Doctors are the healing agents of society. Whenever we feel sick, we go to the doctor for treatment. Doctors can provide surgical care and medication to humans. But what about the animals? Don’t they get injured or fall sick? Yes, they do. However, they need specialized doctors to cure their diseases as well as injuries. This necessity led to the rise of veterinarians. In layman’s language, we call them animal doctors. The veterinarian is a healthcare professional who treats the illness, injuries, and diseases of animals. Previously this profession was very underrated. But with the rising number of animal lovers worldwide, the demand for veterinarians is increasing drastically.
Looking at the scenario, many colleges were established with the aim of providing veterinary professionals to serve society. One of the leading names in that list is Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which is focused on delivering career-ready professionals. The College of Veterinary Medicine opened its doors on March 1, 1948. It is the only veterinary college in Oklahoma and one of the 30 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States. Since its inception, more than 4,250 veterinarians have earned a DVM degree from this land-grant university.
Mission, Vision, and Core Values
The college is working on its mission, i.e. innovation in animal and human health. It is focused on the vision to be an innovative world leader in healthcare, research, and professional education. With the core values including communication, integrity, accountability, teamwork, and leadership, the institute is progressing towards its vision.
Since becoming Dean in 2018, Dr. Carlos Risco has repeatedly strengthened the college’s reputation. He regained full accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education. He regularly meets with legislators, alumni, Oklahoma animal agriculture stakeholders, and leaders across the university to help advance the mission of the college within the state, region, and nation.
Under his leadership, the college continues to excel in education, research, and service. So far, during his tenure, the college has strengthened international engagement with creative research and educational partnerships with faculty from colleges and universities in France, Ethiopia, and India.
Exhibiting Academic Quality
Years one through three students attend classes in the same building, on the same floor giving them many opportunities for collaboration, teamwork, and mentorship. All fourth-year students must complete several core clinical rotations, whether or not they plan to specialize in another area.
This includes small animal, food animal, and equine medicine, to name a few, making all the students well-rounded. Oklahoma State University (OSU) veterinary graduates are also known for being career-ready whether they choose private practice, military service, biomedical research, the pharmaceutical industry, government agency work, or academia.
Fostering Skills of the Students
“Individual course objectives must align with our College of Veterinary Medicine’s new graduate outcomes/ competencies. All must contribute to the knowledge and skills required to be a competent and confident new practitioner,” said Margi Gilmour, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “The focus of the college is on depth and not breadth, with objectives and competencies focused on foundational knowledge to understand principles of diagnosis, treatment, and the presentations of common small animals and large animals.”
Breaking the hierarchy barrier between faculty and students can be difficult. Faculty are set on a pedestal and seen as omnipotent and intimidating, and students are fearful of showing any knowledge deficits to them. To help address that invisible barrier, the institute has moved into a classroom building with active-style teaching classrooms. There is no defined front of the classroom, the seating is all flexible, and the technology allows for any combination of seating arrangements.
The classrooms allow the faculty to engage with small groups of students, encouraging participation which is often stifled in a large class discussion. The classrooms allow faculty to move among and interact with students while teaching and share rather than preach. It also provides for more animated discussions and collaboration between students. Being part of a group tends to provide the confidence to ask questions of the instructor. The more discussion that occurs, the less intimidating the instructor becomes thereby, slowly diminishing the hierarchy barrier and promoting a much more collegial relationship.
The learning outcomes also prioritize problem solving and communication skills with the goal of equipping students with foundational knowledge and skills to build on throughout their careers using strong problem solving and communication skills. Students are exposed to production, cow-calf operations, and pet food and pharmaceutical companies. They are also connected to private practitioners through college events and externships. Students have an opportunity to participate in a 12-week Summer Research Training Program.
They also have access to the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, the College of Veterinary Medicine Ranch specializing in theriogenology and production medicine, the Equine Research Park, the Oklahoma Center for Respiratory and Infectious Diseases, the Institute for Translational and Emerging Research in Advanced Comparative Therapy, the National Center for Veterinary Parasitology, the Comparative Metabolism Laboratory, and the Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program to name a few.
Modeling the Veterinary Profession
Risco said, “My goal as dean is to reach our vision of being innovative world leaders in healthcare, research, and professional education.”
For the first time, the college has instituted duty hour guidelines for clinical year students. Traditionally in the profession, there was a minimal concern for the hours spent in the teaching hospital. This included staying well into the night for critical patient care or emergency duty, followed by 8 a.m. rounds and a full day of appointments, treatments, and participation in rounds/case discussion. Interestingly, it has long been known that minimal learning occurs and medical errors rise with lack of sleep.
The Goliath Project
The college began the Goliath Project in 2020 to address factors contributing to a compromised learning environment during the clinical year. Initially, the project addressed facility, information technology, and medical record inefficiencies to improve the working environment. The current focus is culture innovation. It became evident that the vision of the Goliath Project – to create a healthy environment to foster growth – applied to all four years and not only to the clinical year.
Culture innovation is based on education and empathy. No one can be expected to have all the necessary tools to work well in a high-pressure environment; therefore, the education portion of the culture innovation was created. In summary, role modeling for students, interns, and residents is a powerful tool to demonstrate beliefs and values. Gilmour said, “If we value wellbeing, empathy, communication, and teamwork, we must acquire the knowledge and skills, celebrate the value and results, and incorporate what we learn into the fabric of our professional lives.”
The college has partnered with Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Humanimal Trust and the University of Nantes to advance research in human and animal medicine. Its alumni have contributed much to the profession of veterinary medicine, including Dr. Leroy Coggins (’57), who developed the Coggins Test for equine infectious anemia used today; Dr. Roger Panciera (’53), a world-renown veterinary pathologist; Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Theresa Casey, DVM, MPH, DACVPM (’82), the first active-duty biomedical sciences corps officer and veterinarian to serve as a general officer; as well as many others. The college also helped establish Pete’s Pet Posse, OSU’s Pet Therapy Program created to positively enhance physical and emotional health on campus.
Dealing with the Pandemic
During the pandemic, the diagnostic lab of the institute partnered with OSU Health Sciences and Oklahoma State Department of Health to become the first animal disease diagnostic lab in the country to process human samples for COVID-19 testing. Further, the college followed CDC and OSU guidelines by taking virtual classes, which was a challenging job in such a hands-on curriculum. Zoom classes and cell phone videos helped students follow their instructors into ERs, anatomy labs, and more.