Commentary on limited licensure: Has its day finally arrived?
One of my classmates considered equine-exclusive practice the only true veterinary calling, with everyone else a mere veterinary wannabe. He wondered how much better his veterinary education would be if he could concentrate on his species of choice and not "waste time" with companion-animal concerns.
I agreed with him, but from the opposite direction. I knew that professionally I would never touch a single horse or cow after my licensure examination. After 28 years of companion-animal-exclusive practice, although legally entitled, I would never practice large-animal medicine except in the most dire of global catastrophes. I am not current on the medicine, surgery or regulations, nor have I maintained any degree of large-animal manual proficiency.But then, I doubt that my equineista classmate has even heard of "killer calicivirus." Why would he? He has sufficient equine matters to occupy his attention.
Thirty years ago, we envisioned how we might alter the education and licensure processes. Under our plan, the first two years of veterinary school (being largely textbook education) would remain unchanged for all students and result in earning a bachelor of science degree in veterinary medicine. The third-year student would then enter his/her choice of one of several 12- to 18-month programs concentrating on a preferred area of veterinary medicine and complete the requirements for a doctorate in that area.
The graduate then could either enter the chosen area of practice or remain in school to complete additional programs. A companion-animal exclusive or equine-exclusive student could each finish veterinary school in three to three-and-a-half years.
Each program would have a unique licensure exam, and practice would be limited to that one area. The final degree earned would still be DVM but the state license would read: DVM-CA (companion-animal), DVM-FA (food-animal), DVM-EQ (equine) and so on, for all possible areas of medicine.
A mixed-animal practice would require multiple licenses (represented by one or more people). Veterinarians currently in practice would be issued a DVM-AA license (all areas). Any vet who desired additional career options could return to school at any time to complete any desired program along with the contemporaneous third-year students.
With this modular concept, a new crop of veterinarians needed in any discipline could be produced in a mere year or so.
Future shortages could be anticipated easily by a census of students enrolled in each program.
Admission quotas could be established for each program to prevent oversupply of any one area.
Financial incentives could be offered to induce active veterinarians to enter programs suffering a manpower shortage.
Modular study could reduce the cost of a veterinary education by reducing the length of time students spend in school.
Dr. McLaughlin is a small-animal practitioner in Plano, Texas