|Volume 21, Number 2||Fall, 1994|
One purpose of this meeting is to take stock, monitor how far we have progressed, and assess the impact of the Pew National Veterinary Education Program (PNVEP) on current and future needs of public and corporate practice. In taking stock, I will address: the future work of public and corporate practitioners and the capacity needed by these professionals to do this work. The change in both work and clients provide the framework of the canvas on which to paint an impressionistic view of the future. I would then like to congratulate those who, since the Future Directions for Veterinary Medicine was published, have had an influence on the public and corporate practice community. Finally, I would like to challenge all of us to do more to expand our professional sphere and utility.
Future Capacities of Public and Corporate Veterinarians
Four major capacities stand out when I think about the future capacity of public and corporate practice veterinarians: to innovate; to work comfortably in a multidisciplinary, cooperative environment; to communicate effectively; and finally, though perhaps this should be first, to develop imagination and vision.
The need for innovation must be a personal as well as an institutional commitment. First, we must cultivate breadth. Be a first class specialist, but be a generalist as well. We must simultaneously develop deep functional skills in our disciplines, while maintaining a broad view of the world and environment about us. Recruiting students with more diverse backgrounds and broad-ranging experiences would be helpful.
In the world outside the university, the application of knowledge is far less compartmentalized than the acquisition of it. Finding an innovative solution to a problem often requires us to employ concepts and insights from other fields and disciplines. Food safety, global trade, sustainable agriculture enhancement of animal well-being, quality assurance production, etc., are complex issues that require linkages between one branch of science or technology to another as well as a "worldly" view on the socioeconomic-economic issues of today. Peter Bordier stated in the book, A Whack on the Side of the Head, that "most advances in science comes when a person, for one reason or another, is forced to change fields."(1)
In the changing future of veterinary medicine, we must look for ways in which various disciplines complement and reinforce one another; learn, as early as possible, to think in terms of systems, and find "networks," the "connective tissue," among disciplines. We need to work across functions to find synergies that multiply value and integrate disparate ideas to make strategic connections. In private business, benchmarking is advocated, i.e., to adopt parallels and ideas from unrelated disciplines and businesses with one's own in order to actually implement innovative strategies.
Along with functional expertise and breadth, three other separate, but mutually reinforcing sets of skills, are needed as we look to the future. These skills were identified at the AVMA's Public and Corporate Veterinary Practice Symposium held in September 1991 at College Park, Maryland: analysis/problem solving, persuasion, and vision (2). Our educational experiences are embracing problem-solving techniques that take place under an ever-changing variety of difficulties and an onslaught of new information. While we are more aware of the need for problem-solving skills, we still need to be more open and share databases and teaching/learning materials that are especially applicable to public and corporate problems and settings.
To be innovative and expand our horizons requires a little of the Lee Iacocca in us because, in fact, innovation without persuasion does very few any good. How many times have we ended up only expressing our ideas to other veterinarians? Back in 1865, Gregor Mendel made momentous discoveries in genetics; yet they had no effect for 35 years. This was mainly due to the fact that Mendel was a most self-effacing monk living off the beaten path in a monastery in Moravia--not exactly a Lee Iacocca type monk!
We will always encounter resistance; thus, the ability to influence, charm, persuade, arm-twist, market, compromise, or do whatever it takes is crucial to our changing future. How? Well, almost every speaker at the AVMA symposium emphasized the need for better interpersonal and communication skills. Michael Schranfe in his book Shared Minds (3) discusses the need to vigorously pursue new approaches to human communication and collaboration--termed "convivial tools." Certainly the corporate world today is establishing new management practices to enhance communication and participation. There is absolutely no reason that these critical skills cannot be inculcated in our veterinary students, both through emulation of faculty as well as in more formal teaching settings.
We must also be reminded that veterinary medicine is very much a "minority" group. While not necessarily disenfranchised, we are a minority profession in terms of numbers, economics, and political clout. With this minority status, it is time that we adopt different behaviors and strategies. Most importantly, we must form new and more strategic alliances; in the world of global trade today, we have learned to negotiate with countries that are both cooperators and competitors. As the profession forges these new complex relationships, it is also critical that we clarify our role and long-range goals and then we will be able to measure our progress.
John Welch, CEO for General Electric, is a zealot when it comes to a new pattern of behavior in his company-- "boundarylessness" or the commitment to reduce boundaries that insulate, garble and deter communications and innovation, and more importantly and inevitably reduce the speed of change and responsiveness to solving problems. "Boundarylessness" will define the winning behavior patterns in the 90s and beyond. The public and corporate worlds believe that this concept should be adopted by veterinary medical educators for the future. A beginning to this behavior is seen as in the pursuit of joint problem solving; e.g., Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Association of Teachers of Veterinary Public Health and Preventative Medicine. They are engaged in the development of a real-time network that enables insiders and outsiders to talk to each other--day and night--and have established a wonderful mentoring network to collectively identify and resolve problems being faced by field epidemiologists every day.
Finally, develop your imagination, intuition, and vision. We need leaders with a strong sense of purpose--"ship captains" who know their destination even though no one can see it. The ability is hard to teach and it is not given much attention in school; yet, it can be learned. Veterinary medicine needs to spend more time in the world of imagination and possibilities to envision new arrangements of things and promote new way of thinking. Albert Einstein said that, "The significant problems we have cannot be resolved at the same level of thinking we used when we created them."
The principle impediments to producing effective new actions through cultural change are people's current beliefs about the limits of what is possible to undertake and achieve. These self-limiting beliefs are based on experiences from our profession's past. We need break- through visions that instill new beliefs in a much wider spectrum of possibilities.
Future Mission-Based Clients
Why do we need this seemingly impossible mosaic of skills, knowledge, and abilities? Because our clients are changing as is our mission and, thus, our work. The two cylinders of the kaleidoscope are rotating, producing new components to reflect the purpose and mission of public and corporate practice. The clients that we serve were once easily defined. Now this definition becomes complex, overlapping, and expanding. Our profession and especially our colleagues must constantly assess the needs of these new clients and new professionals and ensure that their veterinary education matches and commensurates with these new needs and required skills to achieve success.
For example, agribusiness is a term now used to describe the entire "food sector" of the economy. As such, agribusiness provides roughly 17 million--or one in six--U.S. jobs. Four-fifths of these jobs--and the expected job growth--now are off the farm. Today's producers receive 22 cents for every $1 spent on food. The burgeoning food and fiber network that adds value to raw products receives 78 cents, and this differential is continuing to grow farther apart. Veterinary medicine continues to disproportionately focus on the shrinking production side of the equation and has not developed strategies and skill that enable us to significantly contribute in other areas of food and fiber systems. As one- third of U.S. agricultural produce is exported, we must shift our focus to health, safety, and environmental needs of food and fiber consumers on a global basis and to serving a more consumer-driven world economy. The global marketplace mandates this new focus; growth in much of food animal agriculture will only be achieved through this shift. Is our profession a leader in this effort? Are our new and future graduates prepared to effectively participate in these new areas of growth and economic promise?
Many public and corporate veterinarians are engaged in this research. We are playing key roles in biomedical research and forging opportunities to link science and technology to social benefits. This phenomenon may be characterized by competitive and sustainable food production for animals. New opportunities for interdisciplinary partnerships will be created to develop integrated food animal management systems, to improve environmental quality, to improve food quality and safety, to meet new market demands of customers and global markets, and to enhance animal well-being throughout the life cycle of food- producing animals.
Recent food safety incidents have highlighted the linkage of production agriculture with the public health. At the very time of new public interest and increased scrutiny in this area, veterinary public health is in a downward spiral both in terms of resources and emphasis. I would suggest that, just as food and fiber animal producers are forced to become more accountable and responsible regarding food safety, veterinary medicine also needs to renew its commitment to training a cadre of professionals that can contribute to this public and agricultural need.
Concurrently, the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, has issued a new challenge and warning concerning "Emerging Infections." They conclude that most emerging diseases are due to changes in the environment or host ecology rather than being due to de novo evolutions of an infectious agent. They predict new threats and many more emerging disease situations. The significance of zoonosis in these prospective emergencies cannot be overemphasized. Again, an opportunity to sound a clarion to prepare to meet these societal needs and to reestablish our preeminence in public health is our calling.
With all the future capabilities needed to work on complex, interrelated issues in which veterinarians will play a vital role, we can only speculate on the impact the future will have on veterinary medical education and training. The educational principles so deftly outlined in Future Directions for Veterinary Medicine are being underlined by the revolution in learning that is all around us. We are hearing from our national mentors of this volatile change that is coming (4,5,6) Where we learn, how we learn, when we learn, and why we learn rock the solid foundations of our traditional place-bound, time-bound, age-bound, methods-bound ideas of education and training. We hear about the "knowledge society," "learning organizations," "competitive edge." The organizations that employ public and corporate veterinarians aspire to be so described. If these phrases representing ideas are not heeded, our organizations will not survive. In this scarce environment that is our future, only those that can learn faster will survive.
The "Knowledge Era" that is upon us demands continuous learning, continuous improvement, the building of new cognitive maps, and the leveraging of new technology. University teaching will be redefined because time and geography are less relevant. New careers for veterinarians will emerge and old jobs, including the way we practice, will also be substantially altered and re- engineered.
The popular literature is replete with the "new design for learning," which implies one in which students take a greater responsibility for their learning. The new learning design will have the following attributes: 1)Teacher as coach, motivator; 2) Question-led,learner controlled; 3) Explicit cognitive maps; 4) Fed by feedback; 5) Hyper-linked; 6) "Nintendo with content"; 7) Discovery learning loops; 8) Variable challenge levels (6)
These attributes are opposite to our experience which includes: 1) Teacher a provider of knowledge; 2) Instructor control; 3) Defined sequence and scope; 4) Painful; not fun; 5) The challenge (test) to all students is a constant.
In the new design, interactive multimedia has power we are beginning to palpate. The challenge lies in being able to comprehensively represent knowledge in all its interrelated complexity and create cognitive maps for people to navigate through it.
Organizations that employ public and corporate veterinarians, if they are resilient enough to be competitive, will retrain workers throughout their careers using just-in-time multimedia learning at the desktop plus periodic lessons in traditional classrooms or via distances learning networks (7). We invite your participation and assistance in this lifelong training of veterinarians and stand ready to develop the necessary partnerships.
We appreciate and acknowledge the AVMA's assistance in holding the Public and Corporate Veterinary Practice Symposium in 1991. I believe these endeavors are valuable and have created a better collaborative spirit between the various public practitioner groups. I would also like to congratulate the Association of Teachers of Veterinary Public Health and Preventative Medicine on their commitment to cooperatively working with APHIS, for over 8 years, providing basic epidemiology training to more than 400 veterinarians. In a new pilot initiative, the Association and APHIS have developed and tested a problem-solving teaching/learning enterprise, called Applied Epidemiology, which has been esteemed by both groups. The linkages that this mentor-intensive instruction has created serve both partners and will endure to create other opportunities for cooperative programs. As you know, the majority of veterinary colleges have representatives in the Association. Through an agreement with the University of Maryland/Virginia Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, a clerkship program for public and corporate practice is being established. So far, there have been few applicants, but I understand that is moving forward with increasing success. It should be noted that some colleges have done this on an ad hoc basis for some time. I am also pleased to see the formation of several consortia. The establishment of the recent Preharvest Food Safety Symposium representing six colleges that are cooperating with government agencies and others is a worthy model. These efforts, some of which were prompted or reinforced by PNVEP, are to be celebrated and encouraged.
Let me summarize the pertinent points of this discussion and emphasize the need for action and follow-through suggested in the PNVEP:
- Recruit students with more diverse backgrounds and experiences; "sprinkle" in the DVM education a more global and cosmopolitan perspective when discussing veterinary issues and problems.
- Expand our innovative capacity and future horizons to not only change our thinking, but how we think; stress synthesis and systems approach to problem-solving.
- Develop strategic partnerships and alliances in and out of the profession and in and out of our colleges to compensate for our minority status.
- Develop and implement leadership, vision, and persuasion skills.
- Integrate a new mosaic of skills, knowledge, and abilities during both the DVM and post-DVM education to broaden the utility of our profession and open new opportunities.
- Graduate students with outstanding skills in communication; this is not just K-12 and undergraduate responsibility.
- Carefully redefine the veterinary education client-base, their needs and concerns, and develop strategies to measure your performance and success in meeting client and social needs.
- Embrace and plan a "boundaryless" organization in order to add the value of veterinary medicine to other disciplines, professions, and technologies rather than await the serendipity.
- Leverage new information technology that will profoundly change how we teach, where and how we learn, and how we perform our jobs in the future; e.g., multimedia, interactive, and long-distance learning telecommunication systems will augment and transform learning.
- Encourage, nurture, and prepare students for careers in public and corporate practice; the real expansion of our profession and our ability to meet complex societal needs may especially be found in the work of this group.
- Reestablish leadership and better prepare the profession to deal with animal and human health interactions and the public health.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate those beginning efforts to include the present and future educational needs of public and corporate practitioners in veterinary medical education. Together we must shine a spotlight on the future of veterinary medicine and marshal the support necessary to create that future. We in public and corporate veterinary medicine are willing to work with you, share your concerns, seek solutions to problems, and modernize our learning systems. We also stand ready to assist the profession in this critical leadership imperative.
References and Endnotes
- Bordier P: A Whack to the Side of the Head, Warner Books, 1990.
- American Veterinary Medical Association. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2:295-336, 1992.
- Schranfe M: Shared Minds.
- Drucker PF: Post-capitalist society, Part 3: knowledge, Harper Business, 1993.
- Merrill MD: Constructivism and instructional design. Educational Technology, May 1991.
- Vogt EE: The Spiral Paradigm. Micromentor, Inc., 1993.
- Brown E: Will multimedia make college obsolete?. Newsmedia, July, 1993.