As a student steward at the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress, my responsibilities included helping set up the trade exhibition, handing out welcome packs at the registration desk and escorting speakers to the appropriate rooms. However, we were also able to sit in on lectures and act as the legs for the microphone whenever there were any questions.
The congress provided a great opportunity for networking and meeting other students from across both the UK and the world, as well as many veterinary professionals from every corner of the globe.
One of the lectures I sat in on was a Q&A session, “Ask the editor”, about publishing clinical research. A particularly sensitive topic was the process of peer reviewing research papers. The main point of discussion that interested me was the huge variation in quality of reviews depending on the reviewer, especially when veterinary schools were brought in to the argument.
As someone with no experience of research, the general impression I got was that one of the issues with peer reviewing is many reviewers are practising vets who – having done a veterinary degree rather than a research-based degree – are never taught specifically how to write a paper, and therefore aren’t taught how to review one either.
And then came the inevitable “well perhaps that should be introduced to the veterinary curriculum”.
In my opinion, absolutely not. The format of the veterinary degree is primarily geared towards producing vets. The majority of veterinary students will have chosen veterinary school because they wanted to be a vet, not because they wanted to learn how to review scientific papers.
Is the veterinary course not intensive and long enough without adding in extra skills that would be of limited use to the everyday clinician with no interest in research?
This also brings me back to the controversy surrounding the opening of new UK veterinary schools. One of the arguments countering the “too many graduates and not enough jobs“ point is a veterinary degree doesn’t necessarily lead to a career as a vet. Some graduates opt for other aspects of the profession, such as research.
I have to disagree – with extramural studies forming such a huge chunk of the course, it is certainly preparing students to be practising vets, not researchers. If you want to end up in research, do a bioveterinary science degree instead. That way, students aiming for a research career would get the scientific background knowledge of veterinary and research experience, without having to undertake hours in a veterinary clinic, learning practical skills they’ll never use.
I understand some students may want to practise as vets and yet still become involved in research. However, I believe masters’ courses are available, or the option of intercalation, which would allow them to gain some research experience.
I strongly believe not only the vast majority of veterinary students would resent a more research-based degree, but also it would produce less-competent clinicians as a result.
Research should be an option, but not a compulsory part of becoming a vet.