At Purdue, 50 Is Nifty
All grown up at age 50, Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine is eager to begin mapping the next half-century of its life.
On tap by 2014, if the money can be found, are a new Large Animal Hospital, a biosafety level 3 containment building, more distance-learning opportunities and renovations across the veterinary campus. The projects are part of the school’s strategic plan, a labor-intensive document that got its start at a faculty retreat in January 2008.
That kind of teamwork is apparent as faculty and administrators pursue another strategic goal: fully integrating Purdue’s DVM and veterinary technology programs.
“What we are doing is revising our veterinary technology program so they work more as a team with the DVM students in the hospital and throughout their curriculum,” says Kathleen Salisbury, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, the assistant dean for academic affairs.
“We’re developing some activities so students feel comfortable working with each other right from the beginning. We want to have it so the vet students learn how to most efficiently and effectively utilize technicians and the technician students learn how to maximize efficiency as a team by helping the veterinarians.”
Purdue and Michigan State are the only U.S. universities to offer DVM and vet tech programs on one campus. The two universities also have in common a heavy investment in veterinary research.
Purdue’s research falls into four key areas: infectious diseases, oncology, neuroscience and biomedical engineering. Among the school’s leading researchers are:
• Suresh K. Mittal, DVM, MS, Ph.D., who led the development of a vaccine against the H5N1 avian influenza virus. He’s now working on a vaccine against the new H1N1 swine flu virus.
• Deborah W. Knapp, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, an expert in canine bladder cancer. “She discovered with some of our epidemiologists that a particular breed of dogs, Scottish terriers, have a much higher incidence of bladder cancer, about a 15-fold increase over other breeds,” says Associate Dean Harm HogenEsch, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVP, who oversees Purdue’s research programs. “She is collaborating with researchers in the National Cancer Institute, trying to identify the genes that underlie this increased susceptibility of the Scottish terrier for bladder cancer. This work has implications for human patients with bladder cancer, identifying new treatments for bladder cancer both in dogs and humans.”
• Richard B. Borgens, Ph.D., director of the Center for Paralysis Research. The center’s work on spinal cord injuries is “a very nice example of translational as well as comparative research,” Dr. HogenEsch says. “The research starts with in-vitro studies of spinal cords where under very controlled situations they inflict injury on the spinal cord and see what kind of treatments might potentially work to repair the spinal cord injury. Some of the successes have been the discovery of a drug called aminopyridine and polyethylene glycol as ways to repair or at least reduce the amount of damage in the spinal cords.”
• Sandra Amass, DVM, MS, Ph.D. Dipl. ABVP, director of the National Biosecurity Resource Center. She initiated a certificate program in veterinary homeland security, which HogenEsch says “prepares the veterinary workforce for dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases and other events.”
At a Glance
Location: West Lafayette, Ind.
Enrollment: Vet tech associate’s program, 60; vet tech distance-learning program, 270; vet tech bachelor’s program, 50; DVM program, 265; graduate program, 110; interns, 7
Research Facilities: Center for the Human-Animal Bond, Center for Paralysis Research, Equine Sports Medicine Center, National Biosecurity Resource Center, Medical Discovery Resource Unit, Purdue University Cytometry Laboratories, Purdue Comparative Oncology Program, Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Purdue Histology & Phenotyping Laboratory
The life of a Purdue DVM student is highly structured.
“The first two years we do a lot of problem-based learning as well as lectures and labs,” Dr. Salisbury says. “The third year, our students pick a clinical track where they focus on a particular species or a group of species. In the fourth year, they get their applied clinical experience in the particular track they have chosen.”
When not in the classroom, laboratory or teaching hospital, Purdue veterinary students may be found in remote parts of the world.
“Just this summer as part of the 50th anniversary celebration we had two service project stops, one to Ethiopia and another to Spirit Lake (North Dakota),” Salisbury says. “We had 19 people from the vet school go and help with production animal medicine in Ethiopia. It was international outreach to try to improve the efficiency of production and the nutrition of the animals there.
“A group of faculty and students also went out to the Spirit Lake Indian reservation and provided veterinary care to a lot of animals in a short period of time. They spayed and neutered dogs, they treated injuries and different disease conditions. Students were in a learning situation, doing this under the supervision of faculty.”
Getting admitted to the DVM program is extremely competitive, so prospective students best not focus only on their grade-point average.
“They need to be good students academically because we have a very rigorous curriculum,” Salisbury says. “But we also look at their background in terms of animal experience, veterinary experience and research experience. We want to make sure that they are familiar with the veterinary profession and the different job opportunities that are out there so they know what they’re getting into when they commit themselves to a career as a veterinarian.
“We also look at interpersonal skills, how well they communicate, their social awareness, their awareness of animal rights, animal welfare and other issues facing the veterinary profession.”
HogenEsch confirms the importance of experience.
“We look favorably on students with research experience,” he says, “and the same is true for food animal experience. We try to recruit in each class six or seven students, at least, with demonstrated experience with pigs or cattle because there is a shortage of food animal veterinarians and we’re trying to address those issues.”
Public health and diversity are key factors, too.
“We’re also looking for students with an interest in public health because that’s another area of shortage that’s been identified,” Salisbury says. “If they identify that as an area they might go into, it could be to their advantage.
“We also want a very diverse student body and so we’re trying to get students of diverse backgrounds and experiences. International experiences are a plus, as are leadership experiences such as sports and being active in a variety of areas besides just academics.”
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