As global trade and migration continue to expand and both animal and human population densities increase, the risks associated with animal disease transmission also rise. Effectively managing infectious disease risks, for both animals and humans, is of pressing importance for governments globally, including Canada. Dr. Ian R. Dohoo, member of the CCA’s Expert Panel on Approaches to Animal Health Risk Assessment, believes that risk assessment methodologies can help to substantially reduce these risks.
“The most interesting aspect in the development of these methodologies is the move to more quantitative methods and the development of procedures such as multi-criteria decision analysis to facilitate translation of the risk assessments into policy decisions,” says Dr. Dohoo, founding Director of the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiological Research, and Professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island. For instance, quantitative methods can help to determine the probability of animal diseases entering Canada and the likelihood of these diseases being released or spread.
Dr. Dohoo anticipates that the CCA’s recent expert panel report, Healthy Animals, Healthy Canada may spur renewed interest in building capacity and expertise in the area of quantitative risk assessment. “First, I hope it [the report] generates a stronger working relationship between Canada’s universities, particularly veterinary faculties, and Canadian regulatory agencies, particularly the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Secondly, I hope the study generates a national debate about how we should fund the applied animal health research required to support effective risk assessments.”
A Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (in 2005 he became one of the first four veterinarians in Canada elected as a CAHS Fellow) Dr. Dohoo’s career in veterinary epidemiology began at the University of Guelph. Although he briefly considered going into veterinary ophthalmology, it became clear to him after a visit to Guelph and a conversation about the PhD program, with his now-friend and mentor, Dr. Wayne Martin, that epidemiology was where he belonged. He currently sees the field going through a period of exponential growth around the world.
“The development of methods and tools for effectively gathering and analyzing large amounts of population data is coinciding with a dramatic growth in the need for information about the health of animal populations in three main areas: food production, international trade and public health,” says Dr. Dohoo. “This has led to a huge growth in programs in quantitative epidemiology in developed countries, but is just starting to spread to developing countries, where the potential beneficial impact of the application of epidemiology is great.”
Veterinary epidemiology deals with the investigation of diseases, productivity and animal welfare in animal populations. Dr. Dohoo’s research focuses on monitoring animal health and production, clinical research methodology, studies of risk factors for animal health problems, and studies of health and production in cattle, swine and fin fish.
Prior to joining the faculty of the Atlantic Veterinary College in 1985, Dr. Dohoo also worked briefly as a Research Scientist at Agriculture Canada. He has served as the President of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, as Chair of Canadian Veterinary Medicine Association/ Health Canada expert panel on bovine growth hormone and as Associate Editor of Preventive Veterinary Medicine. In 2008 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) for his contribution to veterinary epidemiology and specifically for his role in graduate training in Scandinavia. He is set to retire around this time next year and has been reflecting on a career full of noteworthy accomplishments.
“Without a doubt, my biggest accomplishment has been the development of, what I believe to be, a world-leading program in veterinary epidemiology at UPEI (CVER – Centre for Veterinary Epidemiological Research)” says Dr. Dohoo. “However, to claim that this is my accomplishment would be disingenuous. It is the cohesive group of people that I work with that has made this happen.”
Dr. Dohoo looks forward to more hiking trips with his wife in his retirement, but does not expect to completely leave behind the world of veterinary epidemiology.