Vets in a Human World

Here at RubyDuke, despite working primarily in the world of human health, we consider ourselves lucky to have two qualified vets as part of the team. At first, it may seem a little unusual for vets to be working in human healthcare. Human medicine and veterinary medicine are often viewed as quite separate. Doctors treat people, and vets look after animals. Yet Homo sapien is the only animal species a vet is not allowed to treat.

As the current pandemic brings the link between human and animal health firmly under the spotlight, we consider the wider connections between the two, and reflect on how veterinary skills can be transferred into the world of human healthcare.

The link between human and animal health

Despite the differences between the two professions, they do share a number of common principles and challenges. Of course, anatomy varies and drugs are metabolised differently across species. But the fundamentals of physiology and pathophysiology are the same – indeed many diseases are similar enough to warrant animal models for the study of human conditions. And vets, just like doctors, regularly take histories, perform physical examinations, develop lists of differential diagnoses, interpret diagnostic tests and images, reach a diagnosis and treat accordingly. Whilst antimicrobial resistance proves to be a significant One Health challenge – requiring collaboration and expertise from both vets and doctors alike, alongside all our professional colleagues working within human, animal, and environmental roles.

So it’s not surprising, then, that veterinary skills, resources and knowledge are valuable within the world of human healthcare too.

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How are vets helping human healthcare today?

It’s great to see how vets have been applying their skills and knowledge to human healthcare amidst the COVID-19 crisis. For example, Keith Simpson, vet turned MD of veterinary ventilator manufacturer Vetronic hastily tweaked several ventilators – usually used for “anything from a rat to a great dane” – for human use based on advice from anaesthetists. The machines underwent rigorous safety tests at Torbay hospital and several machines were later delivered to the NHS, just in time for the peak in cases. Meanwhile Heidi Miner’s ‘Scrubs from the vet world’ campaign on Facebook has been coordinating efforts to donate scrubs to the NHS from veterinary teams who don’t currently need them.

How has our veterinary training equipped us for the world of healthcare communications?

Communication skills

Doctors seem to have the advantage over vets in that they can talk to their patients and typically their patients reply! Vets often talk to their patients but also need to communicate effectively with animal carers to gain an insight into their patient. And this lack of direct communication with patients is something we’re faced with in healthcare communications, too. When writing for patients, it’s unusual to gain any insights from them directly – so we have to work a bit harder to judge their needs and level of understanding. Likewise when writing for healthcare professionals, as freelance agency support we have little interaction with the end customer; perhaps the occasional invitation to a market research interview, if we’re lucky! In both the vet world and healthcare communication, listening is key to understanding the situation and expectations of the client. Plus, it helps that we know the lingo! The terminology used in human and veterinary medicine is identical, or at least very similar. Being familiar and comfortable with medical vocabulary makes interpreting data and communicating with both HCPs and the general public seem like second nature.

Problem solving

Just like doctors, vets are constantly implementing and modifying treatment plans. This adaptability and continuous evaluation of the strategy based on current information is useful in determining whether the current plan is fit for purpose or whether it could be improved to further optimise outcomes. This flexible, progressive mindset enables us to blend science and strategy, ensuring that our work is always relevant and considered.


The large number of different species vets learn about means they graduate with a diverse range of knowledge and experience. However, the value of having input from colleagues with different interests, expertise and experience is never underestimated. Obtaining second opinions for a fresh perspective can be remarkably insightful. We are fortunate to have a diverse team here at RubyDuke and we love nothing more that collaborating on projects where possible. We acknowledge each other’s skill sets and never hesitate to ask for advice.

Critical thinking

In our fast-paced world, new drugs, products and technologies are constantly coming onto the market. Like human healthcare professionals, vets are taught to evaluate evidence and how such innovations may have an impact on our patients. This means having a keen eye for detail and being able to challenge the status quo. Lifelong learning in medicine, both human and veterinary, is essential to ensuring best practice and subsequently optimal patient outcomes. And in healthcare communications, these skills enable us to confidently ensure data are robust, to support a strong and balanced claim.

Do you think it’s surprising that RubyDuke have three vets as part of the team? We always enjoy hearing about people’s career adventures – so please feel free to share yours!

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