Coalition aims to generate veterinary pathologists

Comparative pathology organizations collaborate on multifaceted approach
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To address the growing deficit of veterinary pathologists in industry, academia, and government, the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and the Society of Toxicologic Pathology have formed a coalition to increase the training opportunities in veterinary pathology.

The goal of this initiative is to fund five new training positions in veterinary pathology during this inaugural year, and a total of 15 new positions by the end of 2007.

ACVP President R. Keith Harris, DVM, and STP President Colin G. Rousseaux, PhD, are requesting the assistance of private- and public-sector organizations in providing financial support for the new training positions. They also encourage institutions with veterinary pathology training programs to submit competitive applications for these new positions. Drs. Harris and Rousseaux believe that the success of this industry-academia-government collaborative effort is critical for serving the needs of the biomedical community. Moreover, this collaboration can serve as a model for other research-oriented specialties with similar shortages of highly qualified specialists.

In an informational article describing the coalition, Dr. Gary L. Cockerell, coalition director, and Dr. D. Reid Patterson, chair of the coalition's board of governors, describe the magnitude of the pathologist shortage and how the coalition plans to create new training opportunities. A 2002 survey conducted by the ACVP and the STP, submitted for publication in the journal Veterinary Pathology, confirmed what employers and trainers of veterinary pathologists have experienced over the past decade—that not enough of these specialized biomedical scientists are being trained to meet the demand. Results of the survey indicated almost 150 open positions for veterinary anatomic or clinical pathologists at that time, about half of them in the industrial sector.

The deficit was projected to increase to more than 400 by 2007, resulting from a combination of increased demand and the impending retirement of a whole "generation" of pathologists. Neither the rate at which the academic programs are training new pathologists nor the number of currently enrolled trainees is sufficient to meet the demand. This conclusion is in keeping with results of a recent National Research Council workshop on the need for veterinarians with a range of advanced research training, especially as relates to their contributions within the pharmaceutical industry.

According to Drs. Cockerell and Patterson, the continuing increase in the demand for veterinary pathologists—especially in industry—is understandable, considering the key roles they play in the discovery and development of modern biopharmaceuticals.

The most obvious reasons for the inability to meet the demand are the need to better inform high school, preveterinary, and veterinary students about rewarding career opportunities in veterinary pathology; attract more candidates who are highly qualified to pursue post-DVM training; attract and retain faculty to train residents and PhD-graduate students; and create additional training positions.

The ACVP/STP Coalition for Veterinary Pathology Fellows is one step of a multifaceted approach needed to address the underlying causes of the problem. This partnership was formed in late 2004 to address the primary factor cited in the 2002 survey as being responsible for the limited number of training positions-lack of funding. Traditional funding to train veterinary pathologists, especially from federal government sources such as the National Institutes of Health-sponsored training grants and state funds granted to academic institutions, has been drastically reduced over the past decade.

Industrial sponsors and professional organizations have attempted to replace those vanishing funds, but their efforts have not been coordinated. This coalition provides a unified mechanism to solicit and allocate funds to establish new positions to train veterinary anatomic and clinical pathologists by integrating the common interests of three entities—academic training institutions, industry, and the ACVP and STP.

The coalition will solicit financial support from pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical companies; contract research organizations; private diagnostic laboratories; and philanthropic health and education foundations. Funding for new training positions will be awarded on the basis of competitive review of applications submitted by North American institutions that train veterinary pathologists as one of their primary functions.

Funds will support residency training in veterinary anatomic or clinical pathology, or PhD dissertation research, for a maximum of three years each. Stipends, tuition and medical benefits, travel, and miscellaneous educational supplies will be included.

Training will focus on core principles of diagnostic and experimental veterinary pathology common to the goals of ACVP and STP. A close interaction will be established among training institutions and industrial sponsors to enhance trainees' programs and to cross-communicate programmatic goals. Trainees will be expected to successfully complete the ACVP examination and/or the PhD degree within two years of the end of funding, and to pursue careers as veterinary pathologists. They will have no other payback obligation.

More information can be obtained by visiting or (select "For Students" and then "Student Information" from the pull-down menu), or by contacting Dr. Cockerell at alliancesatcockerell [dot] org or Dr. Patterson at reidpattersonconsultingatcomcast [dot] net.