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MPH Concentration: Veterinary Public Health

The MPH with a veterinary public health (VPH) concentration involves collaboration in public health professional preparation between the College of Veterinary Medicine and the MPH program in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. The veterinary public health concentration is available only to veterinary students enrolled in our DVM/MPH dual degree program, graduate veterinarians, and licensed veterinary medical technicians (LVMT).

One health is the concept that animal, human and environmental health are linked, and recognition of this link has created a need for veterinarians with a level of knowledge and skills beyond those gained during their professional education. Findings of the National Research Council, reported in Workforce Needs in Veterinary Medicine (2012), emphasizes the national need for more veterinarians to work in public health, epidemiology, and food safety among other specialty areas. Needs and opportunities for veterinarians are expanding in organizations ranging from public agencies dealing with animal and human health, to agencies and corporations charged with food safety and security from the farm to the consumer level. The demand is increasing for veterinarians with additional education in food safety, food and animal production, zoonotic diseases, biosecurity, research methods and public policy. The veterinary degree alone is not enough to prepare veterinarians to meet these challenges and opportunities. A Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is an excellent and necessary addition to the DVM degree for those individuals wanting to make a career in public health and service.

Veterinarians are the only health professionals trained in multi species comparative medicine and the profession links agriculture, medicine and even health issues at the household level through companion animals. Historically, the professions greatest contributions to society have been in food production and its safety and the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases. These roles continue and have assumed even more importance in the context of potentially deliberate acts of bio- or agroterrorism. American livestock, other domesticated animals, and free-ranging wildlife have been identified as targets by terrorists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have warned veterinary colleges that veterinarians will likely be the front line in detecting terrorist-engineered epidemics. Veterinary students, graduate veterinarians and veterinary medical technicians must now learn to spot medieval terrors like bubonic plague, whether the symptoms erupt in livestock or companion animals.


Consider a career in veterinary public health to increase job opportunities. The the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service is the single largest employer of veterinarians in the US and possibly the world and this one agency estimates it will need 500 new veterinarians in the next few years. About half of the veterinarians in the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service are currently eligible for retirement. The US Army Veterinary Corps needs 45 new veterinarians each year to meet their public health mission goals. Other opportunities for service exist at the state, municipal and university level. The MPH degree is necessary for many of these career opportunities.

A veterinary public health student develops the following competencies:

  • Assess health risks to individuals and communities with special attention to zoonotic and emerging diseases, foodborne illness, and injuries associated with animals.
  • Communicate health risks to individuals and communities with special attention to zoonotic and emerging diseases, foodborne illness, and injuries associated with animals.
  • Design, implement, and critically evaluate epidemiologic studies.
  • Apply techniques of surveillance, recognition, prevention, control, and management of infectious diseases, with special attention to zoonotic and emerging diseases, food borne illnesses, and potential bio- or agroterrorism agents.
  • Evaluate intervention programs that aim to reduce health risks associated with foodborne illness, zoonotic or emerging diseases, or hazards associated with animals.
  • Outline the steps needed to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of foods of animal origin.
  • Identify community and governmental resources appropriate for addressing health needs.
  • Healthy raccoon in snow

    Justify the need for public policy development based on scientific data.

  • Develop drafts of standard operating procedures or policies needed to safeguard the community.

Students complete their learning with an internship (also called field practice) for an equivalent of nine weeks. The field practice is an opportunity to use skills as a public health veterinarian. Field practice sites have been arranged at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Tennessee Department of Health, the East Tennessee Regional Health Office, the US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, and other relevant settings. The field experience is guided by a set of learning objectives related to public health competencies. Learning objectives are mutually developed by student and supervising preceptor during the first week of the internship. Read more about the field practice experience here.

Become Certified in Veterinary Preventive Medicine (DACVPM)

Individuals who hold a DVM and complete UT’s MPH with a VPH concentration are well-prepared to take the Veterinary Preventive Medicine board exam. Some of the most rewarding jobs in veterinary public health are filled by board certified veterinarians. In addition to being professionally prepared as a veterinarian, a person with this certification is credentialed after demonstrating competency-based criteria established by the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicne (ACVPM).  The rate of successful completion of the exam by UT graduates is highly encouraging, and some graduates have gone on to achieve high level positions in federal, state, and local organizations.