Curriculum Comparison Between Veterinary and Human Medicine
The first two year curriculum in both veterinary and human medical schools are very similar in the course names, but very different in the content. First two year curriculum usually include Biochemistry, Physiology, Histology, Anatomy, Pharmacology, Microbiology, Epidemiology, Pathology and Hematology.Some veterinary school uses the same biochemistry, histology, and microbiology books as human medicine students; however, the course content is greatly supplemented to include the varied animal diseases and species specific differences. Many veterinarians were trained in pharmacology using the same text books as human physicians. As the specialty of veterinary pharmacology develop, more schools are using pharmacology textbooks written specifically for veterinarians. Veterinary Physiology is more complex, as intestinal physiology of animals is complex (Rumen Physiology), different renal physiology (especially in the Equine Species, Fish, Reptiles and Poultry), and of course, different pulmonary physiology (Avian vs. Fish vs. Mammals). Histology is essentially the same for most organs, with the additional differences in the tissues of ruminant intestinal tract and pilo-sebaceous differences in birds, reptiles, and fish. Anatomy is exceedingly complex with the anatomy of the dog most focused upon; ruminant anatomy, with particular focus on intestinal surgical approaches; and equine anatomy, with focuses on musculoskeletal anatomy of the limbs, and intestinal surgical anatomy. Microbiology and particularly, virology, of animals share the same foundation as human microbiology, however, with grossly different disease manifestation and presentations. Epidemiology is focused on herd health and prevention of herd borne diseases, and foreign animal diseases. Pathology, like microbilogy and histology, is very diverse and encompasses many species and organ systems. Most veterinary school have courses in small animal and also large animal nutrition, often taken as electives in the clinical years or as part of the core first two year curriculum.
The last two year curriculum of the two fields are similar only in their clinical emphasis. A veterinary student must be well prepared to be fully functional animal physician on the day of graduation - competent in surgery and medicine at the same time, and willing to practice on as many as 5 or more common animal species. Most veterinarians are trained to perform orthopedic surgery, gynecologic and obstetrical surgeries, intestinal surgeries, minor urologic surgery, oral surgeries, and even minor cardio-thoracic surgeries. The accumulation of skills in the last two years of veterinary school encompasses what many human doctors acquire after 3 or 5 years of post-doctoral residency. In fact, it is impossible for a human doctor to independently perform ALL the surgical procedures a veterinarian is trained to do in one residency alone. The graduating veterinarian must be able to pass medical board examination and be prepare to enter clinical practice on the day of graduation, while most medical doctors for human in the USA complete 3 to 5 years of post-doctoral residency before practicing medicine independently, usually in a very narrow and focused specialty.
- Diagnose animal health problems, and perform diagnostic tests such as X-ray, EKG, ultrasound, blood tests, stool tests, and urinalysis.
- Test for and Vaccinates against diseases, such as distemper and rabies.
- Medicate animals suffering from infections or illnesses.
- Treat and dress wounds.
- Set fractures.
- Perform minor to complex surgery, depending on training.
- Advise owners about animal feeding, behavior, and breeding.
- Euthanize animals when necessary.
- Provide preventive care to maintain the health of food animals.
- Dental work
Skills required of a general practice veterinarian
In many respects a veterinarian is similar to a pediatrician. Animals cannot talk like human beings, and much of the clinical history is obtained from the owner or client as a pediatrician would obtain the medical history from a child's parents. Excellent people skills and communication skills are required. Veterinarians, like other physicians, require well-functioning physical and sensory faculties in order to diagnose and treat their patients. They also make use of diagnostic tests like x-ray, C.T., M.R.I., blood work, urinalysis, and fecal exams to diagnose patients. Veterinarians are well trained in laboratory medicine and parasitology.
The general practice veterinarian spends one third to one half of his or her time in surgery. Animal neutering operations are done in most veterinarians' offices. Many veterinarians also perform orthopedic procedures, bone setting, dentistry, and trauma surgery. Surgery requires good hand and eye coordination, and fine motor skills.
Focuses of practice
Many areas of focus exist for veterinary practices. These include:
- Exotic animal veterinarian - Generally considered to include reptiles, exotic birds such as parrots and cockatoos, and small mammals such as ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, and degus.
- Conservation medicine - The study of the relationship between animal and human health and environmental conditions.
- Small animal practice - Usually dogs, cats, and other companion animals/household pets such as hamsters and gerbils. Some practices are canine-only or feline-only practices.
- Laboratory animal practice - Some veterinarians work in a university or industrial laboratory and are responsible for the care and treatment of laboratory animals of any species (often involving bovines, porcine species, felines, canines, rodents, and even exotic animals). Their responsibility is not only for the health and well being of the animals, but also for enforcing humane and ethical treatment of the animals in the facility.
- Large animal practice - Usually referring to veterinarians that work with, variously, livestock and other large farm animals, as well as equine species and large reptiles.
- Equine medicine - Some veterinarians are specialists in equine medicine. Horses are different in anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and husbandry to other domestic species. Specialization in equine veterinary practice is something that is normally developed after qualification, even if students do have some interest before graduation.
- Food animal medicine - Some veterinarians deal exclusively or primary with animals raised for food (such as meat, milk, and eggs). Livestock practitioners may deal with ovine (sheep), bovine (cattle) and porcine (swine) species; such veterinarians deal with management of herds, nutrition, reproduction, and minor field surgery. Dairy medicine practice focuses on dairy animals. Poultry medicine practice focuses on the health of flocks of poultry; the field often involves extensive training in pathology, epidemiology, and nutrition of birds. The veterinarian treats the flock and not the individual animals.
- Food safety practice - Veterinarians are employed by both the food industry and government agencies to advise on and monitor the handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness.
- Wildlife medicine - A relatively recent branch of veterinary medicine, focusing on wildlife. Wildlife medicine veterinarians may work with zoologists and conservation medicine practitioners and may also be called out to treat marine species such as sea otters, dolphins, or whales after a natural disaster or oil spill.
As opposed to human medicine, general practice veterinarians greatly out-number veterinary specialists. Most veterinary specialists work at the veterinary schools, or at a referral center in large cities. As opposed to human medicine, where each organ system has its own medical and surgical specialties, veterinarians often combine both the surgical and medical aspect of an organ system into one field. The specialties in veterinary medicine often encompass several medical and surgical specialties that are found in human medicine.
Veterinary specialties are accredited in North America by the AVMA through the American Board of Veterinary Specialties (http://www.avma.org/education/abvs/). In Europe, specialties are accredited through the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation (http://www.ebvs.org/). In Australia, specialties are recognized by the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council (http://www.avbc.asn.au/special.htm). While some veterinarians may have areas of interest outside of recognized specialties, they are not legally specialists.
- Anaesthesiology - A specialty limited to teaching in hospitals and schools. Most veterinarians practice anesthesiology in their own office.
- Animal behavior - A relatively new specialty, with an increased interest in modulating abnormal animal behavior.
- Cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery - Manages cardiac and conductance disorders; also performs cardiothoracic surgery for the treatment of congenital and acquired heart disease.
- Dentistry - Relates to prevention and treatment of dental disease.
- Dermatology and dermatopathology - Relates to the skin. Veterinary dermatologists diagnose and treat skin disease. Dermatology in animals encompasses much of the field of allergy and immunology.
- Emergency Medicine and Critical Care - Also cover the field of emergency or trauma surgery. The veterinarian is trained in medicine, surgery, and critical care of the severely injured or ill animal.
- Epidemiology and public health - Focus on infectious disease in animals (including zoonotic disease, infectious diseases in animals which are transmitted (in some instances, by a vector) to humans.
- Internal medicine - As opposed to human medicine, where an internist is often considered a primary care physician of adults; a veterinary internal medicine specialist, is a specialist. The specialty in the United States requires 3 years of residency training. They are trained to manage complex medical conditions, and often work at teaching universities and hospitals.
- Microbiology Work in the diagnosis and control of infectious diseases in animals. Specialists in this field often work in industry, the regulatory agencies, and teaching institutions. There are subspecialties in Virology, Bacteriology/Mycology, and Immunology.
- Neurology and Neurologic Surgery - Veterinary neurologists are both surgeons and neurologists in practice. This is different than in human medicine, where neurologists are the medical side of the specialty, and neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeons focus on the surgical side.
- Nutrition - An important food animal medicine, and herd medicine. Specialists in this area include veterinarians and animal scientists. Most large animal veterinarians are also excellent nutritionists. Nutritionists also work in the pet food industry in quality assurance and research.
- Oncology - Covers the diagnosis and management of malignancies in animals. As animals are considered to be a part of the family, curative and pallative care is often demanded when malignancies develop.
- Ophthalmology - Focuses on eyes, the diagnosis of eye diseases, and surgery of the eye and eyelid. Pharmacology - The study of drug action. As animals metabolize drugs in many different ways, veterinary clinical pharmacologists are important in the study of drug use in animals.
- Parasitology - Focuses on study of parasites such as whipworms, fleas, and ticks. While almost all veterinarians encounter parasites in some patients, parasitology specialists are usually found in teaching hospitals and universities
- Anatomic Pathology and Clinical Pathology - A broad field covering multiple species, organ systems, and domestic and foreign animal diseases. The veterinary pathologists perform necropsies (autopsies), collect specimens, and read pathological slides. They assist clinicians in the diagnosis of illnesses and seek causes of deaths in animals
- Radiology and radiation oncology - Interpretation of imaging modalities, including X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT scans), ultrasounds, echocardiograms, and Doppler devices; administration of radiation treatment for malignancies and endocrine diseases
- Surgery - Surgeons subspecialize in either small animal or large animal surgery. In larger medical centers, subspecialization is noted in orthopedic surgery, soft tissue surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and neurosurgery. The division between the medicine specialty and the surgical specialty is not as clear in veterinary medicine as it is in human medicine. Veterinary neurologist (a traditional nonsurgical specialty in human) are often neurosurgeons, veterinary cardiologist (a fairly non-surgical specialty in human) often are cardiovascular surgeons in the United States.
- Theriogenology involves the study and treatment of reproductive disorders. Reproduction is an economically important aspect of bovine, porcine, ovine, and equine practices.
- Zoological medicine - The treatment and care of captive zoo animals, free ranging wildlife species, aquatic animals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, and non-domestic companion animals.