It took a trip to South Africa to help Kathryn Gaub decide she didn’t want to be a doctor. The pre-med major at Eastern Oregon University was at a loss after her international pre-medical internship. Instead of making a decision right away, she trekked to Alaska where she worked as a biologist for more than two years.
And although she loved that job and found it fulfilling, she was still fascinated by diseases — what causes them, how they spread and how they can be contained.
“I realized I wanted to do something epidemiology-related,” she says. “I became really interested in the transmission of disease between humans and animals, so I applied to vet school at Oregon State, got in, and here I am.”
Currently in her second year, Gaub has recently been admitted to a dual-degree program between the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Public Health and Human Sciences that will grant her a doctor of veterinary medicine degree and a master of public health in a combined five years of work.
Professor Anna Harding is co-director of the School of Biological and Population Health Sciences in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and faculty contact for the dual-degree program. She says about a half-dozen students enrolled during the program’s first three years. She says DVM/MPH graduates may work with large government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“They will often be involved in disease outbreak investigations which involve animals, humans, and the environment, which is commonly referred to as ‘One Health,’” Harding explains. “They have broadened opportunities because they have the master of public health. They’re not confined to working in a practice with either large or small animals. They have expanded opportunities to land very interesting careers focused on population-based animal and human health and how those two are connected.”
That’s exactly what Gaub wants. Specifically, she’s hoping to someday land a job with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I want to be able to contain disease outbreaks that have to do with public health,” Gaub explains.
She gained experience in this area during the summer between her first and second year of veterinary school at Oregon State. Gaub participated in a pilot exchange program and traveled to Bangalore, India last July to job shadow several professionals at Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University.
“The program gave me more clinical experience,” Gaub says. “And it was an extremely interesting cultural experience.”
Gaub learned that the Indian people are extremely respectful of animals, including stray dogs.
“People take care of the strays in their neighborhood,” she says, “And sometimes they even bring them to the vet.”
This practice, however poises interesting public health questions and risks. Stray dogs can carry disease, and poverty lowers access to good hygiene and increases risks of spreading disease. Gaub is hoping to have more adventures as she continues learning about diseases in animals and humans alike.
“Sometimes I feel like a nerd,” she says, laughing. “But it’s something I have a lot of passion for.”