Swine Veterinary Education in the US: current challenges and opportunities

The AASV Collegiate Activity Committee taskforce, co-led by Drs. Gil Patterson (VetNOW) and Perle Zhitnitskiy (UMN CVM) published a commentary in JAVMA regarding the current state of affairs in swine veterinary education in the United States.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The text below is an abstract from the full commentary, available on the JAVMA website.

Current State of Swine Medicine Education in North America

As curricula increasingly represent the needs of a companion animal practitioner, food animals, including swine, receive less attention.  This has resulted not only in a reduced number of dedicated swine hours in modern teaching curricula, but also a dwindling number of veterinary colleges where students can gain meaningful hands-on swine experience.  The results of this process are predictable, as one only needs to look around at the AASV Annual Meeting to realize that apart from the occasional alumnus from a non-traditional swine school, the majority of the next generation of swine veterinarians hail from a select handful of veterinary colleges. As a result, the vast majority of newly minted veterinarians in North America have little to no swine exposure during their time in school.

Importance of Swine Education

Despite this, the health and welfare of the nearly 90 million pigs spread across the United States and Canada is overseen by a relatively small contingent of veterinarians (AASV statistics show 402 swine practitioners in 2021). As the global swine industry continues to grow, adapt, and rise to the many challenges of today and tomorrow, the ongoing guidance of veterinarians is critical in the areas of food safety and animal health and welfare.

Additionally, many potential swine clients in the pet pig and small-scale “backyard” sectors report difficulty finding veterinary services, and explain that companion and mixed-animal practitioners often do not feel they have sufficient knowledge of swine disease and management to offer service. The result of this gap in veterinary knowledge and confidence is poorer animal health and welfare, lost economic opportunity for veterinarians and clients, and increased risk to public health.

Moving forward…

The polarization and consolidation of swine veterinary education resources should be concerning. With limited swine opportunities available at a majority of North American veterinary colleges, it is predictable that many potential swine veterinarians are far less likely to gain the exposure, experiences, and professional connections necessary to create an interest in and successfully join the swine industry. If consolidation continues as trending, more and more students will be excluded from access to swine opportunities, and the gap between food animal veterinarians and their companion animal colleagues will widen, creating a disconnected misunderstanding of each other’s work, and potentially mistrust. 

  In the interest of ensuring that swine education remains a fundamental piece of modern veterinary education, the AASV-CAC has established a working group to investigate the state of swine veterinary education in the United States and Canada.

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