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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Employment Opportunities for Veterinarians

Posted May 29, 2012
By Donald F. Smith, DVM, Cornell University

Graduation ceremonies for the 28 U.S. veterinary colleges are conferring DVM degrees on 2,630 new veterinarians this spring. Hundreds more U.S. citizens will be graduating from the schools in the Caribbean (especially Ross and St. George's Universities), and from other foreign schools. 

What will these new veterinary graduates be doing and who will employ them?

To get an answer, I looked at data from the American Veterinary Medical Association for the graduates who entered the job market in 2009. Data from the more recent classes are not as reliable as a substantial proportion of the veterinarians do not yet have complete records on file. The following summaries do not include the relatively small proportion of graduates who are not members of the professional association.

Species Activity:
Approximately 80% of veterinarians who graduated in 2009 work with small animals (see chart below - SmAn). The predominant species are dogs and cats, but increasing numbers of pet birds, rabbits, small rodents and reptiles are now cared for in veterinary clinics.

Eight percent of the graduates are working in exclusive or predominantly equine practices (EQ in chart below). Livestock and food animal practices (FA) and mixed animal practices (MA) make up the remaining 10% of employment activities. 

With respect to large animal employment in general, and food animal in particular, there are significant differences in employment activity based upon college of graduation. For example, students interested in bovine practice tend to self-select colleges that emphasize production animal education and these graduates are much more likely to be employed in that field. A similar trend is evident with graduates seeking equine employment, though the data are not as sharply defined as for food animals.

Species Employment Activity for Veterinarians who Graduated in 2009;
SmAn (small animal), Eq (equine), FA (food animal), MA (mixed animal practice).
Data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, May 2012.

Despite the fact that many veterinary students arrive at college with aspirations to work with wildlife or in zoos, only a small handful realize that goal when they graduate. Thirty members of the Class of 2009 list activities with wildlife or zoologic species, but the majority of these spend only a small proportion of their time working with these animals and the majority of their time with more traditional species.

Who Employs the VeterinariansRegardless of the species interest, 87% of the recent graduates are in private clinical practice. The 6% working in universities are usually interns, residents, clinical instructors, or graduate students. Another 4% of recent graduates work in non profit organizations, usually humane associations though a few work in zoos and aquariums. Three percent work for the government, mostly in the army or the federal meat inspection service, and one percent work in industry.

What Type of Practice Work Do Veterinarians DoOf the veterinarians who graduated in 2009 and who are now working in private practice, almost 75% are employed in general medical and surgical practices. See chart below (Md/Sg). These range from single-doctor practices to large practices employing 8-10 or even 25 or more veterinarians. Emergency and critical care veterinarians (E/C), make up 15% of the private practice workforce and are employed in clinics or services within larger clinics that are solely devoted to emergency work and management of critical-care patients. Six percent of the graduates work in production animal medicine, mostly in cattle practices (PM). Five percent work in referral or specialty clinics (R/S).

Type of Private Veterinary Practice for Veterinarians who Graduated in 2009.
Md/Sg (general medicine and surgery), E/C (emergency and critical care),
PM (production medicine), R/S (referral and specialty clinic or hospital).
Data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, May 2012.

Dr. Smith invites comments at

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Andre (Moul) Ross: One of the Few Women to Become a Veterinarian During World War II

Posted May 24, 2012.
By Dr. Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
This historical blog is in recognition of the 150th anniversary 
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (1863-2013)

Seven women were admitted to Cornell’s veterinary college in 1935 and 1936. This represented about eight percent of those classes, an astonishingly high proportion for that period. However, by the end of the decade, fewer women were admitted to Cornell and only one in the class that arrived in 1939.

Andre (Moul) Ross, Cornell DVM 1943
Graduation Photo, Cornell University
Andre Moul was raised in Gloversville, NY. While helping deliver piglets from the sow of a family friend, she became hooked on the idea of becoming a veterinarian. Despite her mother’s encouragement to become a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary, 11-year-old Andre couldn’t be dissuaded from wanting to become a veterinarian. 

Back in the thirties, girls seldom went to college”, Dr. Ross said in a 1998 interview. “The belief was that educating a girl to become a veterinarian robbed a worthy boy of his education as the girl would most likely marry and never practice”.

With her mother’s support, Andre enrolled in Cornell’s agricultural college in 1938 for her requisite year of pre-veterinary education. A year later, she began her veterinary studies as the sole woman in the class of 40 students. 

The horse (not dog) was still the principal species used in first-year dissection classes. Clinical experiences during the final two years were divided equally between the small and large animal clinics. Though there were occasional class exercises in which she was not allowed to participate because of her gender, she shared most learning activities with her male colleagues. 

Andre (Moul) Ross, the only woman in Cornell's Veterinary Class of 1943
with four of her classmates and an equine patient.
Photo provided by Ms. Carol Shank, 2012

Male veterinary students from several classes
in uniform during WWII at Cornell University
Photo by Cornell University.
Cornell was transformed into a quasi-military base during WWII with most male veterinary students enrolled in some form of military training. Summers were used for instruction to accelerate the curriculum and enable the male veterinarians to be commissioned upon graduation.

In May 1942, Andre married a recently-graduated engineering student named Donald Gunn Ross, Jr. They had met as members of the Cornell Radio Guild where he was the chief engineer and she the sound effects engineer. Andre moved from the dorm where single students were required to live, to married student housing.

For nearly 15 years after graduation, I took on the role of wife and mother”, Andre wrote in 1998. Then she gradually returned to veterinary medicine, first as part-time small animal practitioner, and eventually as practice owner. She finished her career in Stone Ridge, New York until her retirement in 1993.

The author is grateful to Dr. Ross' daughter, Ms. Carol Shank, for providing stories and photographs of her mother. The quotations of Dr. Ross are from an article she wrote, "On Becoming a Vet", Blue Stone Press, October 16, 1998. Dr.  Ross died in 2006.

Dr. Smith welcomes comments at 

Monday, May 21, 2012

African-American Veterinary Students at Kansas State University (1910-1950)

By Donald Smith, Cornell University; with Howard Erickson, Kansas State University
Posted May 21, 2012
This historical blog is in recognition of the 150th anniversary 
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (1863-2013)

Cornell has always been proud of her contribution to the education of African-American veterinarians in the early years of the profession. However, of the 70 Blacks who received DVM degrees before Tuskegee University (Institute) was established in the mid 1940s, about a third of them were graduates of Kansas State University. Moreover, unlike Cornell and Penn where the majority of the Black students studied during the early decades of the 20th century, Kansas State’s Black veterinary population was distributed evenly between 1910 and 1950.

Kansas State professor and veterinary historian Dr. Howard Erickson feels that the development of the meat packing industry may have been one of the contributing factors to the leadership role that his university played in the education of African-American veterinarians. “The Kansas City stockyards were built in 1871, and the growth of the meat packing industry followed. Former slaves migrated north and more than 50,000 southern Blacks arrived in Kansas during the 1870s. Unable to procure land for farming as they had hoped, they settled in Kansas City in a community that bordered on what would become the meat packing district.”

By 1905, 25% of the meat packing employees in Kansas City were African-American. Some of the best positions for veterinarians at that time were in the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), which was the meat inspection service of the Federal government. “I think the black workers in the packing plants observed the veterinarian as a respected and successful professional and they encouraged their children to study veterinary medicine.”

Erickson believes that the college administration also had an impact on the fact that 22 African-American veterinarians studied at Kansas State. “Dr. Ralph Dykstra, who served as dean of the college from 1919-1948, may have been more receptive to accepting Black students than leaders of other colleges.” There are anecdotal reports that previous administrators were also supportive of diversifying the student body.

Dr. John William Brown was the
first DVM graduate of
Kansas State University in 1912.
Photograph provided by Kansas St. Univ.
John William Brown was the first Black student to graduate from Kansas State, receiving his DVM in 1912. He eventually worked in the BAI and finished his career engaged in meat inspection in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Thomas G. Perry (1921) established the first small animal hospital in Wichita, KS and became Head of the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery when the veterinary college opened at Tuskegee. 

Theodore Williams (1935) and Walter C. Bowie (1947) each became deans at Tuskegee, and Eugene Adams (1944) became associate dean and university vice provost. Dr. Adams is also known as the author of the definitive history of Tuskegee’s School of Veterinary Medicine. (1)

Twenty-two graduates may not seem like a very large number. However, during a period when becoming a veterinarian was almost never considered a possibility by the African-American community, Kansas State provided an important beacon of hope. Whether in the meat inspection service or in clinical practice, Black graduates served as role models to other young African-American students. The greater impact, however, was the education of those young men who became deans, department chairs and faculty members at Tuskegee’s veterinary college during its formative years.

1.   The Legacy. A History of The Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine, by Eugene W. Adams. Published by The Media Center Press, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL 1995.

Dr. Smith welcomes comments at 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Harvard's Most Accomplished Veterinary Graduates

Posted May 14, 2012
By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
This historical blog is in recognition of the 150th anniversary 
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (1863-2013)

The New York Times called Harvard Veterinary School the “leading school of the science in the country and the one to which the present development of veterinary medicine in the United States is largely due”. The date was Dec. 2, 1900 and the Times was mourning the anticipated closure due to lack of funding.

Harvard’s veterinary school and clinics closed the following year. Established in 1882 as a department within the medical school, Harvard maintained the Village Street Hospital for the treatment and observation of sick animals. The hospital had an entrance door large enough to accommodate a circus elephant. According to the Times, more small and large animal patients were admitted to Harvard at that time than to any other veterinary college in the United States. 
Despite being self-supported with neither endowment income nor appropriation from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the school also maintained a free clinic on Piedmont Street for charity, and to improve the teaching resources of the school.

Harvard School of Veterinary Medicine, circa 1883
Image from Countway Library of Medicine
(Alliance of the Boston Medical Library and Harvard Medical School)

There were only 128 veterinary graduates during the 20-year history of the school, but two are known to have made major contributions to medicine and science. One was Richard P. Lyman, Jr, (MDV 1894). The son of the School’s dean, the younger Lyman was in clinical practice for 17 years and also taught at the Kansas City Veterinary School before becoming the founding dean of Michigan State’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1910.

The other was Langdon Frothingham (MDV 1889). His initial job was at the University of Nebraska where he was director of the pathobiology laboratory.  He was also the university’s first football coach, and the only undefeated (2-0) and unscored-upon coach in the history of Nebraska football.

Langdon Frothingham,
 Harvard veterinary graduate (MDV, 1889)
Frothingham’s more memorable achievement occurred in Dresden, Germany (1892-94) where he worked with Heinrich Johne and co-discovered the infectious disease that caused chronic diarrhea and weight loss in cattle and was originally thought to be intestinal tuberculosis. A new organism was discovered by the two scientists and the disease was called “pseudotuberculous enteritis”. It is know today as Johne’s Disease.

Returning to the United States in 1895, Frothingham worked briefly at Yale, then as instructor in pathology at his alma mater (Harvard Veterinary). His brilliant research in veterinary pathology, including important articles on rabies, spanned three decades until he retired in 1928 from Harvard’s medical school, where he was employed after the veterinary school closed. The late E.L. Stubbs, veterinary pathologist and historian, wrote that Frothingham “reigned alone during the 19th century as a veterinary pathologist in the United States” and was a “leading authority on animal pathology in Boston medical circles".  

One can only speculate how much greater our veterinary profession would be today if Harvard’s veterinary school was still in existence, and integrated within the Boston medical community as it was over a century ago.  

Dr. Smith thanks Professor Howard K. Erickson, Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, for his support, especially with reference to the contributions of Langdon Frothingham.

Selected References: 
The New York Times, Dec 2, 1900
E.L.Stubbs, Biographical Sketch: Langdon Frothingham (1866-1935). Vet Path 1966 2:565.
Dr. Smith welcomes comments at