Letters to the Editor

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Reassessing prerequisites

I disagree with the suggestion by Moore et al1 that we should reassess the prerequisites for admission to veterinary college. I started veterinary school in 1954, graduated in 1958, and am still practicing. Preveterinary and veterinary school were both quite pleasurable for me. I learned a wealth of knowledge that I still use, and I still love practicing and using what was presented to me during my school training. It was fun, not anxiety producing or stressful. Don't eliminate physics and organic chemistry. Physics is a prerequisite for radiology, and organic chemistry is the basis for the functioning of most living species. Yes, there is a lot to learn. But, one is a student forever and can learn something new every day. Years ago, how well one did in physics was considered an indication of how well one would do in veterinary school, and I believe this is still the case today.

In truth, if I had my way, I would add an extra year to the veterinary curriculum and require students to take a course in the humanities each year. Courses in sociology and psychology would be at the top of my list, along with courses in music and art. Burnout is a problem in our profession, and I suspect greater grounding in the humanities would reduce the risk.

I understand the issue of student debt. Lengthening the time in school would increase debt, but veterinarians would have richer lives and last longer in the profession with a more humanistic education.

James M. Harris, oam, dvm

Mayfair Veterinary Clinic Sandy Bay, Australia

1. Moore JN, Cohen ND, Brown SA. Reassessing courses required for admission to colleges of veterinary medicine in North America and the Caribbean to decrease stress among first-year students. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;253:11331139.

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The authors respond:

We thank Dr. Harris for sharing his experiences and applaud his six decades of service to veterinary medicine. However, we disagree with some of his statements, including the suggestions that “[p]hysics is a prerequisite for radiology” and that “organic chemistry is the basis for the functioning of most living species.” Most topics covered in undergraduate physics courses have little relevance to either veterinary or human medicine, which is one of the reasons why several universities are refocusing undergraduate physics courses on topics related to the life sciences1–4 (eg, the physics of cardiac function or ultrasonography), a change we strongly support. Similarly, very few of the concepts taught in today's undergraduate organic chemistry courses are directly relevant to the health professions, whereas topics covered in biochemistry apply to understanding the pathophysiology of various diseases.

We do not support adding a year to the veterinary curriculum, as Dr. Harris suggests. However, we agree with his contention that exposure to the humanities is important. Our conclusion is based on the fact that humanities and social science students admitted to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine who had not taken undergraduate courses in physics, organic chemistry, or calculus performed as well as students who met traditional entrance prerequisites in regard to scores on the Comprehensive Clinical Assessment examination and the likelihood of being awarded honors grades, ranked in the top 25% of the class, and matched for residency programs.5 To prepare for the medical school curriculum, these humanities and social science students attended Mount Sinai in the summer, during which time they rotated through clinical services and completed an abbreviated course covering the principles of organic chemistry and physics related to the practice of medicine. Given the success of that program, we suggest that similar approaches should be considered by veterinary colleges. By reducing the number of physics and organic chemistry courses required for admission, we can encourage students to become better versed in physiology, anatomy, or immunology and to take additional humanities classes.

James N. Moore, dvm, PhD

Department of Large Animal Medicine Scott A. Brown, vmd, PhD Department of Physiology and Pharmacology College of Veterinary Medicine University of Georgia Athens, Ga

Noah D. Cohen, vmd, mph, PhD

Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University College Station, Tex

  • 1. Crouch CH, Heller K. Introductory physics in biological context: an approach to improve introductory physics for life science students. Am J Phys 2014;82:378386.

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  • 2. Stiles TA. Ultrasound imaging as an undergraduate physics laboratory exercise. Am J Phys 2014;82:490501.

  • 3. Redish EF, Bauer C, Carleton KL, et al. NEXUS/Physics: an interdisciplinary repurposing of physics for biologists. Am J Phys 2014;82:368377.

  • 4. Hoskinson A-M, Couch BA, Zwicki BM, et al. Bridging physics and biology teaching through modeling. Am J Phys 2014;82:434441.

  • 5. Muller D, Kase N. Challenging traditional premedical requirements as predictors of success in medical school: the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Humanities and Medicine Program. Acad Med 2010;85:13781383.

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A new day for medical marijuana

It is a new day in veterinary medicine, at least here in California, where recently passed legislation allows veterinarians to talk with clients about the medical use of cannabis and cannabis products in their pets.1 Of course, prohibitions against recommending, prescribing, dispensing, and administering medical marijuana all remain in place.

Although there seem to be numerous potential indications for the use of medical marijuana in animals, the anecdotal nature of our current knowledge is worrisome. I expect this lack of information will be overcome by research. Still, concerns come to mind. For example, dogs are known to be more sensitive than people to the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, with the cerebellum being particularly affected. Therefore, ataxia is likely to be a common effect, making it difficult to determine whether cannabis truly results in relief from clinical signs or simply causes dogs to stagger off to a corner to sleep off the effects.

Because of the lack of well-designed studies, I worry that veterinarians and clients alike will see what they want to see. This may be similar to the situation with tramadol, which for years was considered to be a useful analgesic in dogs but was recently found to provide no clear benefit for dogs with osteoarthritis of the elbow or stifle joint.2

Carl Singer, dvm

Hayward, Calif

  • 1. Nolen RS. Let's talk about pot. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;253:1225.

  • 2. Budsberg SC, Torres BT, Kleine SA, et al. Lack of effectiveness of tramadol hydrochloride for the treatment of pain and joint dysfunction in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;252:427432.

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A question for the Veterinary Futures Commission

The Veterinary Futures Commission1,2 established by the AVMA and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges is a welcome and timely initiative. Although we cannot accurately predict the future, it is safe to assume that the veterinary profession will face numerous challenges. Some of these will be external to the profession and difficult to address; others will be internal and more manageable. Moving forward, it will be necessary for the profession to develop sufficient flexibility to respond efficiently to society's ever-changing needs.

We suggest that one of the barriers to the veterinary profession reaching its future potential is the current inflexible system of professional education and licensing,3,4 which has not changed fundamentally in more than half a century, despite numerous studies containing recommendations for strategic changes.5

Most veterinarians today spent 8 years obtaining their degree: 4 years in undergraduate training and 4 years in veterinary college. Those who pursued postgraduate internships added another 1 or 2 years to their total, and those planning careers beyond private practice (eg, in academia, research, or public health) may have spent 10 to 12 years. In our opinion, this is both inefficient and illogical in view of current realities, particularly student debt.

It should be possible to obtain a veterinary degree after 1 or 2 years of undergraduate coursework followed by 4 years of professional education.3 Such models have been in place for generations at British, European, and Australasian veterinary colleges, many of which are fully accredited by the AVMA Council on Education.

Four decades ago, Schwabe6 recommended differentiated education that would allow veterinary students to focus their training in their field of interest (ie, tracking). This idea has not been generally adopted, largely because of resistance from accrediting and licensing authorities. We argue, however, that students should be launched into their chosen career field during their veterinary education and contend that it makes little sense to dilute students’ training with vast amounts of technical information and specialized skills they will never use.4 When students graduate from a career-oriented track, their competence in that field is enhanced.3

Currently, all candidates must pass the same examination to be licensed to practice, regardless of career specialty. The universal adoption of tracking education would require replacing this single certification with designated licensure. This remains a contentious issue, but we continue to argue4 that educational and licensing policies need to produce veterinary graduates who are differentiated and truly practice-ready in ways that are more logical and cost less time and money than at present.

Under this paradigm, veterinarians wishing to change career direction would need special resources. Veterinary colleges and veterinary associations could offer certifiable extended education programs in career fields that correspond to curricular tracks.

Veterinary colleges are the gatekeepers of the veterinary profession in that only they can award veterinary degrees. Importantly, however, the profession itself holds the keys—accreditation and licensing—that will unlock future possibilities. We sincerely hope that the profession will heed the recommendations of the Veterinary Futures Commission. Bold actions by senior leaders in the AVMA and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges will be essential for the commission to succeed.

Peter Eyre, dvm & s, bvms, PhD

Professor and Dean Emeritus Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Va

N. Ole Nielsen, dvm, PhD

Professor Emeritus and Former Dean Ontario Veterinary College Guelph, Ontario, Canada

  • 1. Eyre P, Cohn TJ. Thinking and working together for the common good (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;247:591.

  • 2. AVMA, AAVMC form Veterinary Futures Commission. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;252:1188.

  • 3. Eyre P. All-purpose veterinary education: a personal perspective. J Vet Med Educ 2011;38:328337.

  • 4. Nielsen NO, Eyre P. Tailoring veterinary medicine for the future by emphasizing one health. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2017;251:505504.

  • 5. Dicks MC. A short history of veterinary workforce analyses. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2013;242:10511060.

  • 6. Schwabe CW. Cattle, priests and progress in medicine. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1978;196246.

  • 1. Moore JN, Cohen ND, Brown SA. Reassessing courses required for admission to colleges of veterinary medicine in North America and the Caribbean to decrease stress among first-year students. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;253:11331139.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 1. Crouch CH, Heller K. Introductory physics in biological context: an approach to improve introductory physics for life science students. Am J Phys 2014;82:378386.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2. Stiles TA. Ultrasound imaging as an undergraduate physics laboratory exercise. Am J Phys 2014;82:490501.

  • 3. Redish EF, Bauer C, Carleton KL, et al. NEXUS/Physics: an interdisciplinary repurposing of physics for biologists. Am J Phys 2014;82:368377.

  • 4. Hoskinson A-M, Couch BA, Zwicki BM, et al. Bridging physics and biology teaching through modeling. Am J Phys 2014;82:434441.

  • 5. Muller D, Kase N. Challenging traditional premedical requirements as predictors of success in medical school: the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Humanities and Medicine Program. Acad Med 2010;85:13781383.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 1. Nolen RS. Let's talk about pot. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;253:1225.

  • 2. Budsberg SC, Torres BT, Kleine SA, et al. Lack of effectiveness of tramadol hydrochloride for the treatment of pain and joint dysfunction in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;252:427432.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 1. Eyre P, Cohn TJ. Thinking and working together for the common good (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;247:591.

  • 2. AVMA, AAVMC form Veterinary Futures Commission. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;252:1188.

  • 3. Eyre P. All-purpose veterinary education: a personal perspective. J Vet Med Educ 2011;38:328337.

  • 4. Nielsen NO, Eyre P. Tailoring veterinary medicine for the future by emphasizing one health. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2017;251:505504.

  • 5. Dicks MC. A short history of veterinary workforce analyses. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2013;242:10511060.

  • 6. Schwabe CW. Cattle, priests and progress in medicine. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1978;196246.

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