Sitting around a campfire in Ndutu in northern Tanzania while enjoying a cold beverage was, perhaps, an unlikely “think tank” location. Having spent the day with our rabies vaccination team in the Serengeti District, Bryan Slinker, dean of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, WSU alumnus and veterinarian Dr. Kyle Frandle, Dr. Kathy Richmond of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and I brainstormed about how to get the needed grassroots involvement by people in developed countries to make rabies elimination a reality. The primary challenge is that rabies is truly a neglected disease and its burden in Africa and Asia is largely unrecognized in the United States and other developed countries. The outcome of the discussion was the incredible opportunity represented by the over 60,000 veterinarians in the United States engaged in companion animal health care. Each doctor is an expert in rabies vaccination and collectively they serve 180 million pets, providing the focal point to spread the message about the burden of rabies and that it can be eliminated. The “big idea” aside, it was critical to learn how to work with private practice veterinarians to capitalize on their expertise and public engagement without interfering in their dayto-day clinical work. Veterinarians and their staffs jumped in and worked with our communications and development teams to create a process that met these goals. Remarkably, these veterinarians took it on to financially support the elimination campaign by donating funds every time they vaccinate for rabies in their own clinics. You can read more about two of these leaders, Drs. Tim Kraabel and Beth Fritzler, in this newsletter. They are emblematic of the numerous veterinarians who have made this mission their own. Five years after the campfire discussion, the number of participating veterinarians continues to grow—each one bringing our collective goal of eliminating human suffering due to rabies ever closer. Thank you from all of us at the Allen School, and especially on behalf of the people their support protects against rabies.
Creighton Endowed Chair and
WSU Senior Director of Global Health