Specialization: Panelists delve into top professional issues facing veterinary medicine; DVM Newsmakers Summit - DVM
News Center
DVM Featuring Information from:


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


There's this concept of a difference of standard of care, whatever that is, for generalists and specialists that raises a number of difficult questions. What do I do as a specialist if a case comes to me, and I feel it has fallen below some standard-of-care level? Are we moving toward a model where veterinary general practitioners are going to mimic what's happening in human medicine? Are general practitioners essentially gatekeepers? They do snots and shots and anything else above and beyond goes to a specialist? And lastly, can and should hospitals like my own play a larger role in training veterinarian students and future specialists?

Dr. Bonnie Beaver
Dr. Beaver: I've got some real concerns relative to the training of specialists, since I am one. The specialists' organizations as a whole tend to expect most of the training of residents to occur at the university level. There are some exceptions to that, and it is changing, but once these residents have received their training they tend to go out into private practice.

Thus, universities have a hard time recruiting specialists for a number of reasons. The one that I think is not often mentioned is lifestyle. Another area of concern in academics has to do with the funding of these residency programs. The early programs, particularly in pathology, internal medicine, surgery for example, did get into university funding mode. So, they have an ongoing program every year to bring in one or two new residents in that area. But many of the newer specialty areas such as critical care, animal behavior and neurology did not have built-in funding. So, in order to get a residency program, they have to look at non-traditional areas of funding primarily industry. Some of these programs are able to get enough money depending on how universities look at funding from client fees, but most cannot. For the most part, funding for newer residencies is difficult, and yet those areas where there's a large demand within the public for more people to serve that public. I think I'd like to hear our panelists talk about how we get funding, and how we increase the opportunities for these specialists. What models can we use to attract specialists back into universities to teach not only new veterinarians but also residency programs?

Dr. Lonnie King
Dr. King: I agree with Dr. Hendricks. I see the colleges of veterinary medicine differentiating. Differentiating in that a group of schools would probably just work with general practitioners, while another group of schools will be involved with biomedical research and a third group of colleges specialize in specialization to train interns and residents. These schools are not going to be able to do all three functions. Part of the reason is that the veterinary teaching hospital model is probably not economically viable over the next 10 years. We'll see this differentiation start.

Secondly, I see new roles and possibilities for veterinary technicians. We already have specialized training for vet techs, like human medicine, whether it's in anesthesiology or critical care. I see them playing much more of a role especially in food animal practices. They will be more hands-on, if you will, under the supervision of veterinarians. It will create great opportunities for veterinary technicians.

Thirdly, I agree there's a real tension now between training residents and what kind of job will a specialty practice do in terms of learning objectives, taking time when you have a bottom line to meet versus schools that really are prepared to do that. And so I think we have to look at a new model.

The fourth part is that in being around a lot of our students over the last 10 years, I think there's a possibility that we'll see veterinarians change careers more frequently. We'll see bursts of activities for five, six or seven years, moving over to maybe a CDC or public-health role, or moving from specialization back into academia. We are actually starting to see that a little bit in terms of the lifestyle. So we're not going to see somebody go into private practice for 30 or 40 years perhaps but start changing careers, taking some time off, looking for new opportunities and that may very well be the model of the future.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
Click here