Specialization: Panelists delve into top professional issues facing veterinary medicine; DVM Newsmakers Summit - DVM
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Specialization: Panelists delve into top professional issues facing veterinary medicine; DVM Newsmakers Summit
Education faces major dilemmas to clog funding, talent drain


It's just this companion animal bond connection they have. They're pushing us to have a multi-tier system and parenthetically it's really pushing the academic veterinary practice into a tertiary or quaternary referral situation where we are competing with our own graduates who are establishing excellent and almost academic practices.

We know, in order to attract clients, we're moving into really doing clinical trials or developing entirely new approaches. We just opened our interventional radiography and minimally invasive surgery unit complete with lithotripsy. These are the kinds of things that we need to do to attract clients. But you can imagine how extremely difficult it is to train a veterinarian to do routine practice. And I can't easily see a situation where within 10 years we will not need to have some completely different way to train people if they expect to go out and be fully qualified veterinarians in a family practice in four years as opposed to continuing beyond that.

And another challenge for us in academia is because of the extreme demand for specialists and the very satisfying career that people can have as specialists. We have a great difficulty recruiting them back into academia and retaining them at the salaries we pay, which are a fraction of private practice. I usually say that fraction shouldn't be less than half, but if it's less than half you're not going to get them no matter how committed they are. If it's more than half, then you're going to get a small number of extremely committed people who just really want to be on the forefront and enjoy the academic environment.

We're rapidly moving toward a multi-tiered system without having really thought it through. Some of it is good, and some of it is extremely difficult.

Dr. Gary I. Block
Dr. Block: As Dr. Hendricks said, I think there's general agreement that there is a net movement of specialists out of academia and into private practice although I don't know the scope or the magnitude. As someone who works in a 25-doctor practice, I can say about half of our specialists have come from a university and ended up in our practice.

I sometimes complain about the stresses of owning a referral and emergency hospital, but when you look at it, there are probably fewer financial pressures on private specialty referral practices than general practices these days. We are in the up slope of a huge trend, and it's been made easy in part because of some of the issues that Dr. Hendricks outlined. These days, there often is little difference in the type of equipment available between private practices and vet schools, and many specialty practices have internships and residencies, and doctors so inclined have an opporunity to teach. Combine this with the financial advantages of private practice, and you see why there is a net movement of specialists out of academia. The conclusion that I made from non-scientific querying of my own staff is that unless you are interested in clinical and, potentially more important, basic research there's not a lot of attractiveness these days for many specialists to look for jobs in academia.

Compensation is a huge issue and because of some of the financial pressures that our profession is dealing with in graduating debt and starting salaries, many people who otherwise enjoy the intellectual stimulation of academia have gone into private practice and essentially created that environment without some of the bureaucracy associated with universities. I don't want to over generalize, but I think it's a fair assessment, and most university people agree, that there is a certain inefficiency and slowness to respond in academia that many private practices seem to have eliminated.

With regard to my place in the profession as a specialist in private practice, there is a belief that I think we all like to see ourselves as colleagues, but a part of us wonders at what point do we become competitors.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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