A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

All Creatures Great and Very, Very Small

By Priyanka Champaneri, BA '05, MFA '10 on June 27, 2019

Not everyone can say they’ve encountered a snow leopard at close range, but David Crum, MPH ’16, can. Before coming to Mason, Crum was a veterinarian at a practice that specialized in treating exotic animals, where he saw everything from weasels to one very special big cat. “The exam was exactly the one performed on a domestic house cat—except this cat had bigger teeth,” Crum says. “I remember how soft her fur was and how lucky I was to see such a magnificent animal up close.”

David Crum, MPH ’16, is Maryland’s state public health veterinarian. Photo by Creative Services

Though he enjoyed the work—and the patients—he decided to shift careers. He looked to Mason’s public health master’s program for that next step. “The professors were top-notch and the core curriculum provided a means to expand upon my veterinary education,” he says. Of his professors, Crum singles out Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen as having a particularly positive impact. “She made epidemiology accessible and demonstrated how it can be used in practice. I still have her notes and use them to this day.”

Now, as Maryland’s state public health veterinarian, Crum focuses on critters that are a bit smaller and not as exotic. “[I] manage and direct the epidemiologic and scientific surveillance, analyses, and control of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases in Maryland,” says Crum. Vector-borne diseases include those transmitted by insects, such as Lyme disease carried by deer ticks, while zoonotic diseases (like rabies) are passed on directly by animals.

While much of his day includes communication and coordination between his office and the local health jurisdictions in Maryland, Crum also conducts field investigations. During these inquiries, Crum runs the gamut, from testing animals carrying zoonotic diseases to following up with individuals who may have been exposed—although those patients are of the human persuasion.

It all fits into Crum’s interest in the One Health approach, which explores the interconnectedness between the health of animals, humans, and the environment. For Crum, Mason was the missing link that brought his interests full circle. “Mason provided a great foundation in epidemiology and provided a means for me to make the transition to public veterinary practice.”

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