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About the Global Disease Biology Major

The Major Program

The Global Disease Biology academic major at UC Davis uses an integrated, One Health-based approach to advance student understanding of the concept(s) of disease, the societal and personal impacts of past, present and future diseases, and the science behind disease discoveries, causes, evolution, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Throughout a series of core courses, issues related to human, animal, plant, and environmental health, along with tools available to solve these problems, are introduced to provide students with real-world scenarios in which they can apply and advance their creative and critical thinking skills. The major includes a senior research project, which each student designs to bridge the disciplines of the major in a manner that matches career interests and maximizes career prospects.

A degree in Global Disease Biology prepares graduates with the knowledge, leadership skills and experiences required to excel in a vast array of professions associated with such areas as healthcare, medicine, public health, health policy, food safety and security, and nature conservation, as each relates to disease and health of people, animals, plants and the environment in developing and developed countries.

History of the GDB major

Conceived in early 2013 during faculty meetings in the department of Plant Pathology, the idea for a Global Disease Biology (GDB) major at UC Davis came to fruition first in the Fall of 2014, when continuing students were allowed to switch into the newly approved major and then again in Fall 2015 when the Major welcomed its first batch of incoming GDB freshman and transfer students. The making of GDB involved (and continues to involve) a unique and trans-disciplinary collaboration between the department of Plant Pathology (PLP, in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) and the School of Medicine (SOM). This GDB triad brings together multiple health science professions inspired by the One Health concept (see below). As the GDB major grows, this cross-campus collaboration continues: while PLP houses the administrative and advising roles, all three partners (PLP, SVM, and SOM) share responsibility for class instruction and research mentoring of students in the GDB Major.

GDB Curriculum, Research Opportunities and Career Prospects

The GDB major offers a unique and robust curriculum that has three main learning outcomes with clearly defined competency skill sets: these are Global Disease Issues (challenges to global health, economic impacts and social pressures of disease), Disease Knowledge (etiology, evolution, ecology and epidemiology of diseases), and Scientific Research and Methods (to understand and apply the principles of the scientific method as they pertain to health and disease).

The GDB degree requirements include broad preparatory course work, global disease biology core classes, a wide range of upper division electives, and a strong research experience. A B.S. in Global Disease Biology meets the standard requirements for most medical schools and veterinary schools for students who are interested to follow that path, but the major prepares students for many other career paths, including but not limited to professions related to the provision of health care, health policy and regulations, global and public health, animal welfare, plant pathology, food and water quality, and environmental protection. Students may also pursue an academic minor in GDB as a means to complement their non-GDB major.

The GDB core curriculum features several required and elective courses that have been designed newly and specifically for the GDB Major, for example GDB 102: Disease Intervention and Policy and GDB 103: The Microbiome of People, Animals and Plants. The core curriculum also includes several non-GDB classes, such as PMI 129Y: One Health: Human, Animal and Environmental Interfaces and VME 158: Infectious Disease in Ecology and Conservation. In their junior and senior year, GDB students select a minimum of 25 units of upper division courses as their Restricted Electives. These serve as specialization courses and allow students to really customize their GDB experience.

An integral part of the GDB major is the research project over 1-2 quarters in the student’s senior year. This project (GDB 189) takes place under the guidance of a faculty mentor and can be lab- or field-based research, or literature review on issues related to global disease and health. Culminating in a senior thesis, this research experience prepares students to deal with real-world scenarios pertaining to global health challenges.

What is One Health?
"One Health is the collaborative effort of multiple health science professions, together with their related disciplines and institutions – working locally, nationally, and globally – to attain optimal health for people, domestic animals, wildlife, plants, and our environment."
One Health Commission

A B.S. degree in Global Disease Biology opens a path to a wide array of potential careers in the areas of health care, public health, agriculture, industry, government, research, teaching, and consulting. For more information, visit here.

GDB and the One Health concept

Managing global disease problems requires a multifaceted, holistic approach to address the full spectrum of human, animal, plant, and environmental health risks. This comprehensive effort is known as One Health. Many agencies, organizations and universities have adopted the One Health concept (see below). Some refer to it as "Planetary Health", the idea that human and natural systems are interdependent (https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/planetary-health/). The Global Disease Biology Major at UC Davis uses the One Health approach as a guiding principle to prepare students to become broadly trained professionals with creative and critical thinking skills to solve global health problems.

Human or livestock or wildlife health can't be discussed in isolation anymore. There is just one health. And the solutions require everyone working together on all the different levels.
William Karesh, Wildlife Conservation Society, in: “Africa's Apes Are Imperiled, Researchers Warn”,
The Washington Post, April 7, 2003

My GDB Experience

"As a soon-to-be-graduating senior, I can say that my experience as a Global Disease Biology major has been wholly positive. One of the things I’ve appreciated most about the major is the emphasis understanding the importance and implications of research. The Global Disease Biology faculty and curriculum, especially the research practicum, has pushed me to develop a deeper understanding of the research I am involved in. While I had been doing lab procedures, the aim of some of those procedures was unclear to me in certain ways. Writing my research proposal and practicum for GDB has helped me to understand why we are conducting the experiments we’re conducting in the way that we are, and has also made me consider the far-reaching implications of the research because I’ve had to actually write about the aims and results of it. Additionally, as part of the preparation for the practicum, I was required to give a short presentation on my research to faculty and students in the major (for those not yet in a research lab, this can be about research you’re interested in being a part of). Having the opportunity to do this also helped me to understand the overarching questions my research asks: in order to give a compelling and cohesive presentation that wasn’t too long, I felt that I needed a very clear understanding of the work that I was doing, and as such had several conversations with my research mentor about what our results meant. Overall, the practicum has allowed me to develop a much deeper appreciation and understanding of research and the process of scientific inquiry.

For those not yet involved in research: many of my friends in the major have found positions in research labs due to their involvement in the GDB major. The GDB faculty goes to great lengths to ensure that any student who wants to participate in scientific research has the opportunity to do so."

Ron Hart, 4th year Global Disease Biology Student

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Contact GDB Advising

(530) 754-2281 or gdb-advise@ucdavis.edu


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Contact GDB Advising

(530) 754-2281 or gdb-advise@ucdavis.edu

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