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Objectives

  • Explore the role of the veterinarian and the veterinary profession in public health
  • Articulate differences and similarities between population-based health/public health and clinical medicine
  • Provide students with opportunities to practice effective oral and written communication
  • Use specific veterinary public health diseases, conditions and issues to illustrate frameworks of public health and veterinary public health/preventive medicine
  • Showcase the disciplines that are involved in public health practice and the scope of public health activities (research to practice) that involve veterinarians
  • Encourage and guide students to seek additional information, resources and training in public health throughout graduate school and their careers
  • Introduce students to the ethical, social, legal and economic underpinnings and consequences of veterinary public health issues
  • Introduce students to concepts and principles of evidence-based population health, and provide multiple opportunities to apply those concepts
  • Promote veterinarians as leaders in population and public health at the local, state and federal levels
  • Reinforce epidemiology and biostatistics skills through critical reading of scientific literature and by applying skills learned in previous courses to cases in class

1. Ten Essential Public Health Services (EPHS)

  1. Monitor health status to identify and solve community health problems
  2. Diagnose and investigate health problems and hazards
  3. Inform, educate and empower people about health issues
  4. Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems
  5. Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts
  6. Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety
  7. Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable
  8. Assure a competent public and personal health care workforce
  9. Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility and quality of personal and population-based health services
  10. Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems

2. Grading Policy

Your final grade will be based on participation in class, successful completion of two homework assignments, and a final project. For the final project you will choose between the following two options:

  1. a take-home examination OR
  2. a group writing project (see below)

Points for the three items will be assigned as follows:

2.1. Participation in class

Each of you brings a unique point of view that adds to the quality of class and group discussions. Therefore, for your own benefit and that of your fellow students, I expect you to attend all classes and to come to class having read assigned articles and visited assigned websites and prepared to discuss them. You will all start out with full marks for participation. I WILL call on students by name to answer questions in class. If you cannot attend a particular class I expect you to notify me ahead of time unless you can justify that an emergency or serious illness prevented you from doing so. If I call on you in class and you are not there and I expected you to be, or you are there but are unprepared to discuss a topic, I will deduct 5 points from your grade for each occurrence.

TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS: 10 POINTS

2.2. Homework assignments

Satisfactory performance in the course requires completion of two (2) homework assignments. For each assignment you will be asked to write a short essay or editorial on a topic to be given in class. The first assignment will address a surveillance topic. It will be given out in class on March 29, 2007 and will be due at 5:00 PM on April 4, 2007. The second assignment will address a policy topic. It will be given out on in class on April 4, 2007 and will be due at 5:00 PM on April 12, 2007. Your answers should be thoughtful and should demonstrate that you have read assigned material and understood the concepts presented in class. Please type or word process your work in Times New Roman or Arial using 12 font (or larger), set left and right page margins to no less than one (1) inch in width and top and bottom margins no less than one (1) inch in height, and use line spacing of 1.5 or greater. Please keep each essay/editorial to no more than 750 words. I will grade each essay/editorial as follows:

  • Grammar: 5 points
  • Quality and strength of argument: 5 points
  • Effectiveness of language: 5 points
  • Organization/logic: 5 points

You will start out with the full 20 points for each essay and I will then deduct points for errors in grammar, quality and strength of argument, effectiveness of language and organization/logic up to a maximum of 5 points for each category. I will also deduct 10 points from your essay for every day that it is late. I have high standards for written work. If you have any doubts about the quality of your work, I urge you to share it with friends, family or colleagues and to ask for constructive comments prior to submitting it to me.

TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS: 2 ESSAYS X 20 POINTS EACH = 40 POINTS

2.3. Final project:

For the remaining 50% of your grade you will have a choice of a written take-home examination OR working with a small group of your peers to draft a paper on the role of veterinarians in one of the ten essential public health services.You will have to make your decision by 1:00 PM on April 2, 2007. Once you've made your choice you will not be allowed to change it unless you can convince me that extenuating circumstances have prevented you from following through on your initial decision.

2.3.1. Final examination:

The final examination will handed out in class on April 17th 2007. I will also post at least two journal articles that day. You will be asked to read these papers and write two essays based on the content of the papers and on course and class learning objectives. As with grading for the essays/editorials, you will start out with the maximum number of points for each essay; in addition to grammar, quality and strength of argument, effectiveness of language and organization/logic, I will also grade on understanding of the material presented in class and application of concepts taught in class.

  • Grammar: 5 points
  • Quality and strength of argument: 5 points
  • Effectiveness of language: 5 points
  • Organization/logic: 5 points
  • Understanding/application of concepts: 5 points

TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS: 2 ESSAYS X 25 POINTS = 50 POINTS

2.3.2. Draft Essential Public Health Service article:

The 10 Essential Public Health Services (10 EPHS) constitute the framework for delivering public health in the United States. Each essential service describes a function of the public health system. The public health system includes the government at all levels (federal, state and local) and all associated institutions and organizations in the private sector that contribute to public health. The veterinary profession contributes in many ways to delivering the 10 EPHS, but the role of the veterinary profession in this context has never been described. Students who choose this option will divide up into 10 groups, and each group will constitute a working group for that EPHS. Students in each group will work together throughout the course to draft an article on their selected EPHS and I will be available to advise you on your drafts. This work will expand upon in-class discussions of each EPHS. Drafts of each EPHS will be circulated for comment to national organizations such as the National Association for State and Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV). After a period of comment and revision, I expect each working group to submit their article for publication to the American Journal of Public Health.

The format of each paper should include the followings:

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction to the EPHS
  • Justification for veterinary involvement in this EPHS
  • Methods of studying veterinary involvement in the EPHS (human resources, literature search and methodology, websites, other)
  • Results (what can you conclude about veterinary involvement in this EPHS?)
  • Challenges (What are challenges to improved recognition of veterinarians for their role in the EPHS? What other challenges do veterinarians face in addressing this EPHS?)
  • Conclusions

TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS = 25 POINTS DRAFT ARTICLE + 25 POINTS TEAMWORK = 50 POINTS

I've included tips on writing below in Section 3. I will photocopy all essays, including those submitted for homework assignments and final exam or draft article, with my comments in case you wish to discuss the comments or the grades with me. I will keep the photocopied essays and return the originals to you.

2.4. Final grade

The final grade for the course will be based on the number of points you earn for in-class participation, homework assignments and the final examination/draft paper. I will assign letter grades to points as follows:

96 to 100 = A
90 to 95 = A-
86 to 89 = B
80 to 85 = B-
76 to 79 = C
70 to 75 = C-
66 to 69 = D
60 to 65 = D-
Below 60 = F

Please note that I do not grade on a curve.

3. On writing for this course

In this course you will be asked to write an editorial or an essay. The two are similar. According to William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well (HarperCollins Publishers, NY, NY 2001), "All writing is ultimately a question of solving a problem. It may be a problem of where to obtain the facts or how to organize the material. It may be a problem of approach or attitude, tone or style. Whatever it is, it has to be confronted and solved."

3.1. The two types of writing

3.1.1. The editorial

One dictionary defines an editorial in several ways; the one most relevant to this class is the following: "The editorial is a shorter form addressing a public issue from a relatively anonymous writer." The point here is not to express the author's personality, but to comment publicly and briefly on a public issue. According to consultant Randall Kennedy, "A published editorial can serve as a powerful tool to shape policy, influence public opinion or legislation, and can educate a readership."

David Shipley, an editor of the New York Times (NY Times February 1, 2004), offers these tips for writing an editorial:

  • Shoot for about 750 words.
  • Stay way from Olympian language and bureaucratic jargon.
  • Write the article the way you'd like to write it, not the way you think The Times wants you to write it.
  • Make one argument thoroughly, point by point.
  • If you try to do too much, you can wind up with an article that, in striving to say everything, ends up saying nothing.

The New York Times always has wonderful editorials and I suggest going there if you are looking for additional help with the style and format of an editorial.

3.1.2. The essay

The (dictionary) defines an essay in the following way: a.) short nonfiction prose piece; b.) a short analytic, descriptive, or interpretive piece of literary or journalistic prose dealing with a specific topic, especially from a personal and unsystematic viewpoint. The essay is more informal that an editorial or a policy statement. Essays now tend to require a more specific argument, a thesis. A thesis is defined as "an unproved statement put forward as a premise in an argument."

Wonderful examples of essays abound. I'd suggest reading a collection of essays by the late Lewis Thomas for inspiration: The Medusa and the Snail. More Notes of a Biology Watcher. The Viking Press, NY, NY 1979.

3.2. My thoughts on the process of writing

Regardless of the type of writing you will do, the process of doing it is similar. Imagine it being broken down into four tasks that have analogies in the process of building a small house:

Getting yourself to the desk.

  • Plan what you want to say. To build a house from scratch you need a plan. To be able to explain your idea to an architect you need a rough sketch drawn on the back of a table napkin.
  • Think small. If you're building it yourself, make it a small house and one that you can realistically build in a limited period of time.
  • Plan to write for yourself and no one else. Remember that you are building it for yourself and no one else. You alone can decide what you like and what you don't, what features you want to include and which ones you'd rather not include.
  • Remember that you know your subject - often it's you or your opinion - better than anyone. Decide what you want it to look like; don't worry about what you think someone else may want to see or what your neighbor's homes look like.

Writing the first draft.

  • Each paragraph should represent one idea in your overall argument. You can either make a list of the idea you'd like to explore in your writing, or after you've written it you can go back and try to summarize each paragraph in a single bulleted thought. In addition to keeping one idea per paragraph, this technique will also help you to view the logic of your thoughts, i.e., whether one thought leads to another. The analogy of house construction is that first you frame the house, and you do it in a logical way - the first floor, then the second, and finally the roof.
  • Keep it simple. David Shipley, an editor of the New York Times, commented in an editorial published on February 2, 2004, "Our editors try to approach articles as average readers who know nothing about the subject." I write as though I were trying to explain my subject to my young children. You don't want to construct something so complex that you can't finish it. Similarly, you don't want to write yourself into a corner that you can't escape from.
  • Be bold. Don't be afraid to take a stand. This is the advice I was given as I prepared to make my first surgical incision on a calf years ago. Take that nail and whack it swiftly and surely with your hammer.
  • Don't be afraid to be human. Much of what we think of as scientific writing is stiff and has lost much of the warmth that it had a century ago. It's possible to be precise AND accurate. The author of one of my favorite statistics books throws out a little zinger in the text every once in a while. These put him in touch with his readers and make the subject more approachable. I've never forgotten it. I can't think of a building analogy here...someone help me out!
  • Use the active tense. Staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes this comment more than any other. If you're passive in your building project it won't get built. If you're passive in the use of tenses, your point won't be made effectively.

Add the details. Once the house is built, add on the little touches that distinguish it from similar houses and make it yours. This is where you can add descriptive words, use alliteration, divide up long sentences, vary the length of your sentences, and use many other techniques to your advantage. Check to make sure that you are consistent in your use of pronoun, tense and mood.

Revise and revise and revise. Read your work out loud. Share it with others who might be willing to comment on it. Remember that writing is a process, not a product. Unfortunately, the building analogy breaks down here. If you build the house, you're stuck with it for a while.

For those of you who are contemplating writing draft articles on the Ten Essential Public Health Services for you final project, please consult the American Journal of Public Health guidelines for authors, available at: http://www.ajph.org/misc/ifora.shtml (Accessed on March 16, 2007)

Good luck! I look forward to reading your work.