• Decrease font size
  • Return font size to normal
  • Increase font size
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

  • Print
  • Share
  • E-mail

CVM Official Discusses Career Opportunities with Student Veterinarians at Symposium

by Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D., Deputy Director, Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation
FDA Veterinarian Newsletter March/April 2005 Volume XX, No II

The recent 2005 Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) Educational Symposium enabled veterinary students to familiarize themselves with areas of veterinary medicine that are not usually covered in the regular curriculum and to interact with future colleagues, from across the national as well as around the world.

The SAVMA Educational Symposium, hosted by the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, College Station, TX, took place in March. For three days, veterinary students competed in academic and athletic events, attended lectures and wetlabs, and experienced valuable networking opportunities with peers. The student association was first proposed to students attending the American Veterinary Medical Association meeting in 1966, and it came into being in 1969 as the National Conference of Student Chapters of the AVMA. The name changed to SAVMA in 1972. Currently, the organization has 28 student chapters with more than 8,000 student members. The 2005 symposium attracted more than 2,000 students, representing veterinary schools not only in the United States, but also in Canada, the West Indies, and Scotland.

SAVMA’s invitation to give a lecture on public health issues from a Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) perspective was an opportunity to enlighten many students about the role CVM plays in human and animal health, as well as highlighting the many exciting career opportunities offered by CVM. The title of my presentation was “Veterinary Medicine: An Umbrella of Opportunities in the Public Health Arena.” Most veterinary students have one vision of veterinary medicine and that is the traditional practitioner role. I must confess that I had the same vision when I was a student. However, what students do not often realize is that a degree in veterinary medicine will give them a terrific base from which many career opportunities will present -themselves.

Today we see graduates pursuing certification from more than 20 specialty boards. There is also a global demand for all categories of veterinary services. The Pew Health Professions Commission in its report, “Health America: Practitioners for 2005,” stated “…there is evidence that there is a potentially significant market for veterinarians and veterinary services, particularly in nontraditional and non-private practice arenas.” The report further stated, “Veterinarians are more knowledgeable about the impact of animals and diseases on human health and the role and use of animals in the improvement of health and well-being than any other health professional in most communities. Thus, veterinarians should be more directly available to human health providers for consultation on these -subjects.”

CVM’s mission

Students are not often familiar with the mission of CVM. As a consumer protection organization, CVM fosters public and animal health by approving safe and effective products for animals and by enforcing applicable provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Nor are the students aware of the complexity surrounding the discovery and development of a novel molecule and taking it through to CVM approval as a safe and effective drug that can be legally marketed, promoted, and used. CVM is responsible for ensuring that animal drugs and medicated feeds are safe and effective and that food from treated animals is safe for people to eat.

There are many students and graduate veterinarians who are unaware what a fabulous information resource CVM is regarding FDA-regulated products. That information can be accessed through CVM’s web site; CVM Updates; Green Book (which lists all FDA-CVM approved animal drugs); FDA and the Veterinarian booklet, (which explains the FDA and CVM regulations that apply to veterinary medicine); National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) brochure and data sets; Freedom of Information (FOI) Summaries for each approved drug; and Adverse Drug Event reporting, just to mention a few.

It was an honor for me to join the SAVMA Career Opportunity Panel and illustrate through personal experiences all of the opportunities that a degree in veterinary medicine affords. The students were most receptive to hearing how our diverse careers evolved. Participation at the SAVMA Educational Symposium enables us not only to showcase CVM and the exciting career opportunities it can offer, but to enlighten our future veterinarians with the details surrounding the animal drug approval process and their role in providing CVM with feedback on any adverse drug reactions. Together, CVM and the veterinary profession form a partnership that works to ensure the protection of the health of humans and animals.

I also shared with the students one recommendation that they may want to incorporate into their lives and one that has supported me throughout my career; the one golden key to success: Attitude! Having a consistent and positive attitude, along with perseverance, will ensure the best possible outcome. Leadership and professionalism are both dependent on attitude. Attitude is everything!

***[Table accompanying article follows.]***

Career Opportunities for Veterinary Students

There is a wonderful diversity of careers within the professional disciplines of veterinary medicine. Just to name a few, they include:

  • Academia
  • Animal welfare
  • Aquatic medicine 
  • Biomedical research
  • Comparative medicine
  • Defense
  • Environmental health
  • Epidemiology
  • Food safety
  • Human-animal bond
  • Laboratory animal medicine
  • Nutrition
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Preventive medicine
  • Public health
  • Regulatory medicine
  • Wildlife medicine
  • Zoological medicine