Bruce was first introduced to epidemiology while working as a veterinarian in the South African Medical Service. At the time, epidemiology wasn’t taught in the veterinary science curriculum.
“The medical services had me working on a project on rabies as part of a One Medicine team that included medical doctors. While I was doing that, they enrolled me in an online epidemiology course with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” Bruce says. “Back then, veterinarians from Southern Africa had to go all the way to Europe or America to get any training in veterinary epidemiology.”
After completing his national service, Bruce worked off a government bursary as a research veterinarian. He retained his interest in epidemiology and began applying his epidemiology training as a government veterinarian. Five years later, he was approached by the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria (UP) in South Africa and asked to set up the veterinary epidemiology curriculum.
“I drew on what was being offered in the USA at the time and gradually built the curriculum up from undergraduate level to PhD level. I was one of the first in the world to teach epidemiology as an applied subject in the final years of veterinary science. However, there were still thousands of veterinarians in Southern Africa that had never been taught epidemiology and it would take generations of veterinary students to build up capacity through the new curriculum,” Bruce says.
“I decided the only way to solve this problem was to create a regional epidemiology organisation that could be used to bring likeminded veterinarians together and provide a forum for training and collaboration.”
So, Bruce founded the Southern African Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (SASVEPM) in 2000. With the Society, he brought experts from all over the globe to South Africa to hold workshops and provide epidemiology training to regional veterinarians. Since then, it has grown into one of the largest regional epidemiology societies in the world and continues to build capacity among veterinarians.
Now, 23 years later, Bruce’s contribution to veterinary epidemiology and preventive veterinary medicine over the past two decades was recently recognised when he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SASVEPM.
“Through the Society and my own personal teaching of veterinary epidemiology, I have been able to achieve my vision for building veterinary capacity in resource-poor countries that is sustainable, and sees veterinarians stay in the region to have a continuing impact on disease control,” he says.
“To be recognised with this award as achieving something positive by peers and colleagues is very rewarding for me.”