April 15, 2009


 USDA promoting public practice in hands-on exercises

Posted April 1, 2009 

The Department of Agriculture is sponsoring various laboratory exercises to increase veterinary students' interest in public practice.

In the first such laboratory with an entire veterinary class, 94 second-year Auburn University veterinary students took part in fall 2008 in hands-on exercises involving personal protective equipment, avian necropsy, and scrapie testing, according to information from the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine.

The program is intended to increase student awareness about the need for veterinarians to respond to disease threats through public practice. The USDA has partnered with Mississippi State University to provide outreach to veterinary schools and externships.

Dr. Paula L. Cowen, director of professional development staff for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the partnership between her agency and Mississippi State shows veterinary students opportunities beyond private practice.

Dr. Linda A. Detwiler, clinical professor at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and coordinator of the program, said she wants veterinary students to consider entering public practice when they graduate or after they have been in private practice for a few years. She travels to veterinary colleges and provides presentations, case studies, and interactive laboratories for those students.

Some of the case studies are the result of the almost 20 years Dr. Detwiler spent working for the USDA-APHIS, she said.

The interactive lab at Auburn was the most extensive set of exercises so far, Dr. Detwiler said. Previous events typically involved veterinary student clubs with an interest in public health, pathology, or food animal medicine. She said the laboratory may become an annual event for second-year veterinary students at Auburn.

Dr. Detwiler took part in smaller laboratory exercises at the University of Georgia, University of Illinois, University of California-Davis, Iowa State University, and Purdue University. Some of these also involved the presentation of a case study.

During February's Zoonotic Diseases Symposium at Cornell University, Dr. Detwiler worked with APHIS to simulate an avian influenza outbreak in a mock village.

Another part of the APHIS-sponsored program involves finding public practice externships for students. Dr. Detwiler said the number of veterinary students participating in the externships has increased from fewer than 10 in 2005 to more than 50 annually. Program organizers were also planning to sponsor a full-day public practice career exhibit at the 2009 SAVMA Educational Symposium at The Ohio State University.