Future training of specialists in poultry production
The July 1st 2006 edition of the Journal of the American
Veterinary Medical Association features an article on the future supply of
Veterinarians in food production and ranked poultry veterinary medicine as the
sector with the lowest future demand for specialist veterinarians.
By Simon Shane
Applying the Delphi forecasting technique the authors
concluded that significant shortages of specialists in ruminant and swine
medicine would impact the efficiency of these industries in the USA. Areas of
concern expressed by respondents included food safety, zoonotic diseases, global
trade and welfare. The shortage of trained specialists was projected to be most
limiting in the public sector, exacerbated by the high rate of retirement of a
cohort of experienced scientists and administrators.
the study ranked poultry veterinary medicine as the sector with the lowest
future demand for specialist veterinarians. This is attributed to a number of
factors, not the least of which is the selection of the review panels for the
study, comprising leading practitioners and academics in their respective
The poultry industry respondents obviously expressed a
constrained view of future employment opportunities, based on current
perceptions of the responsibilities and functions of Veterinarians in the field.
An unfortunate result of the funding and tenure system in the USA has been an
ever increasing concentration on molecular research which has influenced the
appointment and retention of Faculty in post-graduate training programs.
These mentors who serve as role models for veterinary students and
residents impart not only their philosophy, training and skills but also an
inherent compartmentalization of disciplines detrimental to an understanding of
the interrelated complexities of modern poultry production. Despite years of
training involving didactic presentations, laboratory exercises, research
projects and field exposure, most newly-graduated specialists lack the ability
to integrate pathology, economics, management, genetics and nutrition into their
approach to analyzing and resolving problems.
Artificial separation between training in the "traditional" aspects of
poultry production, generally taught in departments of animal science or
agricultural colleges and the "academic partition" imposed by veterinary schools
is a significant deterrent to achieving a well rounded, competent
The conclusions of the JAVMA survey with regard to
future opportunities in food animal medicine are both correct in the narrow
context of the survey but hopelessly wrong in relation to the realities of the
Industry. Poultry veterinarians should be more broadly trained by incorporation
of economics, business management, communication skills, applied nutrition,
environmental concerns and ethics into their curriculums.
of post graduate instruction should clearly differentiate between research and
industry tracks. More extensive exposure to what are currently regarded as
"peripheral considerations" (ie non-veterinary aspects) of poultry production,
should be encouraged through interdisciplinary participation in training.
Ultimately the Industry does not require more Veterinarians
with the current approach but species-oriented generalists with a broad base of
skills and knowledge to equip them for leadership positions by application of
scientific principles, experience and strong personal
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