Veterinary medical school curricula are not standardized. Programs may last anywhere from three to six years. In the United States and Canada, for example, the program is generally four years long. In the first three years, students are taught basic science (such as anatomy, physiology, histology, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, immunology, bacteriology, virology, pathology, parasitology, toxicology) in the classroom, as well as other basic courses such as herd health (also called population health), nutrition, radiography, and epidemiology. During the third year, students are exposed to clinical topics like anesthesiology, diagnostics, surgery, ophthalmology, orthopedics, and dentistry. The fourth year is often 12 (not nine) months long, during which students work in a clinical setting delivering care to a wide range of animals. A focus on clinical education is an aspect of most veterinary school curricula worldwide. In 2005, for the first time in its 104-year-history, the Veterinary Medicine Programme at the University College Dublin instituted a lecture-free final year focusing on clinical training. The Institute of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Zurich recently developed and implemented a new curriculum for teaching pathology which includes an extensive clinical component. Veterinary schools in Israel, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia also focus heavily on clinical training.
The level of participation in clinical training can be quite limited in some schools and countries, however. In Japan, students are not permitted to engage in clinical education until they have studied for six years. For example, in Sri Lanka, until recently the public owned relatively few companion animals, and veterinary medical education focused on herd health—with the result that veterinary schools focused little attention on clinical skills. As recently as 2004, this had not changed. In Ethiopia, few schools have clinical training facilities, and the government has placed a priority on opening more schools rather than improving the existing colleges. Even in the United States, there is some concern that clinical training may suffer because many veterinary teaching hospitals are in deep financial trouble.
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