One Medicine Concept (4,5).

In the 20th century, Calvin Schwabe coined the concept of “one medicine” in a modern age, recognising that there is very little difference between human and veterinary medicine and both disciplines can contribute to the development of each other (4).

Zoonosis = Disease that can transmit between humans and animals.

What are the applications of one health, one medicine?

If you have seen the bionic vet  then you already know a fantastic example of one medicine. Professor Noel Fitzpatrick routinely uses human medical principles for orthopaedic surgery to conduct the incredible surgeries he does on the nation’s beloved pets!

Further more general applications include:

Why should we care?

  • It is more ethical – both animals and humans are benefitting from this kind of research.
  • There is potential for faster medical progress.
  • This type of research could result in more animal and humans lives saved.
  • Better quality of life for humans and animals is achieved.
  • Ultimately, this type of research has an even bigger impact.


  1. https://www.humanimaltrust.org.uk/who-we-are
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/index.html
  3. Cardiff, R.D., Ward, J.M. and Barthold, S.W., 2008. ‘One medicine—one pathology’: are veterinary and human pathology prepared?. Laboratory investigation, 88(1), pp.18-26.
  4. Zinsstag, J., Schelling, E., Waltner-Toews, D. and Tanner, M., 2011. From “one medicine” to “one health” and systemic approaches to health and well-being. Preventive veterinary medicine, 101(3-4), pp.148-156.
  5. Kahn, L.H., Kaplan, B., Monath, T.P. and Steele, J.H., 2008. Teaching “one medicine, one health”. The American journal of medicine, 121(3), p.169.

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