Pfizer launches veterinarian externship

The future of animal production agriculture will be missing a critical piece — veterinarians — without support for students to pursue large animal veterinary careers.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, fewer than 10 percent, or about 200 students, graduating each year from U.S. veterinary schools are interested in large animal medicine.

Pfizer Animal Health strongly believes veterinarians are an irreplaceable element in the cattle industry and is concerned about a shortage of cattle veterinarians in the future. To counter this trend, Pfizer Animal Health launched an Externship Program this spring aimed at veterinary students with a potential interest in large animal medicine. There are more than 100 externship recipients this summer representing 27 veterinary schools from across the United States. Through its Externship Program, Pfizer Animal Health hopes to continue increasing the number of veterinary students with an interest in pursuing a cattle practice each year.

The Pfizer Animal Health Externship Program works with veterinary schools in two ways. The company works with veterinary schools to place first- and second-year students with beef and dairy cattle practitioners for four weeks. Pfizer Animal Health provides a stipend, as well as identifies veterinary clinics willing to mentor students. For universities that already have a veterinary externship program in place, Pfizer Animal Health provides matching funds.

For the veterinary clinics participating as mentors in the Externship Program there are long-term benefits. As cattle practitioners, they have a chance to foster the development of a veterinary student and create an interest in large animal practice. A positive externship could lead to a potential future employee and a relationship that could grow into a partnership and a succession plan for a veterinary practice.

“The Externship Program was designed for the first- or second-year veterinary student who is interested in, but not committed to, becoming a large animal or mixed animal practitioner,” said Roger Saltman, DVM, MBA, Pfizer Animal Health group director for cattle veterinary operations. “We find externships for them with some of the best cattle and mixed animal veterinary practices in the United States in the hope that these externships may be transformational for many of their careers.

“At the very least, the externship will give the student an appreciation for the challenges facing large animal or mixed animal practitioners. Hopefully, this experience will lead to the veterinary student choosing to learn more about cattle medicine and maybe enter cattle or mixed animal practice after graduation.”

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