More graduates pursue specialty studies

Trend attributed to higher salaries, demand and job opportunities
Feb 15, 2007

NATIONAL REPORT — One-third of 2006 veterinary graduates pursued specialty studies via internships, residencies or formal education programs, almost doubling participation from 10 years ago, according to a recent American Veterinary Medical Association poll.

Dr. Andrew Maccabe
Graduate involvement continues to rise because of increased demand for more specialized care and the opportunity for higher salaries, says Dr. Andrew Maccabe, associate executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

About 33 percent of DVM graduates accepted advanced study positions, up from almost 18 percent in 1996. Mean salary increases have accompanied the growing participation in specialties, averaging $18,290 in 1996, and steadily increasing to $25,496 in 2006, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

On the ground

And it appears those numbers echo the reality at veterinary institutions, insiders say.

Photo: © 2007 JupiterImages Corporation
Forty-five of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's 122-member graduating class, or 37 percent, plan to enter internships for specialty education, says Dr. Bradford P. Smith, director and associate dean for clinical programs at the school's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

A survey of Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine alumni shows 41 percent of DVMs who graduated in the last five to 10 years had pursued post-graduate training, while only 18 percent of DVMs graduating 15 years to 20 years ago sought the same, says Angie Warner, associate dean of academic affairs.

Tufts also reports that 34 percent of the younger alumni group polled worked in internships after graduation compared to 10 percent of their older counterparts.

"Veterinary medicine is quite a few years behind human medicine in the development of specialties, so we are still in the growth phase," Smith says of the increasing trend.

10 musts for DVM resumés
The most common specialties pursued, he says, include small animal-specific programs such as surgery, internal medicine, ophthalmology and dermatology as well as equine medicine and surgery.

Officials with the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine report an average 36 percent of the DVM class seeks post-graduate education. They credit that number to strong bonds between students and educators as well as consistent encouragement to achieve a deep understanding of the art and science of medicine, says Dr. Jim Thompson, executive associate dean of the veterinary program.

Workforce deficits

Despite the increased pursuit of specialties, some sectors of the veterinary job market report decreased participation. Biomedical research is one example, Maccabe says.

Unsure why DVMs are lacking in this area, AAVMC plans to hold a symposium in August at the National Institutes of Health to explore obstacles and motivators faced by veterinarians when they consider going into biomedical research.

Veterinary colleges also are struggling to recruit board-certified clinicians into clinical teaching and research positions, Maccabe adds.

"Our concern is that we need highly qualified clinicians to teach the next generation of practitioners," he says. "And in teaching hospitals, board-certified specialists do the bulk of research that advances the profession. They discover the techniques and protocols that veterinarians use every day.

"If we are unable to fill that faculty rank, who is going to do that research?"