Veterinary perspectives: what is the role of a veterinarian?



Thursday, January 6, 2022

Media contact: Derinda Blakeney, ARP | College of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 | [email protected]

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “veterinarian?” For the most part, the local practitioner takes care of your livestock or pets. Without a doubt, this is one of the most impactful aspects of our profession, but did you know that we play a vital role in other areas which have a huge impact on human and animal health? Here are seven things to know about veterinary medicine:

  1. Veterinarians are the first responders in the event of a human epidemic. Did you know that the majority of emerging infectious diseases in humans are of animal origin? We call these “zoonotic diseases” and our current COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Right now, veterinarians are working all over the world to diagnose animal diseases, conduct surveillance and recognize exotic animal diseases. They serve as the main sentinel for these emerging infections in humans. Veterinarians perform millions of tests daily in laboratories associated with the National Network of Animal Health Laboratories. Since these labs process hundreds of samples daily to ensure herd health and can respond quickly in an emergency, several veterinary labs have been called upon to provide human COVID testing during the pandemic. Our own Oklahoma animal disease diagnostic lab here in Stillwater was one of the first in the country to help county health departments test for human COVID, processing well over 100,000 samples in 2020!
  2. Veterinarians are leaders in food safety, epidemiology and public health. Veterinarians are trained and guide how we manage our food security and supply, manage disease outbreaks, herd health and disease prevention. We have a large knowledge base of many species and are often familiar with illnesses such as coronaviruses even before they emerge as a pandemic. We have a seat at the table in these aspects of human health because of our unique training and expertise. For example, Dr. Jared Taylor was an Oklahoma State Epidemiologist. Taylor is a veterinarian at OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Veterinarians have also held senior positions in the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, including OSU alumnus Dr. Robert Whitney, who served as Acting U.S. Surgeon General in 1993.
  3. Veterinarians are essential in the development of new treatments, vaccines and in understanding diseases. Before medical advancements are available for human use, we must first make sure that we fully understand the safety, benefits, and risks. Animal models of disease are key to understanding all of this. In order to design these studies, interpret the results accurately, and ensure the health and well-being of each animal involved, veterinarians must be the leaders of this research. Veterinarians also serve in discovery research in the development of next generation treatments for cancer, autoimmune, infectious and genetic diseases. This overlap between animal health and human health is recognized as a concept we call “One Health”.
  4. Veterinarians are also an integral part of the United States military.. Veterinarians serve in the US Air Force or the US Army Veterinary Corps. Here, veterinarians serve as public health officers protecting the food and water supply at home and abroad, provide care for military working dogs, provide general veterinary care to the pets of military personnel in base veterinary hospitals, conduct research in some of the most advanced research centers (USAMRID), and provide essential veterinary and public health services to underserved countries that are particularly in need of assistance to protect their food and health supplies. water.
  5. Veterinarians play a vital role in training the next generation of veterinarians. Did you know that many areas are struggling with an alarming shortage of veterinarians, especially in rural practice? There are 32 veterinary schools in the United States (for comparison, there are 192 medical schools), which also means there are fewer veterinary schools than we have states! It’s incredibly important that Oklahoma has a college of veterinary medicine located at Oklahoma State University. As members of the faculty, veterinarians fulfill the mission of teaching, diagnosis or clinical and research service to train new veterinary graduates necessary to maintain our agricultural development, to preserve our food supply chains. and animal health.
  6. Vets have been going to school for a very long time. Veterinarians are highly educated, most with a 4-year bachelor’s degree followed by another four years to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. The path to a DVM takes the same time and effort as an MD or DO. The difference is upon graduation, veterinarians graduate “ready to practice” and are not required to complete an internship or residency. Your pets and livestock are taken care of by general practitioners. Internships and residency training are available for veterinarians who wish to specialize. In this arena, you will find veterinarians specializing in disciplines that mirror our medical counterparts: neurology, oncology, radiology, cardiology, dermatology, internal medicine, surgery, pathology, etc.
  7. Veterinarians are community leaders. How many of you know of a veterinarian who works in a community service agency? Ultimately, people who enter veterinary medicine not only love animals, but tend to be compassionate and have a caring heart for their communities. It’s just part of who we are. You will find them in community service organizations (Lion’s Club, Rotary, etc.), youth leadership organizations, Sunday school teaching or other roles in churches, serving in community government as well as in roles state and federal (US senators and representatives).

We may be biased, but veterinary medicine is truly the greatest profession. The road to becoming a veterinarian may not be easy, but the far-reaching impact and influence on our communities is significant. The next time you visit your vet, say “thank you!” ”

About the authors: Jerry Ritchey, DVM, Ph.D., DACVP, is a professor at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology who also assists in the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. He graduated from the American College of Veterinary Pathologists. Jennifer Rudd, DVM, Ph.D., DACVM, is Assistant Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at OSU in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. She graduated from the American College of Microbiologists.


Veterinary perspectives are provided by the faculty of the University Hospital of Veterinary Medicine, OSU. Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for all species and emergency care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 405-744-7000 for an appointment or more information.

OSU College of Veterinary Medicine is one of 32 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States and the only veterinary college in Oklahoma. that of the college Boren Veterinary Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. The hospital provides 24 hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information visit https://vetmed.okstate.edu or call 405-744-7000.


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