More Opportunities for Veterinarians

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Veterinary medicine students Jeremy Cartagena and Cathy Faber begin the academic year with laboratory equipment training at Purdue University.
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Washington State University veterinarian Steven Parish, left, and ARS' Don Knowles apply topical anesthetic to a Suffolk ewe.
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John Duncan, a veterinarian with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Wyoming, clips a tiny piece of a third eyelid from a sheep as students watch.
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Veterinarian Ray Waters collects a blood sampe from an elk.
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William Rivera and Betty Masulis keep a sheep calm while veterinarian John Duncan draws blood.

West Lafayette, Indiana — The Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine is meeting a national need for a larger veterinarian work force in areas such as public health, biosecurity, food production and research by increasing its enrollment.

“Changes in technology and expanding globalization are creating opportunities for more veterinarians,” says Willie M. Reed, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. “While we join many of the other 28 U.S. veterinary schools that also are adjusting their class sizes to meet this demand, Purdue will continue to build on our school’s strengths of one-on-one faculty and student interaction and a providing a variety of hands-on student clinical experiences.

“This also is an opportunity to attract more students from underrepresented backgrounds to study veterinary medicine. Increasing our school’s diversity is a key goal in our strategic plan.”

Starting in fall 2011, the school will expand its doctor of veterinary medicine class size by 20 percent, from 70 to 84 entering students. This larger class will graduate in 2015. The School of Veterinary Medicine will need to modify some of its classrooms and will offer laboratory courses in sections to adjust for the increased enrollment, says S. Kathleen Salisbury, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of small animal surgery. The enrollment increase will not change the admission process for students.

While some think of veterinarians as only caring for pets, there are many other opportunities for graduates with a doctor of veterinary medicine degree, such as in public health, biomedical research and regulatory medicine. Professionals in public health focus on zoonotic diseases, which are illnesses that pass from animals to humans; foodborne diseases; and epidemiology, which is the study of disease in populations. The area of regulatory medicine has a need for veterinarians because these professionals deal with food safety, disease surveillance and investigation of disease outbreaks, such as tuberculosis, that may appear in deer or cattle herds.

“Improvements in technology and transportation systems have increased importation and exportation of animals, and that increased traffic means veterinarians need to be watching for diseases and other health concerns,” Salisbury says. “The focus in veterinary medicine today is very much about health maintenance and disease prevention. This is a particular focus in food animal medicine, which is another area in great need of more veterinarians.”

Specialists in this field focus on keeping herds and animals in large production units healthy while also being well-versed in the management of business and environmental factors, she said. Larger operations with larger herds to manage and care for drive the need in this specialty. In addition to these areas, more veterinarians also are in demand in rural practices and for university research positions.

“Purdue offers seven different tracks of study that allow students to focus on a specific area – such as small animals, food animals or non-practice – during their third and fourth years,” Salisbury said. “These tracks are designed to provide students a solid foundation that prepares them to pursue different areas in the field, and we will continue to prepare students for these increasing opportunities in veterinary medicine.”