Canadian College to Implement Presentation-Based Curriculum, Recruit Specialists

When the University of Calgary Veterinary School in Alberta, Canada, welcomes its first students on Aug. 20, 2006, it will be one of a few veterinary colleges to implement a practical presentation-based curriculum, said Benedikt Hallgrimsson, PhD, associate dean of undergraduate science education at the University of Calgary.

The college will emphasize practical experience over lecture, teach human and veterinary medical students under the same roof and screen students for interest in research and government, said sources.

In essence, students will spend more time in local clinics getting real-world experience instead of an emphasis on lectures, Hallgrimsson explained. “This is a drastic change to the way curriculum is delivered.”

This approach gives students real-world experience, versus the often-criticized ivory tower lecture approach, said Grant Gall, MD, dean of faculty medicine for the University of Calgary. “Who else is best to teach students than someone who is doing it on a daily basis?” he asked.

Although lectures will take a back seat to practical education, they will be used to provide students with a conceptual framework to learn about certain diseases and conditions. For example, a veterinarian may show students a lame horse, providing the animal’s medical background and history. Next, students would receive a lecture on the basic science topics that underlie the case, Hallgrimsson said. He believes that most schools spend too much time on lecture. “Students are only capable of dealing with [or absorbing] three to four hours of lecture a day,” he said. “You can lecture to them for eight hours a day, but they will probably only use two.”

Western University of Health Sciences employs a similar curriculum in California, and three international colleges have followed the practical presentation-based curriculum, which may signal an educational trend, Gall said. He also explained that the new college, which will be the fifth veterinary school in Canada, was created to satisfy a growing need for veterinarians in government, academia, research and national security.

For example, the Alberta government has advertised several veterinary jobs continuously for several years, said Danny Joffe, DVM, DABVP, president-elect of the Alberta VMA. “New veterinary graduates are going into small animal medicine,” he explained, adding that the ability to fill areas of need pleases him. “[The new veterinary school] is exciting. It’s kind of a new concept in veterinary medicine – to plug holes where we’re lacking.”

Canada is not the only country experiencing such a veterinary shortage in public health and government. In the United States, the problem has prompted legislation, supported by the AVMA, which would give financial incentives to veterinarians pursuing careers in those two areas. The two professional arenas seem to be moving closer together as officials worry that diseases like Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and monkey pox may become more a rule than an exception, said Ray Stock, VMD, assistant director of the AVMA government relations division.

The recent BSE crisis hit Canada particularly hard, since the country is such a large producer of cattle, Gall said. “We realized that we needed to get into the game of animal health,” he added, which is why the new college will teach veterinary and human medical students under the same roof.

“Eighty percent of the infections in humans come from animals,” Gall said. “It makes eminent sense to bridge the two.”