Publishing enhances graduates' resumés
Philadelphia-The "publish or perish" adage in academia rarely applies to veterinary students, yet college leaders claim carrying out scientific research and having it accepted by peer-reviewed journals can boost anyone's job prospects, even those embarking on a clinical career.
Research documents and validates that a student has engaged in rigorous intellectual activity, says Dr. Ludeman Eng, head of biomedical sciences and pathobiology at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
"Many students would benefit from greater exposure to more research activity than they receive," Eng says. "It's not the normal clinical curriculum but a valued activity that develops the intellectual sharpness of students."
The road to being read
For students en route to a Ph.D. or on a government professional track, the ability to conduct and develop research as well as write a report is imperative. But the knowledge applies to those with all kinds of career aspirations, says Dr. Sawkat Anwer, professor and chair of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine Department of Biomedical Sciences.
"The way it works is when a student has been published, it tells employers a lot about that person in terms of his or her ability to read literature, find the hole, propose a hypothesis, experiment and discover something new," Anwer says. "This applies to various aspects of life, to all students no matter what they are pursuing."
In many ways, clinicians are as much experimentalists as some laboratory researchers, adds Dr. Alan Kelly, dean of the University of Pennsylvania (UP) School of Veterinary Medicine.
"You don't want those in the clinical department so tied up with cases they don't have the opportunity to do research and be published," he says. "If students are going into clinical medicine, learning how you do controlled experiments, do the research and read it makes you a much more critical clinician."
Finding time to perform research is key, Anwer says. Students on the research track at Tufts prepare during the first and second semesters of their inaugural year. Instructed to write a proposal, the students work with faculty mentors to support their first experiments. In the end, they write a report.
"The writing of this report is more important then what they've actually found," Anwer says. "Some may even get published. We get on average one or two a year finding their way into peer-reviewed journals."
Likewise, Tufts students spending a lot of time on clinical projects can work perspective studies, sometimes doing the legwork for cases generating faculty reports.
"If a student in his for her fourth year notices something usual in a case, the student's encouraged to write it up as a case report," Anwer says. "For employers, it's a sign that here's a person who can analyze information, which is helpful in clinical practice."
At the top
All veterinary medical institutions perform a fair amount of scholarly activity and investigative work to advance
the profession. But among programs receiving most of the nation's federal research funding, UP's School of Veterinary Medicine employs the largest veterinary research enterprise in the country. The proof, UP's Kelly claims, is in the numbers.
Based on data derived from the Institute for Basic Science Information, Kelly and his staff compared UP's publishing rates in widely read journals.
"We do much better than anybody else in terms of publishing in high impact journals," he says. "We have a great emphasis on basic research."
Between September 1992 and September 2002, for example, UP faculty published twice as frequently in the highest impact scientific journals such as Nature and Science than any of the top National Institute of Health-funded colleges, Kelly reports.
The findings might give the school an edge, Kelly says, but veterinary institutions including UP still aren't doing enough to attract students and scholarships to research.
"I don't think we have done enough in veterinary medicine to help finance students to go into research," he says. "Research creates a thought process that's tremendously important. It does a great deal to prepare a student for practice and to foresee the direction veterinary medicine will take in the future."