Late last year the Senate passed a resolution naming January 2020 as ‘One Health’ Awareness Month, but Wilmington, DE, is way ahead of the curve. Since October 2017, the Delaware Humane Association One Health Clinic has offered free vaccinations, wellness exams and health screenings during 792 patient visits to date, serving to inform clients about the interconnectedness between their pet’s health and their family’s, their environment’s, and their own health. We spoke with Dr. Kristin Jankowski, VMD, CCRP, the trailblazing shelter veterinarian who brought this model of community care to Wilmington.
The Association: Congrats to you and Delaware Humane Association on being pioneers in the One Health approach, and on your incredible work for people and pets in the Wilmington community. As it is a relatively new term, how did you become aware of One Health?
Kristin Jankowski, VMD, CCRP: The connection between people, animals, and the environment is fortunately a big part of veterinary training. “One Health” is a term we learn fairly early on, but we realize this isn’t a common term for others. Helping to make it more mainstream was an early goal of the clinic.
Veterinarians see the power of the human-animal bond every day. Clients frequently tell us they wish their own medical care came with the same level of strong communication and compassion—and over the years I saw many situations where families would elect to care for their animals before caring for themselves. That was a big part of what led me to create a One Health clinic, so the whole community could have opportunities to make healthcare choices and feel empowered.
The Association: How did you get the clinic started?
Dr. Jankowski: Setting up the clinic took nine months of research and preparation. I was lucky to consult with some fabulous professionals who helped with this process—Dr. Paulina Zielinska Crook of the UC Davis One Health Institute, Dr. Cheryl Stroud of the One Health Commission, and Dr. Brittany Watson of the University of Pennsylvania. Without their help, I would have never been able to establish a functional plan. Now the clinic is held the first Saturday of every month from 9am to noon.
The Association: You’ve got an incredible team making it all happen–volunteer veterinarians and veterinary technicians from clinics in the greater Wilmington and Philly area, plus student volunteers from PennVet and the University of Delaware. Can you share the logistics of running the clinic—i.e. how do clients hear about your services, how are appointments scheduled, how does the partnership with Henrietta Johnson Medical Center (HJMC) work?
Dr. Jankowski: Originally, we went door to door in the community with flyers, and posted the information at HJMC. Now most of the clients hear about us through word of mouth or on the HJMC website. They make appointments directly through HJMC, but we also allow for as many walk-ins as we can accommodate. HJMC provides their community room for us to use, and nursing students and nurse volunteers connect the families with HJMC patient services, such as BP screenings, flu vaccines, and general health information. Mostly they are there to listen to concerns, help guide service appointments, and open the door to communication about healthcare in a safe, welcoming environment.
The Association: How do you go about getting funding to provide services free of charge?
Dr. Jankowski: It is done through a combination of grant funding, generous donations from pharmaceutical companies, and the whole package is driven by the countless volunteer hours from fabulous volunteer vets, techs, nurses, and students of our community.
The Association: Awesome! And we bet everyone reading can’t wait to hear about some memorable pets and people the clinic has helped.
Dr. Jankowski: There are a few that come to mind. One of our first clients told us, “It was like an angel came,” when she found the One Health Clinic flyer on her door. She said she was in a very tough place in her life and was distressed about caring for her pet—when she came to the clinic, she could finally feel at ease.
I remember a gentleman who came to our second clinic with his dog. He was in a wheelchair, and we cared for his dog outside. He had never received veterinary care for any of his pets prior to our clinic, and he was interested in learning what to do for his animals. Once the students and veterinary team explained preventative pet healthcare, he brought each of his pets, one by one, to get exams and vaccines, and have them spayed and neutered. When we saw him a year later for their annual exams, he told us that with the help of our clinic, he had lost 100 pounds, was out of the wheelchair, and now only using a cane! He was so appreciative and said that One Health clinic changed his life.
Another memory I’ll pass along was of a couple who came in with their dog. Their life had been derailed when their son was killed in a trucking accident, and they told us how their pets had gotten them through such a hard time—but they were not able to care for them until our clinic. When we take patient history, we always ask about smoking in the household, and the couple had a long conversation with our veterinary and nursing team about it. When they learned that the smoke could harm their pets, they wanted to start working on stopping smoking.
The Association: The clinic is an incredible team effort—are there any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out about?
Dr. Jankowski: Yes! Our One Health Coordinator, Danielle Scharp, LVT, is the master behind-the-scenes organizer. Without her, this clinic would not run. She came up with many of the systems currently in place, everything from pharmacy organization to laminated student training forms for each clinic station.
The Association: We understand that you have developed three surveys to assess the clinic’s impact on clients, volunteers and veterinarians, in support of research with the University of Pennsylvania. Any preliminary findings to share?
Dr. Jankowski: Yes! Amazing data is coming, but we will have to be patient for the publication 🙂
The Association: The Senate resolution, introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Martha McSally, aims to adddress human health in ways “that take into account changes in environmental and animal health.” How do pets—both owned and those in need of homes—fit into that equation, from a veterinary perspective?
Dr. Jankowski: The veterinarian’s role in keeping pets healthy contributes to the human animal bond; we all feel great when we can take care of our loved ones! It also helps to reduce zoonotic disease transmission. Reducing risks for disease transmission from pets to people (and vice versa) is something we discuss with our students at the One Health clinic. Disease from environmental risks is also an important part of One Health—that includes climate change affecting vector populations and the diseases they carry, toxin risks like lead paint in older homes, and pesticides in water sources. Veterinarians play an important role for pets with homes and without, but it’s the combined work of multiple professionals across a variety of disciplines that creates One Health success.
The Association: Any tips and advice for agencies wishing to start a One Health clinic in their community?
Dr. Jankowski: First, do your homework. Read about other One Health clinics, such as Knights Landing in California, in addition to DHA One Health Delaware. Second, involve students. They create the magic! Finding a vet school, undergrad pre-vet program, and nursing or medical student program is key. Lastly, find a human healthcare center who’s willing to give it a try. That can be a tough step, so give yourself some time and once again, homework, homework, homework first.
DHA One Health Delaware
Knights Landing Clinic on Facebook
Press Release: Senate Passes Bipartisan ‘One Health’ Awareness Month Resolution