Know the past to understand the future
Moving forward with his series of studies, Smith says he will examine the impact of history on veterinary medicine.
The profession started in a very different place than it is now, and lessons can be learned for the future from the challenges
of the past, he says.
"The changes in the profession were more profound than in the medical profession by a huge margin."
Veterinary medicine didn't take hold in the United States until the Civil War, when people realized horses and mules dying
of disease and malnutrition needed the same kind of medical care as people. As horses moved into cities in the 1880s, numerous
urban, for-profit veterinary colleges opened, often in partnership with medical schools. The land-grant colleges that popped
up from 1868 to 1910 focused more on production medicine and food-animal care, he says.
But when the use of horses began to decline, urban veterinary schools closed up. For veterinary education, the Great Depression
began in the 1920s, he says.
"Veterinary colleges left the cities and became estranged from medicine," Smith says.
Veterinary schools turned their focus to herd health, production medicine, food safety and zoonotic disease, while medical
schools became involved with small-animal care until the 1940s and 50s.
"Medical schools were doing more dog studies and surgeries than veterinary colleges," Smith says. "The best dog surgeons were
physicians for many, many years.
"Veterinary medicine started in the cities, then it became a rural profession ... and we've never recovered from that devastating
situation," he continues.
Now, veterinary medicine is becoming more proprietary again, and it's having a big impact on the profession's success, he
says. Smith says he'll explore these topics more in his next series of articles in JVME, appearing in the spring and summer.