Monday, 23 June 2014

Vet Students Around The World - Meet Jessica Smith

We think veterinary students are awesome! Together with the International Veterinary Students' Association, we are bringing you the stories of vet students around the world.

This time we are talking to Jessica Smith – a vet student at the North Carolina  State University, USA

What’s your favorite animal?
I would have to pick the dog. I have a one year-old golden retriever, named Casey, who I absolutely adore. I find that it's just so easy to love dogs. They are accessible, they are everywhere, they love people and they are easy to love back.

Tell us about yourself!
I’m from Eastern North Carolina and I’ve lived in North Carolina most of my life. After receiving my Bachelors of Science degree from North Carolina State University, I worked for about a year at the NC State University Dairy Farm. The University has a dairy farm, beef farm, pigs, sheep, goats and horses for the undergraduate student labs and I visited the farms as an undergraduate.  I found dairy cows fascinating and later got a job at the dairy farm and ever since, my focus as a vet has been Dairy Herd Health. I did not grow up on a farm, so my family was quite surprised when I decided to study food animal health. When I’m not learning and studying farm animals, I try to make time for my personal hobbies, which include: yoga, hiking, and of course I take my dog to the park all the time. I also love to travel. This summer, I am in the Netherlands doing veterinary research through a veterinary scholars program. 

Why did you decide to study veterinary medicine?
It may sound a bit cliché, but it was the first thing I said I wanted to be as I child, and I just followed that all of my life. Growing up and in high school, I developed a better understanding of health, medicine and problem solving and how all of those apply to the veterinary profession.  I chose to attend North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC because it is the only vet school in North Carolina (U.S.A.).

What is it like to study veterinary medicine in the United States?
Since being in Europe this summer I have had the opportunity to network with students from around the globe. And so far, I have learned that veterinary training in the United States is quite different from the rest of the world. In the United States, the typical pathway is an undergraduate degree, then a DVM. Some students work on PhDs or master degrees before or after the DVM as well.  At my school, our first 3 years of vet school are in the classroom, and our 4th and final year is doing clinical rotations in the hospital.  I am in a class of 100 and we will graduate in 4 years with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree.  It seems a lot of European schools have 5-6 year veterinary programs that students are able to enter right out of high school.  I understand it to be like a combined undergraduate/masters program, and they have more than one year on rotations.  Training to be a vet can be a lot of hard work and requires serious dedication. Despite the hard work though, the most important thing I have learned is that when you are working on something you love, it’s always fun!

What’s a cool "vet fact” or “vet tip” that you’ve learned?
The best piece of advice I ever heard was from a veterinarian that I worked with.  He was and old guy and ready to retire, but still very wise and passionate about veterinary medicine. He told me, “Make sure you have a hobby, something that will get you away from work and that can help you relax.” I always try to share this piece of advice with my friends and let them know that they should remember to make time for fun things.  Whether it's music, service work, the outdoors, or travel, you have to make space for it in your life! It’s important to do things out of the routine to keep one’s sanity.

What advice would you give people considering becoming a vet?
My best advice for people considering becoming a vet is try to find the perfect balance between focused and flexible.  It's important to be dedicated and stubborn, because there will be people along the way who won't believe in you and who won't support your plans.  But you also have to be willing to accept changes and make modifications to your grand plan.  If you had told me 10 years ago I would be studying food animal medicine, I would have never believed you.  But because I took a chance on a slight interest I had a few years ago, I found my passion.  So don't be so headstrong that you forget sometimes the wildest adventures come from being open minded and a willingness to try something new. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Better Farming Through Partnerships

A shared passion is a powerful impetus for synergies amongst the corporate sector, scientists and organizations towards achieving a common goal. At Bayer, our passion for animals has inspired us to engage with over 90 organizations around the world in three areas – supporting the efforts of animal focused organizations, educational and awareness outreach, and research towards helping improve animal health and well-being around the world.

It’s no secret that farming is hard work and it is getting even more difficult. At Bayer, we want to help farmers achieve better outcomes and this is why improving animal welfare is an important topic to us. The pressure faced by farmers today is mounting with the escalating demand for animal proteins amid dwindling land and energy resources, as well as impact on the environment. Adding to the host of challenges, consumers today increasingly expect higher food standards, even as they take more interest in the origins of their animal proteins and how animals are treated. This makes animal welfare more essential to good farming practices than ever before.

Sharing expertise alongside animal focused organizations
Bayer was pleased to partner with the World Farmers’ Organization (WFO) to co-organize the Livestock workshop at the WFO Annual General Assembly in Buenos Aires, Argentina in March. The joint workshop organized along with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the International Meat Secretariat, put the spotlight on critical topics relevant to animal farming today, and underscored the vital importance of sustainability in animal farming on the international stage.

This marks a significant milestone in the journey towards greater awareness and understanding of animal welfare, as well as the efforts of the farming industry as a whole to promote good farming practices more widely. The next step is for the workshop participants to take what they have learned beyond the confines of the conference room, and to take the knowledge, ideas and best practices back to their home countries to inspire their colleagues to work towards achieving higher levels of animal well-being.

“Animal welfare and animal health work together. One cannot exist without the other,” explains Dirk Ehle, President of Bayer HealthCare Animal Health. “A lot of the work we do in the communities where we operate is carried out in partnership with organizations, such as the WFO. These partnerships are important as they help ensure that the initiative reaches the right people and that it benefits the community.”

Supporting farmers in caring for animals
Dirk Ehle, President of Bayer HealthCare Animal Health (right)
with Uwe Mucke, Head of Bayer HealthCare Animal Health in
Latin America, visit a swine farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Bayer’s commitment in the area of animal welfare and sustainable farming translates into many different outreach and educational initiatives, many of which are carried out in Latin America, where much of the world’s meat comes from. In Latin America, our colleagues recently completed a five-month educational course on animal welfare at the Cambridge Institute. Animal welfare is a topic we take seriously.

From talks and seminars, to workshops and farm visits, Bayer has partnered with organizations to educate thousands of farmers, veterinarians and students in Latin America on how the better care of animals contributes to better outcomes for farms and for the broader community. Each initiative is designed to engage the local community, and provides practical and relevant know-how on pertinent topics such as stockmanship, installations, disease control, parasite management, as well as nutrition and feeding.

The Bayer team helps farmers understand animal welfare principles, and how making the animal healthier – by understanding stress factors and possible pain points for the animals, and using methods that remove or reduce these stressors – is good for productivity, their business, and for the farming industry as a whole. The message they share with farmers is simple – “what is good for the animal, is good for the business.” Treat animals well. 

Innovating together for farm animal health
Bayer is also active in research and development (R&D) collaborations and partners with leading research institutes, universities think-tanks and laboratories around the world. As the fifth largest animal health company in the world and a global leader in parasiticides, we are committed to help prepare veterinarians and farmers for future animal health challenges, including parasitic, infectious, chronic, and zoonotic diseases. 

Bayer partners WSPA to conduct training on
Animal Welfare in San Pedro, Colombia.
“Our external research collaborations complement our own strong innovative edge that we enjoy from working closely with Bayer
CropScience and Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, which enables us to take a life-sciences approach to R&D. In fact, we are the only animal health company that can leverage the best of plant, human and animal health towards developing new innovations to help keep animals and the people who care for them healthy,” added Ehle.

WFO's Livestock Workshop

We know we get the best results by working together, and we can all help farmers by collaborating across corporate, research and government sectors. There are many synergies and much that can be shared and learned through partnerships, and we look forward to more opportunities to partner across boundaries to help farmers achieve more and succeed, with healthier farm animals and sustainable farms.

This article was originally contributed by Janice Chow, Global Communications and Public Relations Manager, Bayer HealthCare Animal Health, to the World Farmers' Organisation's F@rmletter.

Monday, 9 June 2014

World Farmers' Organisation: By Farmers - For Farmers

Where does our food come from? Yes, “farmers” is a good guess. But did you know that there are 525 million* farms worldwide?

Farmers rock! However, they are not often in the limelight, nor do most of us know any farmer by name. But have you ever thought about the role they play in our lives?

Farmers work very hard every day to produce the food we eat. But they are also faced with more and more challenges such as the growing world population, shrinking resources, and a changing climate.

In the face of the mounting pressure, an international organisation by farmers, for farmers seeks to help the farming community. The World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) gives farmers across the globe a collective voice in pertinent issues, as well as helps them to operate better and more sustainable farms through awareness and education, best practice sharing, and more.

Bayer was privileged to partner with WFO to organise a workshop that delved into the important topic of sustainable farming and animal welfare recently. We hope that the information shared helps inspire more farmers around the world to continue the drive towards more sustainable farming and even better approaches of caring for the well-being of farm animals.

Among the key themes of interest to WFO are climate change, food security, value chain, trade, contract farming and women in agriculture. Learn more about WFO and their work.

*source: Global Agriculture
Stay tuned! Later this week we'll post more about how partnerships benefit farming...

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Part 2: The Battle for Chronic Lyme Disease

In Part 1, Lorraine Johnson, JD MBA, Chief Executive Officer at and Dr. Raphael Stricker, Director at the International Lyme & Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) describe the findings of their peer-reviewed article, Severity of chronic Lyme disease compared to other chronic conditions: a quality of life survey 

In Part 2 of this social media series, Bayer HealthCare Animal Health delves deeper into the report’s key findings and we ask these thought-leaders if those with chronic Lyme disease have pets or were exposed through pet contact.

1. What were the key findings from the study?  
There were a number of key findings. When we looked at how patients reported their quality of life compared with other diseases, we found that those with chronic Lyme disease reported a poorer quality of life than patients with most other diseases including congestive heart failure, diabetes, asthma and MS. Fair or poor health was reported by 73% of patients with chronic Lyme disease. In comparison, only 16% of those in the general population report fair or poor health. 

The survey also shows that patients with chronic Lyme disease have high disability and unemployment rates. Over 40% of patients with chronic Lyme disease reported that they currently are unable to work because of Lyme disease and 24% of patients report that they have received disability at some point in their illness. This compares with 6% of the U.S. population who are unable to work due to illness. They also have high healthcare utilization rates. For example, compared to the normal population, they are 5X more likely to visit healthcare providers and 2X as likely to be seen in emergency rooms. 

2. What do the key findings mean? 
All of this means that patients with chronic Lyme disease suffer from an impaired quality of life and financial hardships that arise from high disability and unemployment rates as well as increased medical costs. These costs place of burden on the patient, their families and ultimately society in the form of lost productivity, disability and unemployment. 

3. What should people do with the information? 
The importance of prevention and early detection and treatment cannot be over-emphasized. Patients who remain ill after a short course of therapy need to know that there are other treatment options, including continued antibiotics, that may improve their quality of life. We need to launch a "Manhattan Project" for Lyme disease to determine the best course of treatment for chronic Lyme patients to improve their quality of life. People need to be aware of their risk.

4. Has any research been conducted on if those with chronic Lyme disease have pets or were exposed through pet contact?  
So far, we have not conducted the study through the lens of pet owner and for pet ownership. Given the success of this recent study, and its large sample size, we hope to be able to look at the issue through the lens of pet owner also.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Working Around The World - Meet Shundong Wang, Head of the Farm Animal Group in China

Hi Shundong, what do you do in your job?

I am responsible for the Farm Animal Products in China. This means I am responsible for the local organization that brings farm animal products to the market, including the commercial sales team and the marketing team. This also includes our future strategy of the farm animal business in China, which is a very interesting and changing market. It’s also very important for me to focus on developing the people that I work with – helping them improves their skills, experience and professionalism to make sure they can help farmers all around China.

How did you get to Animal Health?

I grew up in the countryside and as a young boy, I saw my father and mother raising pigs and chickens in the backyard. So from a very early age I was interested in farm animals because they were part of my childhood. These animals provided us with fresh eggs and food, and they were also part of our local culture. Every Spring in our town, there was a big festival, and because of our local farm, we would have a pig to share with the community. So I learned about animals from an early age and wanted to continue to develop expertise in this area. When I graduated from high school, I went to an agriculture university and my first job was at a swine breeding farm in China. Then I had the opportunity to go to Canada for a program at Alberta University to work on a government funded project that enabled me to bring information about farm management, nutrition, and feeding back to provinces throughout China. After returning from Canada, I joined the industry and worked for a nutritional company, then a global veterinary company, and then I was approached and asked to join Bayer. This was an important milestone for me personally because 15 years ago I was using Bayer products on the farm and I knew their quality was excellent. Bayer has a great reputation and is a well-known global brand. And I was really happy to join the team in 2011.

What do you like about working in Animal Health?

I have about 30 years of experience with animals now. And what I like about working in Animal Health is that I can bring together my experience with farm production, genetics, nutrition, and animal care to help our customers. It all comes together to help farmers in China. And from my personal point of view, working at Bayer is satisfying because the company has very strong values. It’s great to work for a company that that is focused on respect – both showing respect to the employees with development opportunities and ensuring a high quality of product to ensure the sustained respect of the Bayer brand.

Bayer’s motto is Science for a Better Life – how do you contribute to this?

This motto is really important for me. In the past years, Bayer Animal Health in China has seen a lot of changes. We are now working closely with our colleagues at the regional and global level to help us continue to grow and bring solutions to our farmers. Even when the environment is challenging, we strive to keep growing and helping our customers. And the motto of Science For A Better Life applies to everyone – people, animals, and the broader society. Because when we use science to help one part of our society, like farmers, then other parts of our society benefit. And that’s important.

Do you have a pet?
Yes – although technically it is my daughter’s dog. It is named Timor and every day when I come home from work, the dog greets me and welcomes me home. And every evening after dinner, my wife and daughter and I take the dog for a walk in the garden.

Thank you to Shundong Wang for doing this interview with us and sharing the story of his work at Bayer HealthCare Animal Health.

Part 1: The Battle for Chronic Lyme Disease

To raise awareness of recent Lyme disease science, Lorraine Johnson, JD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer at and Dr. Raphael Stricker, Director at the International Lyme & Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) describe the findings of a leading peer-reviewed article, Severity of chronic Lyme disease compared to other chronic conditions: a quality of life survey.

In this two-part social media series, Bayer HealthCare Animal Health connects with these thought-leaders to raise awareness of Lyme disease Awareness Month, leading science from the peer-reviewed article, and how people can apply this science to their everyday lives. 

In Part 1, we learn why chronic Lyme disease is an important and controversial disease, why its awareness is necessary, and how this new science builds the Lyme disease conversation. 

1. What is chronic Lyme disease? 
Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. It is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted via tick bites. In its early, or acute, form, the disease may cause a hallmark erythema migrans (EM) rash and/or flu-like symptoms such as fever, malaise, fatigue, and generalized achiness (Aucott et al., 2009). Unfortunately, many patients are not diagnosed early because tick may be as small as a poppy seed, its bite is painless, and the hallmark EM rash does not occur in a significant percentage of patients (Aucott et al., 2009). As such, “chronic Lyme disease” is ill-characterized and not yet formally recognized by the medical profession. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control refers to the lingering effects, after more than 2-4 weeks of Lyme disease antibiotic treatment, as “Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS).

2. Why is chronic Lyme disease an issue?  
Everyone agrees that some people with Lyme disease remain ill after treatment. However, there is disagreement regarding the cause of these symptoms and the best way to treat them. This is an issue because currently there are no commercially available lab tests that can confirm the existence of the infection after treatment. Nor are there any tests that can confirm the eradication of the infection after treatment. Medical specialty organizations differ in what to do for these patients. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) believes that after a short course of antibiotics patients should not be treated any further. The International Lyme & Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) believes that continued treatment may be appropriate.  For patients who remain profoundly ill after short term treatment, the availability of additional treatment options is important.

3. Why is information about chronic Lyme disease important?  
The CDC estimates that roughly 300,000 people (approximately 1% of the U.S. population) are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013b). This figure is 1½X higher than the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the USA (approximately 200,000), (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013a) and 6X higher than the number diagnosed with HIV/AIDS each year in the USA (50,000) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013c)! A proportion of patients with Lyme disease develop debilitating symptoms that persist in the absence of initial treatment or following short-course antibiotic therapy. This condition is commonly referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD) or chronic Lyme disease (CLD). It is estimated that as many as 36% of those diagnosed and treated early for Lyme disease remain ill after treatment (Aucott et al., 2013).   
Estimates of the number of people who do not get better in the short term vary but range between 15-36%. The population of patients with chronic Lyme could easily exceed 1M and continues to grow. The cost of late and chronic Lyme disease (including loss of productivity) is estimated to exceed $20,000 per year per patient, while the cost of early Lyme disease is about $1,600.

4. Why is the report, Severity of chronic Lyme disease compared to other chronic conditions: a quality of life survey, important?  
People know that chronic Lyme disease is a problem, but we still need more information about quality of life impairment, the disease’s impact on ability to work and the healthcare utilization of patients with chronic Lyme. To our knowledge, this report is the first large-scale survey of patients with chronic Lyme disease addressing quality of life issue. We had over 5,000 patients respond to the survey. The sample size was large enough to be able to look at subsets of patients. For instance, we could use stringent inclusion criteria using only those with an erythemia migrans rash or CDC positive two-tiered serology. This increases the sample validity.  We asked standardized CDC questions regarding quality of life.  These allowed us to compared chronic Lyme patients to other diseases as well as to the general population. 

In Part 2: The Battle for Chronic Lyme Disease, we delve deeper into the key findings, and we ask if those with chronic Lyme disease have pets or were exposed through pet contact.