Veterinarians – or vets for short – are physicians specializing in animals. The word is derived from Latin “veterinae” which means “draft animal”. The term veterinarian was used for the first time in the year 1646 by Thomas Browne. Today veterinary medicine embraces many different careers. Some veterinarians work in a clinical setting and practice pet medicine on small animals such as dogs, cats, and pocket pets. Other veterinary scrubs workers specialize in livestock or production medicine, which includes beef and dairy cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry as well as equine medicine (race track, rodeo, show medicine). Other specialties include laboratory medicine on reptiles and rats; as well as animal surgery, internal medicine, and dermatology. These latter specialties require post graduate training. The demographics of veterinarians has changed dramatically in the past 25 years: until the 1980’s the ratio of male to female veterinarians was tilted significantly towards men, but in the past few years women are the predominate veterinary school graduates.
Advanced veterinary certification enables some vets to pursue careers in research, and many important medical discoveries have been made by veterinarians including the isolation of oncovirus, and species of salmonella and brucella, as well as other pathogenic species. Researchers in vet scrubs were in the forefront of the fights against yellow fever and malaria in the U.S.; and it was a veterinarian who first noticed the appearance of West Nile disease in animals in the New York zoo. The identity of the agent which causes botulism was first discovered by a veterinarian; as was the anticoagulant which is used to treat heart disease in humans. Many human surgical techniques were first perfected on animals, such as organ and limb transplants, and hip joint replacement.
Because in the U.S. veterinary schools are often state-supported, preference for candidates is frequently given to students from in state, and out of state students face a restricted quota. Admissions criteria vary considerably from state to state depending upon how many positions are available and how many in state applicants there are. As a result, in some states admission to veterinary school can be considerably more competitive than admission to medical school. Even between schools in the same state, the ratio of student applications to admissions can vary tremendously. Study abroad is possible, but overseas graduates are often handicapped in applying for post-graduate training. In the U.S. admission to veterinary school usually requires submitting scores on the GRE and MCAT or VCAT tests. The average GRE score for veterinary students in the U.S. is 1350; and the average grade point average is 3.5. Additionally, specific undergraduate studies are required by the different veterinary schools; as well as extensive animal related experience (on the order of a thousand hours or more). In North America veterinary school lasts four years, with one year dedicated to a clinical rotation. After passing a national board exam it is possible to pursue an internship or residency in white scrub jackets in advanced fields.