The Global Disease Biology Program


Initially conceived in 2013 during the Department of Plant Pathology's faculty meetings, the Global Disease Biology (GDB) major came to fruition during Fall 2014. Continuing students were allowed to switch into the newly approved major, and in Fall 2015, the major welcomed its first cohort of incoming freshmen and transfer students.

The making of GDB involved (and continues to involve) a unique multidisciplinary collaboration between the department of Plant Pathology (in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES)), the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) and the School of Medicine (SOM). This triad, directly inspired by the One Health Model (see below for more information) brings together important professions in a way which allows students to develop a holistic view of health and disease. 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 the class instruction and mentoring of GDB students.


The GDB Major 

The Global Disease Biology major at UC Davis uses an integrated One Health approach to promote 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 the 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 practicum project (senior research project), which each GDB student designs to bridge the disciplines of the major in a manner that matches research and 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 areas such 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.


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:

  1. Global Disease Issues: challenges to global health, economic impacts, social pressures of disease and more
  2. Disease Knowledge: etiology, evolution, ecology and epidemiology of diseases
  3. Scientific Research and Methods: 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 courses and electives as well as a practicum project. A Bachelors of Science (BS) in Global Disease Biology meets most of the standard requirements for medical, veterinary and other health professional schools for students interested in following those paths. The major prepares students for a myriad of other career opportunities, including but not limited to professions related to the provision of healthcare, health policy, global/public health, animal welfare, plant pathology, food and water quality, environmental protection and more. 

The GDB core curriculum features several new courses that have been designed specifically for the major, suhc as 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.

GDB students select a minimum of 25 units of upper-division coursework as their Restricted Electives. These serve as specialization courses, allowing students to customize their GDB experience fit their passions, research and career interests.

An integral part of the GDB major is the practicum project, which typically takes place over 1-2 quarters during the student’s final year. This project (GDB 189) takes place under the direct guidance of a faculty mentor and can be lab-based research, field-based research, or a literature review on issues related to disease and health. Culminating in a senior thesis (GDB 189D), 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."1

A 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. 

The One Health Model

Managing 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 the One Health Model. Many agencies, organizations and universities have adopted the One Health concept. Some may also refer to this idea as Planetary Health, emphasizing the notion that human and natural systems are interdependent.

The Global Disease Biology Major at UC Davis uses the One Health Model as a guiding principle to prepare students to become broadly trained professionals with creative and critical thinking skills necessary in order to solve global 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.2
One Health Resources


GDB Student Experiences

  • Austin Dalmasso, Global Disease Biology Graduate, Class of 2020
  • When I was accepted into the Global Disease Biology program in early 2016, I was ecstatic; even now as I reach the twilight of my undergraduate tenure that excitement had ceased to fade. Majoring in Global Disease Biology has allowed me to pursue my passions for science, research, and holistic systems thinking approaches to health and disease. The required core courses of the GDB major offer a substantial framework and restricted electives in tandem with the practicum project provide a channel with which to define your interests and put them to practice. There is something truly unique about the GDB student body and I have made some of my best friends through the classes and experiences we share. I highly recommend this major to anyone interested in learning about contemporary topics related to health!
  • Brandon Nguyen, Global Disease Biology Graduate, Class of 2020
  • As a student in the Global Disease Biology program, I can sincerely say that my educational goals have been met, crafted, and foundational to my career aspirations. Through mentorship across the One Health consortium, students are guided to enroll in a variety of health-related course work as well as partake in renowned research at an undergraduate level. Anecdotally, this major has given me the opportunity to integrate my practicum project in a student-run clinic. Aside from the program's curriculum, I have been especially thankful for its emphasis on collaboration. Some of my closest peers are also some of the best people I choose to work with -- these relationships are truly genuine and formed to last a lifetime. 
  • Bianca Radut, Global Disease Biology Graduate and Transfer Student, Class of 2020
  • As I was growing up, I always found myself interested in how diseases affect people. As I took courses in community college to prepare me for a health career, I found myself fascinated by any process of human health, especially the intersection of disciplines across the health field. So when I was ready to transfer to a 4-year university, I thought the GDB major was a perfect fit for my interests. As a graduating senior now, I've taken a variety of courses in microbiology and the microbiome, public and global health, and physiology. My GDB journey has given me great appreciation for the vast factors that can influence human health—and how our health can affect the state of everything else around us. The major has broadened my perspective of human health beyond disease: I now see health as a combination of wellness for the human mind and body, as well as the health of one's environment, the quality of food one has available, one's community and culture, etc. I've also had the opportunity to learn different aspects of health research through the practicum project. I've seen the clinical aspect, as well as the wet lab and statistical analysis sides of health-related research, which has also given me a greater appreciation for the inspiring advancements in science and medicine we see today. —
  • 1One Health Commission
  • 2William Karesh, Wildlife Conservation Society, in: “Africa's Apes Are Imperiled, Researchers Warn”,The Washington Post, April 7, 2003