Degree in veterinary medicine (DVM) (Degree in veterinary medicine (DVM))
Owner/Developer: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University
United States of America
01 January 0001
United States of America
North Grafton, Massachusetts
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has moved away from conventional protocols in the use of animals in our veterinary student teaching program (in anatomy, surgery and clinical skills courses), to alternative ones. We have eliminated terminal procedures for our core surgery teaching laboratories and implemented client donation or willed body program for anatomy and some surgical and clinical skills training. We have completed a transition of our veterinary medical curriculum to one that strongly encourages that healthy animals involved in the teaching program not be subjected to invasive or terminal procedures. This program was a first for a US veterinary school.
There are some exceptions to this guideline. Healthy animals are used for teaching examination, restraint and medication techniques. An elective bovine surgery course is conducted on owner-leased animals with the owner's consent and approval. The surgery performed (omentopexy) helps prevent future digestive problems; this surgery is not commonly performed as a preventive measure in most practices. Students also are taught to perform common animal husbandry procedures, some of which are invasive. There are occasional training laboratories in which animals destined for euthanasia after being in a research project undergo procedures under anesthesia, after which they are euthanized and do not regain consciousness. In addition, as described below, some large animals selected for cull and slaughter are anesthetized and euthanized for preparation as anatomy specimens.
Formal anatomy training at Cummings School involves dissecting several species of animals—dogs, horses and cattle—in the first year. Informal opportunities exist throughout all four years to observe and study normal as well as abnormal anatomy during treatment and examination of patients in the hospital and wildlife clinic, and in pathology.
In order to supply cadavers for the anatomy laboratories in the first year, Cummings School has established a client donation program whereby clients of the teaching hospital who are faced with euthanizing their dogs for medical reasons may elect to donate their pet for veterinary student training. This groundbreaking program benefits clients as well as students. Students are provided with the case record, so they can begin to integrate clinical material with didactic learning at the earliest possible time in their training. They are reminded, through use of a loved, client-donated pet, of the importance and strength of the human-animal bond. Clients who choose to participate in the donation program have the satisfaction of knowing that their thoughtfulness will help train a future generation of caregivers. All dogs used for anatomy training have been obtained through the client donation program since 1998.
Horses used in the anatomy laboratory are purchased from a local dealer, in lieu of being shipped many hundreds of miles to slaughter. A board-certified anesthesiologist performs the sedation and euthanasia of the horses prior to embalming for the laboratory.
In 2009, Cummings School expanded its animal donation program to include large animals. Horses and other species that meet specific requirements for size and need to be euthanized for medical reasons may be referred by their veterinarians for inclusion. Up to 40 percent of the horses used to teach large animal anatomy have come from this program.
Small numbers of other species used for anatomy training are acquired from a variety of sources. They are all destined for euthanasia or slaughter locally. A board-certified anesthesiologist performs the sedation and euthanasia prior to embalming for the laboratory. Currently, one cow and one pig are prepared as prosections for all students to study; goats are dissected by small groups of students.
Prior to 1989, the foundation of surgery training at Cummings School was a required small-animal surgical procedures laboratory for third year students, in which students performed a wide variety of surgical procedures using purpose-bred live dogs that were euthanized at the completion of the laboratory. In 1989, in response to a request from 12 members of the class of 1990, the school began to offer an alternative laboratory in which students practiced on client-donated cadavers instead of live dogs. From 1993 through 1995, the school offered an elective course in which students spayed or neutered feral cats provided by a Boston humane organization.
Based in part on the success of that program, it was decided in 1994 to substitute the sterilization of female dogs waiting for adoption at local humane organizations for the non-survival core surgery lab. These procedures are performed in the Luke and Lily Lerner Spay/Neuter Clinic at Cummings School under supervision of Cummings School faculty. A large animal surgery elective uses heifers obtained from a local dairy herd. The heifers undergo a prophylactic omentopexy to prevent displaced abomasum. Following recovery, the heifers are artificially inseminated and returned to a production setting.
At present, no animals are sacrificed for core surgery training of DVM students at Cummings School. New learning opportunities, designed to strengthen hands-on surgical experience are being developed. A suturing laboratory has been added to the second year Principles of Surgery course, and efforts are underway to increase the number of dogs each student spays in the third year surgery course. An elective orthopedic surgery laboratory, using either cadavers from client-donated pets euthanized for medical reasons or bone models, is available in the third year.
Clinical Procedures Training
Clinical skills laboratories are held in the first and second years of the Cummings School DVM curriculum, and clinical procedures laboratories are conducted in the third year. During these laboratories, students observe and learn to perform a wide variety of procedures that are either part of normal animal husbandry, or are necessary to prevent, diagnose and treat disease in a wide variety of domestic, farm and wildlife species.
In some cases, the procedures are part of the normal physical exam, palpation and restraint of the species. For farm animal species, whenever possible, preventive medicine techniques such as intravenous, subcutaneous, and intramuscular injections, passage of a stomach tube, and artificial insemination are coordinated with regularly scheduled herd-health visits. In no case are healthy animals sacrificed or subject to major invasive techniques to teach these procedures. Cadavers from animals that died or were euthanized for medical reasons are used for any procedures that are highly invasive—dentistry, equine nerve blocks, bone marrow aspiration, chest tube placement, thoracocentesis and transtracheal aspiration.
Hands-on training, Lecture
DVM applicants must have completed the equivalent of at least three full undergraduate academic years at an accredited college or university and fulfilled 90 semester hours of course work before enrollment.
Candidates must successfully complete the following courses prior to enrolling at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University but not necessarily prior to applying to the school. Recommended, but not required, are additional courses such as cell biology, microbiology, physiology, comparative or developmental anatomy.
Although some online courses (rather than traditional in-class coursework) can be used to fulfill prerequisite courses, we strongly recommend obtaining pre-approval from the Office of Admissions for specific courses. Candidates who do not obtain pre-approval risk having to retake course prerequisites prior to matriculation in the veterinary program.
General Biology with laboratory (two semesters)
A one-year general biology course intended for biology majors and/or students entering veterinary or medical school. Course topics would ideally include the biology of cells (both structure and function); origin and classification of organisms (both prokaryotes and eukaryotes); the biology of plants, animals and populations. Principles of evolution, genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, embryology, anatomy, physiology, ecology and ethology should be included.
General Chemistry with laboratory (two semesters)
A one-year general (inorganic) chemistry course intended for chemistry majors and/or students entering veterinary or medical school. Course topics would ideally include atomic and molecular structure; intermolecular forces and states of matter; the relationship of structure and bonding to the physical and chemical properties of matter; patterns of chemical reactions and energy changes; gases; aqueous reactions and ionic equations; atomic and molecular chemical kinetics and equilibria; acids and bases; electro-chemistry and stereochemistry.
Organic Chemistry with laboratory (two semesters)
A one-year organic chemistry course intended for chemistry majors and/or students entering veterinary or medical school. Course topics would ideally include the structure and reactions of covalent carbon compounds, mono– and polyfunctional compounds, as well as aliphatic and aromatic structures. Stereochemistry, spectroscopy, reactivity, synthesis, polymer and bioorganic chemistry, and electronic interpretations of organic chemistry should also be included.
Physics (two semesters)
A one-year physics course intended for students entering veterinary or medical school. Course topics would ideally include kinematics; Newton’s laws of motion; laws of conservation; elasticity; oscillations and fluid mechanics; principles of classical and relativistic mechanics; electromagnetism and electrical circuits; heat and thermodynamics; sound and wave phenomena; geometrical and physical optics; radioactivity; atomic nuclear, and particle physics; astrophysics.
Genetics (one semester, unless included in General Biology)
The course would ideally include fundamentals of classical, molecular, and population genetics, including genetic mapping, DNA structure and mutation, bacterial and viral genetics, genetic organization and regulation of gene expression.
Biochemistry (one semester)
A one-semester course in biochemistry offered by a chemistry, biochemistry, or biology department. Course topics would ideally include an in-depth examination of the structure and function of major biomolecules; chemical and physical properties of nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids; gene replication and expression; biochemical energetics; principles of enzyme kinetics; vitamins and coenzymes; pH and buffers; and an examination of primary metabolic pathways in the mammalian organism.
Mathematics (two semesters)
May include a statistics course taken in a department other than mathematics.
English (two semesters)
May include composition, reading, and or speech communication.
Social and Behavioral Sciences (two semesters)
May include psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, political science, and/or economics.
Humanities and Fine Arts (two semesters)
May include literature, music, art, history, philosophy, religion, and/or foreign language.
Ethics, Models of animals (e.g. mannequins, simulators, cadavers), Carrying out procedures on animals, Taking care of animals
Partial coverage (e.g. a module)
Horses, donkeys and cross breds (Equidae), Other birds (other Aves), Cats (Felis catus), Dogs (Canis familiaris)
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The first year of the DVM curriculum consists largely of didactic teaching and laboratory instruction and focuses on the basic biomedical sciences. The major emphasis is on the basic structural and functional relationships that occur in normal animals. The Clinical Skills course provides basic handling and husbandry of large and small animal species
The instructional program for the second year of the DVM program is mainly concerned with the pathophysiology of specific disease entities as they affect organs in various systems of the body. In these courses, students relate the morphological and physiological manifestations of a specific disease to the functional abnormalities they cause in a particular body system. In addition, the second year introduces students to clinical and imaging topics. Clinical Skills II introduces students to basic physical examination and diagnostic procedures for all species.
During much of the third year, students integrate the pathophysiological aspects of specific diseases learned in the second year with a comprehensive discussion of the presenting clinical signs, diagnostic criteria and the treatment of these entities. Thus, the third-year curriculum is designed to provide students with a sound basis in clinical medicine with emphasis on diagnosis, prognosis and management. The third year culminates with a two-week period of advanced elective course offerings.
By the beginning of the fourth year, all core didactic courses and some clinical rotations are completed. The student spends the entire year gaining further experience in clinical and other rotations. The core clinical rotation program utilizes the case method approach. Under supervision the student records case histories, performs physical examinations as well as diagnostic and surgical procedures, and learns to assume responsibility for treatment and case and client management.
The purpose of the Cummings School DVM program is to prepare graduates for entry level practice in any of the major domestic species, provide exposure to the innovative Cummings School Signature Opportunities, and provide enough flexibility and access to resources to allow our students to pursue non-practice or non-traditional practice careers (such as public health, wildlife, international veterinary medicine and biomedical research). The curriculum is designed to nurture students who will become leaders in developing the science, technology, and ethics that will shape the veterinary profession in the future and to foster students to become lifelong learners.
The goals of our DVM program are:
To provide students with a strong foundation in the basic sciences and ample opportunities to apply their knowledge.
To provide excellent medical and surgical training in order to graduate veterinarians who are competent and confident in their chosen field.
To encourage critical thinking, research, evidence-based decision making, and lifelong learning.
To offer students primary care learning opportunities to better prepare veterinary graduates for entry-level practice and provision of affordable care.
To nurture interest in animal welfare, ethics, and public policy, One Health, international veterinary medicine, and wildlife.
To enhance student competencies in non-technical skills such as communications, financial literacy, business management, emotional intelligence, and resilience.
To help students to gain a broad understanding of diversity and cultural competencies.
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