By Hanna Herdegen/ ASAS Communications
Maybe you thought about going to grad school instead of vet school. Vet school instead of grad school? Grad school before vet school?
Some people have resolved this issue by doing them both at the same time and enrolling in a dual DVM/PhD program. Admittedly, the program is known to be challenging. But these students will be coming out of vet school (and grad school) with six letters after their names that will set them apart from others in their field.
So why would you put yourself through this?
Well, it is arguable that you can get things out of grad school that you can’t get in vet school, and vice versa.
Grad school tends to focus on question and (hopefully) answer, on procedural science, on one minute detail in the microcosm that will become your entire world for the duration of your study. Until its completion, you will live and breathe your chosen project, spending your days obsessing over data sheets and your sleepless nights thinking about the day your pipette will slip or your pigs will escape and bring an end to the world as you know it.
But you will finish (you will) with a better understanding of your subject and the science that helps it to function, having pushed the bubble of knowledge a bit further out, even if it was to prove that something couldn’t or shouldn’t be done.
Vet school, on the other hand, tends to focus on the bigger picture, on the implementation of raw data into treatment regimens or drug formulations. Yes, you will probably feel overloaded with minute details you can’t possibly hope to remember and permeated with formaldehyde you can’t possibly hope to wash out. But days in the anatomy lab and nights with your nose in a textbook will be accompanied by “…so when a cat comes in with a heart murmur” or “…and when you see a horse kicking at its belly” to remind you that the drudgery really does have a purpose.
So do you want to discover new things? Or do you want to practice them?
There are advantages to both. Some people are better in a lab, setting goals for themselves and finding solutions to problems that arise by posing and testing hypotheses. Some people are better in the field, integrating knowledge from multiple sources in order to come up with the best plan of action.
Both of these disciplines offer an opportunity to grow as an innovative thinker and problem solver. But these same skills are applied in different ways and learned through different experiences. Any good scientist should understand that context is an important as a piece of data. And any good medical practitioner should understand that an animal’s environment and handling has as much to do with its health as the antibiotics it has been given.
By experiencing science and medicine both in the lab and in the field, a student can come to a better understanding of how the disciplines work and fit together, and for it, become more skilled at both.
For more information on DVM/PhD programs, see the following: