Dual Degrees Gaining Popularity for Veterinary Students

Veterinary colleges in the United States are offering programs that enable students to earn a DVM degree in addition to an advanced degree in business administration (MBA), public health (MPH) and doctorates of philosophy (PhD). About 10 colleges offer dual-DVM degree programs, and more educational institutions are expected to follow suit, say industry members who expect the trend to positively impact academia, industry, veterinary practices and public health sectors.

“I think the profession has recognized the need to create more alternative career pathways,” said Martin Fettman, DVM, MS, associate dean at Colorado State University. For example, he noted, “MBA/DVM graduates…can fulfill a unique role as true practice managers, especially for very large, multi-specialty practices and those with heavy caseloads.” The college will offer a new option in fall 2006 with a master of science in business administration (MSBA), an 11-month program with a track available for veterinarians.

Studying business and marketing provides veterinary students with a new perspective on how veterinary medicine affects the economy overall. For example, in 2003, DVM/MBA students at Texas A&M discovered that veterinary medicine accounts for nearly $1.72 billion in state services while completing their marketing project titled The Economic Impact of Veterinary Medicine on the State of Texas. This year, DVM/MBA students will conduct a compliance study funded by Hill’s Pet Nutrition to gauge how veterinary schools “model” or teach students about compliance issues, said Dean Gage, DVM, leadership chair at Texas A&M University.

Students can take the one-year MBA or MPH programs between their third and fourth years of the DVM program or tack the coursework onto the end of their four-year program, Gage said.

In comparison, graduates with DVM/MPH and DVM/PhD degrees, who invest five to nine years in school, are more likely to pursue careers in academia and industry, said Fern Tablin, VMD, PhD, director of the veterinary scientist training program at UC-Davis.

“I think the profession is in great need of these types of students, as there are very few folks qualified to replace our aging faculty,” Tablin added. The first class will graduate from this dual-degree program in 2005.

Sylvia Furner, PhD, MPH, associate dean at the University of Illinois, attributes the growing interest in DVM/MPH degrees to the “naturally occurring outbreaks of SARS, avian flu virus, West Nile virus, Monkey pox and Tularemia.” These outbreaks “illustrate the need for highly qualified persons trained in zoonosis and public health epidemiology. Bioterrorist threats further the demand for these specially trained individuals,” she added.

In 2003, Texas A&M University graduated three students with DVM/MBA degrees. This year, seven students will graduate from the program.