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The broad scope of a veterinarian’s work

In this introductory column, please allow me to introduce the profession of veterinary medicine to those who may have interest directly or indirectly.

The scope of what veterinarians do is quite broad and more involved in our everyday lives than many realize.

We don’t just give shots to dogs and cats and, in fact, the safety of the food you eat often involves the inspection and oversight of the veterinary industry.

Diseases from food-borne illness like salmonella, E. coli and many others from any meat source, eggs, milk products are heavily researched and monitored by veterinarians in public health related fields.

These foods actually came from a real, living animal that gave of itself to provide our sustenance. Grocery stores don’t just have a bacon and egg factory somewhere.

Over 70 percent of infectious diseases that infect humans are transmitted by, or harbored, in animals. Diseases that are transmissible between animals and humans are referred to as zoonotic diseases.

This places veterinarians at the forefront of public health monitoring.

More recently, social acceptance of pets has increased because there is research supporting the emotional, psychological and physical health benefits of having a companion animal.

It’s hard to find a domestic flight these days without sharing your plane with someone who has a certified emotional support animal at their side.

Add in the horse and dog racing industries, sporting dogs, show animal industry of dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, llamas, chickens and yes, guinea pigs.

I’m sure I omitted a few, but let’s not forget the pocket pet and exotic animal industry as we still see the occasional  ferret, hamster, hedgehog, iguana, snake, sugar glider and pet bird in our practice, and the list goes on.

I almost forgot one of my favorite groups of animals, that being our wildlife and marine animal species.

Sometimes, I’m envious of human doctors who just have to concern themselves with one species and often only one body system of that species.

Not taking away anything away from our physician colleagues, their intelligence, skill and compassion to heal, but have you ever spent much time with a veterinarian?

What makes us tick? Why did we choose to spend eight or more years in college to get two or more rigorous degrees to do what we do?

Obtaining admission to a college of veterinary medicine is quite competitive and there are only thirty colleges of veterinary medicine in the U.S.

Our closest is at The Ohio State University, which was recently ranked fourth in the country and eighth in the world.

This past year, there were over 1,800 applicants for only 162 seats at the College of Veterinary Medicine at OSU. Applicants are required to fulfill prerequisite courses that typically involves a four-year undergraduate degree in biology or animal science related field.

They must have adequate experience working with a veterinarian to show they understand what a career in vet medicine is like. They need to interview well and have several letters of recommendation.

Most schools require certain scores on standardized graduate school exams. Upon graduation, most will enter private practice, some will go on to do internships and residencies in specific areas, like small animal medicine, large animal medicine, orthopedic and soft tissue surgery, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, pathology, internal medicine, emergency medicine and many more.

These veterinarians become specialists and obtain board certification in their respective fields. They usually work in referral practices or in universities where they teach and do research.

A very important element in veterinary medicine is our talented staff of para-professionals.

These are our nurses, veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants.

Locally, we are fortunate to have a two-year associates degree program in veterinary technology at Mountwest Community College in Huntington.

There is also a high school pre-veterinary technician program at Collins Career Technical Center here in Lawrence County.

Finally, I can’t stress enough  the three-way relationship for which veterinarians are responsible. That is the veterinarian-client-patient relationship because every animal we see has a human owner or caregiver attached.

I hope you can see that veterinarians serve a vital role in every community as they serve to protect many aspects of human and animal health.

Mike Dyer is a doctor of veterinary medicine at Proctorville Animal Clinic.