Future training of specialists in poultry production

03-07-2006 | |

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.

Paradoxically 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 fields.

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 practitioner.

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.

Programs 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 qualities.

By: Simon Shane