Interview with the first holder of the One Health Certificate of the German Research Platform for Zoonoses
Zoonoses research is multifaceted and interdisciplinary. This places special demands on young scientists in this field. Therefore, the One Health Certificate of the German Research Platform for Zoonoses was conceptualized to support the interdisciplinary education of PhD students in zoonoses research and to promote the best possible qualification for a career in this field. Furthermore, the One Health Certificate is intended to promote the integration of young scientists into the zoonoses research community. (Further information on the One Health Certificate can be found here.)
The certificate was introduced in 2019. Only one year later, we can already award the first certificate to a recently graduated member of the community. Dr. Katharina Hommerich from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover is the first certificate holder. We talked to her about her doctorate, the certificate and about the One Health idea in general.
Dr. Hommerich, first of all, congratulations on the successful completion of your doctoral thesis! What was the focus of your thesis? Why does your work fall within the field of zoonoses research?
In my doctoral thesis I dealt with the use of antibiotics in German dairy and cattle farms. The VetCAb-S (Veterinary Consumption of Antibiotics - Sentinel) project serves as a data basis. Its goal is to map the prescription behaviour of veterinarians over the last years by continuously recording and epidemiologically evaluating antibiotic consumption data of livestock farms.
The use of antibiotics, one of the most important therapeutic agents in human and veterinary medicine, is an important factor in the development of antimicrobial resistance. To ensure the long-term effectiveness of antibiotics, it is important to understand the relationship between their use and the increasing development of resistance in animals and humans. This requires detailed information on, among other things, the quantity and type of antibiotic agents used. Findings in the field of resistance formation also support zoonoses research.
What was your personal motivation for obtaining the One Health certificate?
Since my doctoral supervisor, Prof. Lothar Kreienbrock, places great value on interdisciplinary education, he enabled me to participate regularly in scientific events such as conferences and workshops, which formed the basis for obtaining the certificate. A special motivation was the possibility to establish and expand personal contacts within the zoonoses research community.
To what extent were you able to benefit from the offers of the zoonoses platform?
The annual symposium in Berlin is a good opportunity for mutual exchange. I fondly recall the impressive lecture given by Dr. David Bardens during the evening event of the 2017 symposium, about the well-known legal dispute he conducted - the "Measles Trial". The personal career insights that the guest speakers offered us during the Junior Scientist Zoonoses Meeting 2019 were also very exciting, and I was already able to implement one or two tips I received there.
Dr. Katharina Hommerich is the first holder of the One Health Certificate of the German Research Platform for Zoonoses. In her doctoral thesis at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover, she dealt with the use of antibiotics in German dairy and cattle farms, an important topic at the interface of environmental, veterinary and human medicine. (Picture: K. Hommerich)
What is your opinion about the One Health idea? Do you think zoonoses research profits from it?
The current coronavirus pandemic is an example that demonstrates the close interdependence between human and animal health. Only through close and interdisciplinary cooperation of the entire health sector is a holistic approach possible. In this way, all participating areas benefit from the jointly generated knowledge.
The realisation of the One Health idea requires “interdisciplinary cooperation”. In order to fill this term with life, a great deal of commitment is required. How did you personally feel about interdisciplinary work - more as a curse or more as a blessing?
Absolutely as a blessing, as one is motivated from one's own institute and field of activity to look beyond one´s own field of expertise.
What are your plans for the future?
At the moment I am on parental leave. Afterwards I would like to finish my training as a veterinary specialist for epidemiology.
Thank you very much for the interview, Dr. Hommerich! We wish you all the best for your future career!