James Harlen Steele, DVM, MPH is considered to be the “father of veterinary health.” Dr. Steele led some of the first efforts to prevent the spread of disease from animals to humans. In 2006, Dr. Steele became one of only a few veterinarians to receive the Surgeon General’s Medallion, presented to him by the then Surgeon General and my friend, Richard H. Carmona.
He began his career in 1938, testing vaccines at the Michigan State Department of Agriculture while earning his doctorate degree at Michigan State which he received in 1941. A year later he received his master’s degree in public health from Harvard.
In 1943, he became a consultant to the surgeon general where he helped to establish veterinary programs for the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization in the United Nations. His work there led him to the position of Chief of the Veterinary Public Health division of the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta, which became the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 1947.
Dr. Steele became the Chief Veterinary Officer and Advisor to the Surgeon General on all affairs involving veterinary medicine and veterinary public health. In 1968, he became the first assistant surgeon general for veterinary affairs with the US Public Health Service. In 1971 he become professor of environmental health services at the University of Texas School of Public Health, where he taught until 1983. In 1992, the James H. Steele Lecture Series was established there in his honor. Ever the gifted educator and mentor, Dr. Steele believed that it was his calling to teach and encourage others to aspire to improve the quality of life for people and animals around the world. Fortunately, he was able to share his philosophy with thousands of students and colleagues.
James H. Steele received numerous awards for his work, and he wrote hundreds of scientific articles and books. His biography, One Man, One Medicine, One Health: The James H. Steele Story, was published in 2009. This extraordinary man set in motion the idea which led to the creation of the One Health Initiative, an organization whose efforts and guidelines have been a constant source of inspiration to me and to our company. At the time of his passing, Dr. Steele was one hundred years old.
So as One Health Day is celebrated globally for the eighth time, let us remember the man whose lifelong commitment to One Health led us to where we are today