Straight Talk

Educating and training veterinary students

Every veterinary student can attest to the phenomenal amount of education that is included in the 4-year professional curriculum, all designed to produce a veterinarian who is ready to begin a career in veterinary medicine. But what additional training and education can be provided to make sure students can hit the road successfully in swine medicine careers?

From Darin Madson

“After graduation from veterinary school, there is a steep learning curve in practice. However, the most difficult part for me was grasping the true cost of swine production and how that plays into making a decision. This may include such things as feed costs, transportation, and market weights. Looking back, I can see that it would have been good to learn more about swine economics in preparation for practice.”

From Amy Woods

“Veterinary schools do a very good job of providing a sound, basic knowledge of veterinary medicine. However, there are several additional subjects that would benefit private practitioners in the swine field. I would value additional knowledge in Spanish and the Hispanic culture, since I work with many Hispanics on a routine basis and often find communications frustrating. I strongly recommend taking courses in business and agricultural economics. As private practitioners, we must help our clients run their pork-production businesses in the most efficient manner possible. I would recommend students gaining as much experience as possible in the daily operation of a swine farm and the swine industry.”

From Angela Delks

“After being in practice for almost 2 years, what prepared me the most and what I wish I had had more of while in school is practical, hands-on experience, from riding with many veterinarians to working in barns. To this day, I still draw from those experiences. I think students should be allowed time for more internships or externships to visit as many different practices as possible. Each veterinarian has his or her own unique way of handling things, and I was able to draw from all my experiences to develop my own practice techniques. I was able to learn and perform practical skills such as repairing ruptures or vasectomizing boars. These are things we might be taught out of a book, but don’t get the chance to do in school. By having these experiences as a student, I was more confident going out into the real world on my own. Relating course work to real-life situations is the best way to learn, and these experiences are invaluable to me. I was fortunate to have wonderful mentors in the industry who prepared me well. I greatly value the role they played in getting me ready to face the question, ‘What should I do, Doc?’”

From Cary Sexton

“The classes or education I felt most lacking were business courses. The courses I believe would have been most relevant would have been presented by veterinarians of varying practice types (private, public, or corporate) relaying their personal experiences with what works and what doesn’t. Their discussion would be more relevant and time efficient in a time-crunched curriculum, as opposed to lectures from a business-school professor. I feel overall that practicing veterinarian expertise is an underutilized, unappreciated, and untapped resource. I was told by one of my professors that he did not think externships were worth while because students were only ‘messed up’ by being shown shortcuts and incorrect techniques. As veterinary schools are facing budget cuts and a general decrease in available food-animal faculty, it seems there is no more prudent time to change the paradigm of insulating veterinary students from the ‘real world’ of veterinary medicine.

I believe that the AASV does a good job in getting interested students in contact with the information that they will need after they recite the veterinary oath. The information could be used to run or improve the veterinary practice or better understand a client’s business layout and provide another facet of a consulting practice.”

From Jason Hocker

“When I look back at my veterinary education, I cannot think of any course or experience that I would have substituted for another. I do not remember having time to add additional topics. The best thing my veterinary education taught me was how to learn quickly and efficiently and how to identify and solve problems without getting ‘tunnel vision.’ I believe those skills will benefit any career path and I am grateful for the opportunity to develop those skills. While courses dedicated to numerous topics including ventilation, logistics, commodities, building design, and people management may be beneficial to a future swine practitioner, that knowledge and skill set can be quickly picked up after veterinary school. The veterinary education I received taught me to be a lifelong learner and how to tackle new subjects and challenges even though I may not have received formal training in those areas. That is why I believe the veterinary profession is among the most versatile.”

From Erin Johnson

“I would have greatly benefited from a technical writing/communications course and an upper level statistics course prior to graduation. Those sorts of classes never interested me as much as the science-oriented, more hands-on classes or electives available. They were things I should have taken, but not things I had to take or wanted to take. I can look back and see I would have benefited from them in my current position. Luckily, continuing education opportunities like the Executive Veterinary Program at Illinois are available. Not only can I go back and pick up the skills I missed, but I can learn them within the context of the industry I serve.”

--Tracy Ann Raef