Colleges launch global veterinary programs


As fall classes begin this month for thousands of U.S. veterinary medical students, eight entering freshmen will start their semesters mixing Mexican cuisine with a week's worth of leadership training on the international veterinary circuit.

As fall classes begin this month for thousands of U.S. veterinary medicalstudents, eight entering freshmen will start their semesters mixing Mexicancuisine with a week's worth of leadership training on the internationalveterinary circuit.

At presstime, seven veterinary medical students enrolled at Texas A&MUniversity, College of Veterinary Medicine (Texas A&M) and one fromthe University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine (UG) embarkedon a journey to learn what makes leaders in veterinary medicine.

The trip is a first step for participants of the Global Veterinary LeadershipProgram (GVLP)-a newly created certificate program designed to prepare studentsfor a career in the worldwide veterinary industry and to educate them oninfectious diseases of international importance.

Program in the making

In the works for nearly two years, the GVLP is the first of its kind,designed to start select students on four- or five-year programs to equipthem for roles as public health protectors and for success in the internationalveterinary market, project coordinator Dr. Gale Wagner says.

"We are trying to create veterinary leaders who understand the globaltechnological market," Wagner says. "Free trade in food animalsand products have increased the movement of diseases like foot and mouth,either intentionally or accidentally, and veterinarians are the first tointercept those cases."

GVLP students explore foreign animal diseases, emerging disease, riskassessment, and leadership roles. After completing the week-long programin Mexico and a year of veterinary school, students plan coursework to complete12 to 18 hours of electives in foreign language and study, combining someof those elective hours with veterinary medical classes in their fourthyear.

Fourth-year elective courses can come in the form of a four- to 12-weekexternship with international firms such as multinational food industriesor commodity groups in South America. Participants are expected to workfull time on projects that expose them to the international career environment.Upon graduation, participants will receive an international certificatein foreign study along with a diploma.

If students do not choose an externship, they must spend nine to 12 monthsat an internship with an international company, most likely in the pharmaceuticalindustry, upon receiving a DVM degree. The internship combined with on-campuselective hours provides students with a master's degree.

Branching out at UG

While Wagner is rooted at Texas A&M in the veterinary college's pathobiologydepartment, he says the GVLP has no home base. Any student entering a U.S.accredited college of veterinary medicine can apply to join the program.

"What we'll have is a virtual network," he says. "Thegoal is to take 15 to 18 students a year with the intention of working withsome international company. This is aimed at corporate veterinary medicine,and it is probably going to be organized as a virtual center of excellence."

UG already is on board and in February, launched its own version of theGVLP.

According to UG officials, the college's program began in response tothe university's emphasis on the need to globalize education. It's alsoa way to internationalize the profession, says Dr. Corrie Brown, UG professorand project coordinator.

"Foot-and-mouth disease has marched through the world and into veterinaryeducation," she says. "Students in the U.S. are graduating butdon't have adequate exposure to veterinary diseases. It's a growth areain veterinary medicine, and if we ignore it, we could be in trouble."

In March, UG sent groups of students to study in Chile and southern Brazil.This month, a group will travel to Argentina, Brown says.

Program requirements are similar to the GVLP and consist of a coursein international veterinary medicine; work in a foreign country; proficiencyin a foreign language; and completing elective credit hours in related work.

"We started our program first, but they're almost identical on purpose,"Wagner says. "The difference is we have leadership training and UGdoesn't, but we're working toward a co-curriculum."

Financial support

The colleges also are working toward co-support. Last year, the combinedprograms received more than $500,000 in federal grants to finance studenttrips.

This year, college officials hope to receive funds from the U.S. Departmentof Education. "A few outbreaks of foot-and-mouth and BSE (bovine spongiformencephalopathy) may have helped the funding climate," Brown says.

Wagner is working on industry sponsorship. At least $1million is neededto cradle the GLVP program for the next five years, he says. The funds coverall student costs, excluding the charge for courses.

"I'm working with companies to develop contacts and the corporatesupport we need," he says. "A million dollars would be sufficientand give us a five-year window for 18 students a year to go just about anywherein the world."

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