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Post-graduate studies lead to specialist status
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Some graduating Mississippi State University veterinary students participate in a national match-making program each year that has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with successful careers.
The national match program enhances career opportunities for graduating doctors of veterinary medicine, or DVMs, and introduces potential faculty to jobs available at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Andrew Mackin is the Dr. Hugh G. Ward Endowed Chair of Small Animal Veterinary Medicine at MSU’s veterinary college. He oversees the college’s involvement in the program and chairs the committee responsible for maintaining the quality of the post-graduate clinical training programs offered at MSU’s veterinary college.
“In human medicine, even though you graduate as a doctor, you can’t practice until you do an internship and residency,” Mackin said. “With veterinary medicine, you can be a doctor and practice after you graduate, but some graduates choose to enter advanced training and become specialists.
“The structured approach is to do an internship and then complete a residency to become certified in a specialty area,” he said.
Mackin said 10 percent to 20 percent of veterinary students in America choose to pursue a specialty area. Those who do so have their choice of high-paying jobs in private practice, or they can follow the generally less lucrative route and become academic specialists.
“Up to 80 percent of residents go into specialty practices rather than academia,” Mackin said. “We are working to attract people back to the academic side. We have increased the rigor of our academic programs to try to make them so beneficial that those inclined to subject themselves to such a program will not want to leave.”
Dr. Jennifer Wardlaw earned her DVM at the University of Missouri, Columbia, completed an internship and three-year residency at MSU’s veterinary college, and stayed at MSU as a small animal surgeon.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t enjoy working with students and training interns. I like the science and research side that you really can’t do in private practice,” she said.
Wardlaw is residency-trained and sat for the national surgical board exam in February. She passed the first time, something only 40 percent succeed in doing. After four years of undergraduate studies, four years of veterinary college and four years of specialty work, she is now a board-certified diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and on tenure track at MSU.
There are only 1,403 board-certified large and small animal surgeons in the United States.
Mackin said it has taken MSU about 10 years to develop a strong program of offering high-quality residencies to veterinary graduates and placing veterinary graduates in good residencies elsewhere. At MSU, 70 percent to 80 percent of graduates seeking post-graduate studies in internships and residencies are accepted.
“Twice in the last five years, we were either top or equal to the top of all the veterinary schools in North America in getting our students matched with internships and residencies,” Mackin said.
He attributed this high success rate to the college’s efforts to persuade the top 10 percent of each graduating class to pursue specialty studies. Additionally, students in MSU’s veterinary program are more competitive for clinical positions because they receive two years of classroom instruction and complete two years of clinical rotations, unlike most veterinary colleges, which require just one year of clinical rotations.
“A decade ago, we often had only three interns in the college, but today, we usually have 10 or more in the building,” Mackin said. “We also now have a very structured system where we have residency positions that are filled on a rotational basis.”
Mackin said not only does offering residencies help spread the good word about what is happening at MSU, but it also is a good way to recruit new faculty.
“One of the career tracks of a resident is to become an academic specialty clinician,” he said. “We recruit people who would never have thought of us as an academic possibility, but once they come and develop strong roots here, they are more inclined to stay.”
Contact: Dr. Andrew Mackin, (662) 325-6631