Rehabilitation medicine - DVM
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Rehabilitation medicine
Newest specialty poised for growth in areas like post-surgical rehab, agility, pain management


DVM: How is the treatment approach changing?

Van Dyke: We're incorporating more human physical therapy techniques into the veterinary field, such as Laser, electrical stimulation or ultrasound. These are approaches we've been cognizant of for years, but modalities that we have not put to use in full capacity.

It is important that veterinarians stay on top of sports rehabilitation techniques. They are realizing that if the client says, "You don't know how to diagnose this problem in my dog, so I'm going to go elsewhere," they will begin to lose clients due to inability to solve the mystery for the client. Clients are choosing to take their dogs for surgery to a place where they can get physical therapy as well. Clients definitely are willing to spend the money if it means that their athlete can return to peak performance.

Even in very small practices, such as solo veterinarian practices, you will find more rehabilitation techniques being employed. Some may fear entering this field, believing that they need to retrofit their building to accommodate large hydrotherapy equipment. We are teaching vets and PT's that most of the rehabilitation techniques do not require this large investment. Pain management often can be handled cage side using various physical therapy techniques. Manual therapies and physical modalities can easily be done in the exam room. The most important equipment that the veterinary practice needs, in order to add rehabilitation services for their clients, are well trained staff.

DVM: How did the Canine Rehabilitation Institute get its wings?

Van Dyke: The company was started in 2002 as a collaboration with Dr. Christine Zink (PhD, Dipl. ACVP), a boarded veterinary pathologist at Johns Hopkins University, College of Medicine, who is very involved in canine sports medicine. She and I were attending a veterinary continuing education course together and started discussing the need for veterinarians to understand canine sports rehabilitation medicine and to learn it from a practical perspective. We believed it would be helpful to learn from people in running busy rehabilitation practices so our graduates could build on their own skill sets to include the art, science and business of canine rehabilitation in their practices.

We started putting our heads together and recruiting faculty members for our group. We were pleasantly surprised as we began talking to prospective faculty, and we found they were immediately receptive, asking, "How many days do I get to teach?" or, "How do I get involved?" We were up and rolling by mid-2002, putting together the curriculum, coordinating schedules and testing the exam process. Our first course was offered in mid-2003.

In that first year we held five classes, gradually ramping up over the next two years to offering at least one class every month. At this point, we have 12 faculty members, some of whom teach one subject one day; others teach up to six days in a row.

DVM: Are courses available for veterinarians, veterinary technicians and physical therapists only?

Van Dyke: No, just this year we started a new process of educating veterinary students. We became involved with Colorado State University on a three-pronged approach. We are able to offer our certification courses at the college.

In addition, our goals were to help CSU grow the rehabilitation service in their small-animal teaching hospital and to get more students involved in rehabilitation. We didn't want rehabilitation to remain a curiosity that occurred down the hallway; we wanted it to be more of a mainstream skill set for students. CSU agreed. It was a bit challenging to staff and equip the facility during the economic downturn. CSU was able to get creative, recruiting Dr. Jessica Rychel who could work on their pain-management service while also creating the rehabilitation service, which launched last September. Now that CSU had a rehabilitation practice on-site in the veterinary school, I said to the clinical sciences director, Dr. Paul Lunn, "Now we're ready to educate our students."

When we submitted our proposal for the 20-hour elective, the curriculum committee immediately approved it. We worked diligently to secure funding for the course as the veterinary school could not add any programs due to financial constraints. Pfizer was generous enough to back the student elective as a pilot program. We ran the program this spring, and 26 students attended. We received great reviews from the students, which was wonderful, but we are now receiving kudos from veterinarians in clinics. They noted that the students coming out of these rehab classes were coming out with skill sets enabling them to better assess patients. It was important for us to hear that the clinicians appreciated the value of the program.

We hope to be able to offer this elective every semester at CSU and would like to expand this program to additional veterinary colleges in the U.S. and the UK. We are in discussions with Pfizer to assist us with this endeavor.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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