April 12, 2005

Vet School Renews Focus On Food Animal Medicine

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The Veterinary School has decided to reenergize their curriculum and student body to address the need for veterinarians who work with non-pet animals, according to Daryl Nydam, Ph.D. ’02, a diagnostician at the Veterinary School.

Veterinarians are needed in the fields of food animal medicine and veterinary public health, Nydam said.

If more students do not take an interest in them, these fields will be greatly underserved in the near future.

“[As] part of our land grant mission … we have to be responsive to the needs of New York state,” Nydam said.

Cornell has been trying to add courses and study focusing on food animal medicine and veterinary public health to the veterinary curriculum. Additionally, the school is seeking students who come with these interests.

“The problem of shortage is definitely a national one — and has been a concern for a number of years … we are trying to address it by exposing our students to opportunities in the field and by trying to recruit more students with this interest,” said Katherine Edmondson, Ph.D. ’89, assistant dean for learning and instruction.

To try to increase interest in food animal medication, Cornell has started two programs that can bookend a veterinary student’s education. Incoming students can participate in food animal medicine externships, with trips to public health research laboratories and food animal farms. For students about to graduate from veterinary school, particularly non-Cornell students who have not had the opportunity to study food animal medicine, there is the Summer Dairy Institute. Started this past summer, twenty students are able to attend the intensive eight-week program, which has been highly subsidized by the American Association of Bovine practitioners. “[The Summer Dairy Institute is] almost a boot camp for dairy practitioners. It’s an opportunity to tune these students up to a high level of performance of dairy experience,” said Prof. Rick Hackett, chair of the department of clinical sciences, in an April 11 article in The Citizen. Veterinary medicine began in France with a utilitarian focus on cows and horses, animals used for food, work and warfare. As people began to recognize the need and use for this new field, Cornell started the first veterinary school in the United States. “Veterinary medicine started out in response to human need,” Nydam said.

Cornell’s Veterinary School is already established in food animal medicine. Food animals are any animals which produce food, whether through meat or other produce, such as dairy.

As Americans became wealthier and more urbanized, veterinary medicine started to focus more on household pets, called companion animals by veterinarians. Due to several American and world issues, including the prevalence of immunosuppressive diseases such as HIV/AIDS and bioagroterrorism, veterinary medicine has had to focus more on producing low risk food.

“Veterinary medicine’s contribution to producing an abundant, safe and affordable food supply … as well as protecting public health is still very important,” Nydam said.