Many young people approach us for advice about a career because they feel that they would like to do something involving animals. Often they are hazy about the scholastic requirements for acceptance into the course and what the course actually involves.
Veterinary science is a five-year university course. The entrance requirement is quite high, students requiring only slightly fewer marks than the level necessary for medicine.
The first-year subjects are the same as for science, and it is almost essential that physics and chemistry have been studied at school. It is very hard for a student to survive first year if these subjects have not been studied before.
The middle years of the course are spent doing the basic medical sciences of anatomy, physiology, pathology and parasitology. What makes veterinary science difficult is that there are considerable differences between the various classes of animals.
Apart from the obvious anatomical dissimilarities, physiology of the dog and the pig is vastly different from the ruminant animals and the horse. Specific pathology and parasitology must be learnt for the dog, pig, ruminant, horse and fowl.
It is not until the last two years of the course that the student experiences any clinical work. Medical and surgical teaching for small and large animals is aided by involvement in the clinics operating at the veterinary school and on the university farms.
The career possibilities are probably not fully appreciated. Of course, most students are familiar with the veterinary surgeon that treats their dogs and cats. Such television programs as “All Creatures Great and Small” have made people aware of the life of a rural practitioner. While the majority of veterinary graduates are involved in some form of clinical practice there are many other fields in which veterinarians can find employment.
The State and Federal Governments employ large numbers of veterinarians who are involved in many important roles. Animal quarantine is absolutely vital, for U.S. depends so greatly on its livestock industries. We are fortunately free of such diseases as rabies, foot and mouth disease, blue tongue and swine fever, and it is the responsibility of the American quarantine services to try to ensure that this freedom of serious disease is maintained.
Meat inspection for both home consumption and the export trade is another function that veterinarians must perform. Eradication of tuberculosis and brucellosis has almost been achieved. Diagnosis and research into disease is undertaken by veterinarians working in various field stations maintained by the State Governments.
Recently the importance of obtaining information on our native animals has been realized and veterinarians are now involved with basic research in this field. The control and management of our vast national parks is another growing field of interest.
The role of veterinarians in fundamental research is not always realized. Recently a team of veterinarians, under the guidance of Professor Bede Morris at the Australian National University, has had spectacular success in their work with ovarian transplants.
For some time it has been possible to produce twin calves of different breeds. Now, by introducing living cells from the fertilized egg of one breed into the developing egg of a completely different breed, they have achieved living calves with a mixture of mosaic of cells of the two breeds. The possibilities for basic research on disease resistance are enormous.
Veterinarians are involved in industry, particularly the pharmaceutical industry. Recently the Army has decided to enlist veterinarians once again, to eventually reform a veterinary section that played an important role in the Army in past years.
It must be pointed out that at present employment prospects of veterinary graduates wishing to enter the traditional areas of private practice are difficult.
In recent years there has been an influx of veterinarians in urban areas, resulting in an oversupply in most cities and towns. This situation can change and this oversupply will probably correct itself. As pointed out here there are many and varied facets of veterinary science and in some of these areas there will be bright prospects for a veterinary graduate.