The year 2011 represents a significant milestone for the veterinary profession as it is the 250th anniversary of the first veterinary school in Lyon, France. To commemorate this important date, the 2nd World Conference on Veterinary Education was held at the veterinary university of Lyon, now known as Vet Agro Sup.
The origins of veterinary education and the profession itself can be traced back to the initiative of French barrister Claude Bourgelat. Noticing discrepancies in knowledge of equine anatomy in previously published resources, he decided to collaborate with human surgeons in order to address the issue. It was after this cooperation that he recognized the similarities between the “human and animal machine” and considered the opportunity for an “animal doctor” profession. He later managed to secure an audience in front of the King Louis XV and argued that the creation of a school to publicly teach veterinary medicine would significantly benefit the country’s agriculture in combating cattle diseases such as Rinderpest. The King authorized his request and the first veterinary school was created in 1761 in Lyon, followed by Maison Alfort near Paris in 1766.
The World Conference on Veterinary Education, sponsored by various international organizations such as OIE or Merial, reunited some 250 delegates from educational entities worldwide and largely celebrated this history of veterinary education and Bourgelat’s initiative. However, much focus was also put on the future of veterinary education, in particular how to improve current veterinary curricula in developed countries as well as in the developing world. Notable attendees included representatives from the AVMA, OIE, AAVMC and a multitude of international veterinary schools.
A recurring topic throughout the conference was that of the OIE’s & AVMA’s Day One Competencies. These provide guidelines to veterinary universities on specific areas of focus to teach students in order form competent veterinarians at the time of graduation. There was some discussion on potential enforcement of such guidelines by the OIE as well as the idea of a global veterinary school accreditation system. The OIE, however, argued that their role is not to oversee global veterinary curricula and that the guidelines provided are voluntary.
There was also significant mention of the need to integrate One Health into veterinary curricula, however, only few presentations provided concrete examples. I offered Western University’s perspective as I talked about the school’s Inter-Professional Education (IPE) curriculum (see previous post for more info) through my presentation: Inter-Professional Education – Training Veterinary students in a One Health Context. Western’s IPE curriculum brings together students from 9 health colleges covering human and animal needs and teaches these students how to approach health issues with a teamwork perspective as opposed to have each health profession isolated. At the basis of One Health is inter-professional cooperation and programs such as Western’s IPE provides a framework for communication and cooperation between health professions. I believe that adding skills in inter-professional cooperation could be a beneficial addition to the OIE’s Day One Competencies.
Other points of focus included addressing animal welfare issues in veterinary education. This can mean training students to recognize and address such issues once they become graduates, but also to provide education that minimally harms animals. There were several interesting presentations touching on this, notably from the University of Nottingham in the UK.
This 250th anniversary of veterinary education reminds us that, while forgotten until recently, One Health was at the genesis of the veterinary profession. Claude Bourgelat himself recognized the inherent similarities between human and animal medicine and actively cooperated with human surgeons to expand veterinary knowledge. Also, it is important to recognize that Bourgelat’s efforts to create veterinary schools in 1761 came as a consequence of a significant outbreak of Rinderpest decimating Europe’s agriculture. The year 2011 is not only the anniversary of the veterinary profession but also the year that Rinderpest has officially been eradicated from the globe.