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Veterinary Medicine: There are More Career Choices Than You Expect

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Caring for domestic animals isn’t the only choice for veterinary grads. Far from it. Vet programs in the United States and United Kingdom increasingly offer joint DVM/MPH degrees designed for students who want to focus on global health.

The course loads typically cover general medical topics, along with clinical skills for diagnosing and treating animal illnesses, as well as epidemiology, biostats, environmental health, policy management, and behavioral science. The blend gives rise to more vets working with M.D. colleagues on research efforts in the battle against BSE (“mad cow disease”), avian flu, or SARS, diseases that travel between species.

Take the case of St. George’s University veterinary med grad Brian Butler. He traveled to Africa for his Master of Public Health and conducted a 10-week project on Cystic Echinococcosis, a disease transmitted from animals – like dogs and coyotes – to humans and domestic livestock.  He focused his research on disease prevalence in the Bsongoro people of Western Uganda. This kind of investigation had never taken place in the region.

The research paid off in a big way. Dr. Butler ended up securing funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to underwrite the continuing study, while pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis.

Uniting Veterinary Medicine & Global Health

The link between veterinary medicine and global health isn’t just a fad.  In fact, nationally recognized organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), have issued a worldwide call-to-action for reinventing traditional medical mindsets.

“Animal health is at a crossroads. Its convergence with human and ecosystem health dictates that the ‘one world, one health, one medicine’ concept must be embraced,” says Dr. Roger K. Mahr, president of the AVMA.  “We need our colleagues in human medicine, public health, and the environmental health sciences.  Together, we can accomplish more in improving global health – and we have the responsibility to do so.” 

Broad Vet Training, Boundless Opportunity

This is a thrilling career track, no doubt.  And those who go this route enter the workforce with a distinct menu of career options.  Government-related organizations, in particular, see the value of the blended skill set, including:

• International Centers for Disease Control
• National Institutes of Health
• Food and Drug Administration
• Military-related organizations
• Agriculture groups
• Health and wellness organizations

Yet, even with the spotlight on innovative approaches to veterinary medicine, such as global health, there’s a need for intelligent, caring individuals in more traditional areas all across the board, including:

General Medicine: Most new vet students have this in mind when they enter the field – treating animals such as cats, dogs, horses, and birds.  Some focus on farm animals, while others go into academia.

Professional Specializing: As technology advances, so do the options for specialization.  More veterinarians are focusing in traditional areas (equine, farm, small animals), exotic (zoo animals, wildlife), poultry, and aquaculture. Others choose to explore orthopedics, cardiology, and ophthalmology.

Animal Welfare: Career paths in wildlife conservation and zoo-animal welfare are growing rapidly.  Similar paths lead to becoming an inspector of operations where animals are raised for human consumption, or working on the front-line in the fight against agri- and bio-terrorism.

For more information on St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, please visit www.sgu.edu.

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