Journal Of Veterinary Medical Education

Volume 21, Number 2
Fall, 1994


Discussion Leader: Jack H. Britt, PhD
Rapporteur: Michael W. Riggs, DVM, PhD


Recruiting high-quality graduate students and providing adequate support for research are 2 key elements for successful postgraduate programs in colleges of veterinary medicine. This workshop was charged with identifying key issues in these 2 areas and with developing solutions to deal with these concerns. Through consensus, the workshop participants ranked the 5 most important issues in recruitment and in funding and offered solutions that could be used by most colleges of veterinary medicine. This summary lists the problems or issues in order of importance, as assessed by the participants, and describes solutions recommended by the workshop. The solutions are understood to be the task of college faculty and administrators in concert with the profession at large, including the AAVMC and the AVMA. Also some proposed solutions are relevant to more than one issue or problem and may be repeated.

Dr. Britt presented data from a survey of 10 veterinary colleges which provides information on stipends for graduate students. Included is information for both BS and DVM graduates as shown in Table 1 appended to the report of this workshop.


Need to develop and promote well-defined, high quality programs which have a critical mass of faculty and students

  • Program development should begin with an assessment of the major strengths within given departmental units and how these strengths may be integrated and combined with those of other units, both within and outside of the college and university.
  • Identification of strengths within units should form the basis for development of interdisciplinary programs and establishment of centers of excellence.
  • New programs and developing centers of excellence should be established with an awareness of present and future market needs for individuals trained within the area.
  • Establishment of a critical mass of faculty and students within programmatic areas will require collaboration among departments and colleges; therefore mechanisms such as joint/adjunct appointments should be used to recognize involvement of individuals in interdisciplinary teams.
  • Within areas of excellence, faculty must define elements for a specific core of study and establish an appropriate infrastructure for rigorous training of graduate students with varied backgrounds.
  • Centers of excellence should compete successfully for programmatic training grants.

Identify and recruit a high quality student body locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, with a significant minority student and female constituency

  • Networks and linkages: Establish networks at state, regional, national and international (particularly Mexico, Central and South America) levels to facilitate identification and recruitment of quality students. Linkages with pre-veterinary programs and other life sciences programs should be established as critical elements of a successful network. Identification and recruitment of students should begin as early as the middle school level, when students are in their formative stages and most open to influences of role models.
  • Admissions: Early admissions mechanisms should be established at veterinary school and graduate school levels for exceptionally well-qualified students. Additional ways should be investigated for reducing the amount of time required for the BS-DVM-PhD sequence, without compromising program quality. Encourage veterinary admissions committees to give strong consideration to applicants that are well qualified and have demonstrated a strong interest in research.
  • Mentors and role models: Recognize and reward strong role models and mentors, especially those with a genuine interest in training minority students. To assist in providing a continuous supply of quality students, colleges should actively promote student success stories, including minority and female students, with the aid of the AVMA.
  • Retention: Colleges should develop programs to retain high quality students through establishment of student support/mentor groups, cultivation and projection of a high quality academic environment, and provision of scholarships, competitive stipends and fringe benefits. Provision of non-traditional benefits such as day-care services for an increasing population of single parents or two-career households should be explored. The time required to obtain appropriate clinical training and to acquire rigorous research training needs to be clearly stated for combined Residency/PhD programs, lest trainees become disillusioned. Colleges should provide a flexible curriculum for an increasing population of non-traditional graduate students. Flexible curricula should be established for the coursework stage of training to accommodate students needing such flexibility. This may include intense short courses and evening/weekend course offerings. Flexible mechanisms by which students may complete coursework prior to making a full time commitment to the research training phase will increase the number of non-traditional students entering the field.
  • Career options: Colleges must match graduates with high visibility, high quality, professional opportunities. Placing graduates in high quality professional positions will follow naturally from quality training programs. In addition to traditional mechanisms for advertising positions, colleges should utilize electronic bulletin boards and other contemporary methods of communication for seeking qualified applicants for positions and for matching their graduates with positions elsewhere.

Identify and attract preveterinary students, matriculating veterinary students and veterinarians in private practice into graduate programs

  • Increase awareness of post-DVM training programs and career opportunities for veterinarians with strong research training.
  • Colleges should provide an elective course during the first or second year of veterinary school that introduces students to graduate education, the scientific method and application of research methods to problem-solving.
  • Encourage introductory research experiences, provide exposure to role models and provide summer/vacation period research internships for preveterinary or veterinary students and veterinarians to allow direct exposure and promote informed decisions.
  • Provide access to, and encourage attendance at, research forums featuring work performed by veterinarians. Colleges should provide "open-house" and "career day" opportunities to cultivate interest in research careers, and target junior high and high school students in addition to undergraduate students.
  • Provide informational seminars at veterinary medical association and other such meetings using proven, effective approaches and credible, charismatic recruiters.
  • Use a portion of class time regularly to illustrate how significant problems in basic sciences are identified and solved and use the clinical case material to illustrate research applications and approaches for improved diagnosis, prevention and treatment.
  • Faculty and colleges should publish informational articles in widely read veterinary and alumni literature which define and explore post- DVM opportunities and which promote "success stories" regarding: a) veterinary students who pursue graduate training immediately after veterinary school, b) veterinarians who leave private practice to pursue graduate training, and c) minority/disadvantaged students.
  • Because adequate compensation is especially important for attracting veterinarians from private practice settings back into graduate school, programs must offer competitive stipends. Other components of a competitive support package include tuition waivers, health benefits and other fringe benefits. A broad base of extramural research support will be essential to achieve these goals.
  • Colleges should provide a research track for veterinary students who have committed to graduate training.

Enhance the image of veterinarians as biomedical researchers

  • Support the development of high quality, cutting-edge research programs, and publish results in diverse, preeminent, refereed journals.
  • Encourage veterinary faculty to lead campus-wide interdisciplinary research programs.
  • Promote accomplishments of veterinary research through the AVMA Council on Research.
  • Offer access to research experiences for undergraduate and veterinary students, and provide more exposure to role models in veterinary research programs during students' formative years.
  • Become proactive, interacting with medical schools in interdisciplinary biomedical research endeavors.
  • Encourage graduates to seek competitive post-doctoral positions in high quality biomedical research centers.
  • Veterinary researchers should use media resources such as television and vehicles such as documentaries to disseminate promotional information regarding relevant veterinary research accomplishments.


Narrower funding opportunities and less funding in general; especially for companion animals and horses

  • Conduct strategic planning to identify areas of excellence, research strengths, and programs that are best positioned for success in competitive funding. Efforts should be made to strengthen these programs so that they are competitive nationally.
  • Establish strong with industry and industrial collaborators to provide educational and other related services to industry in return for support for research.
  • Investigators should seek funding from a broader array of agencies including NIH, USDA-NRI, NSF, DOD, DOE, EPA, and other governmental and non-governmental agencies. Utilize electronic search systems for seeking funding from agencies not traditionally considered by colleges of veterinary medicine.
  • Utilize development offices to seek funds for research, especially from individuals or groups with strong interests in companion animals, horses, wildlife, and exotic animals. Individuals within the Development offices need to be made aware of the research interests of faculty.
  • Encourage our veterinary client base to be proactive in working with state and national legislative bodies to increase funding for research in veterinary science. The focus might be on the relationships between pets and people as a key element in building this increased funding.

Veterinary faculty believe that they are at a competitive disadvantage because of time-consuming demands in clinical service and teaching, lack of grant- writing skills, and lack of a critical mass (faculty, staff, students) in many programmatic areas

  • Colleges and administrators need to identify high priority programs and centers of excellence and build a critical mass of faculty, staff and students in these key areas. Utilize salary savings from grant funds and funds from other sources to support technical staff, graduate students and non-tenure track faculty.
  • Administrators should reward faculty, particularly junior faculty, that work as part of interdisciplinary groups that seek solutions to complex problems. Young faculty should not be penalized because they are predominantly co-investigators rather than principal investigators.
  • Administrators should encourage inter-and intra-institutional collaboration to build successful teams of scientists.
  • Colleges should promote faculty development through sponsoring grant writing and time management workshops, through encouraging successful senior research faculty to mentor young faculty, and through encouraging faculty to take study leaves in laboratories of successful biomedical scientists. Support should be provided for faculty to attend intensive training workshops, short-courses and mini-courses in areas that enhance their competitiveness.

Lack of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary efforts to permit highest rate of success in research and competitive funding

  • Colleges and universities should provide seed money from institutional sources to facilitate team building.
  • Faculty must become part of problem-focused action teams to enhance success in research. Administrators must provide support for building teams and developing joint efforts.
  • Investigators and research teams must develop an awareness of current societal issues and future trends and develop ways of responding to these issues through collaborative research.

High stipend level for DVM students and distribution of stipend funds among DVM and non-DVM students

  • Veterinary colleges must clearly establish, as a high priority, the encouragement of DVM students to seek rigorous PhD or postdoctoral training. Colleges must then provide adequate stipends to support DVM students in this advanced training. Such students bring to the colleges expertise in teaching and clinical skills that are not inherent in non-DVM students.
  • Colleges should seek corporate, private (alumni and clients) and nontraditional sponsorship for graduate stipends (graduate fellowships).
  • Eliminate administrative regulations that penalize trainees in residency programs who lose their fringe benefits when they enroll in graduate programs. Colleges and universities should seek to improve overall fringe benefits for graduate students.
  • Colleges should utilize funds from clinic income (practice plans) and other sources to supplement graduate stipends for DVM students so that programs can attract the best students and become more competitive.
  • Graduate programs should regularly review stipend levels to make sure that levels are competitive with other programs.

Inaccurate perceptions of veterinary faculty by federal funding agencies (especially NIH) and vice versa, and low rates of success in competitive grants

  • Colleges need to identify niche areas in which programs are likely to be more successful in seeking research support.
  • Investigators must be encouraged to pursue support more vigorously by preparing and submitting more grant applications. Faculty that apply regularly for extramural support should be recognized for their efforts, even if they are unsuccessful.
  • Build research teams composed of scientists with complementary skills in order to enhance competitiveness.
  • Invite program managers and other officials from federal funding agencies to visit colleges and see first hand the quality of programs. Colleges also should support visits by faculty to agencies to meet with program managers.
  • Administrators should develop systems for informing faculty of funding opportunities from all possible sources.
  • Faculty must be optimistic in preparing and submitting grants and let the reviewers assess the quality rather than failing to submit the proposal because of a perception of unworthiness.
  • Steps should be taken to publicize the historical success of veterinary scientists in research by publishing feature articles in JAVMA, AJVR and similar journals about the scientific successes and discoveries made by veterinary scientists.

Table 1. Stipend data for graduate trainees

           BS seeking MS     BS or MS seeking PhD     DVM seeking PhD 
Univer- Year    Yr1 Yr2 Yr3 Yr1 Yr2 Yr3 Yr1 Yr2 Yr3     
sity    of Data
1   92-93   11,000  13,000  15,000  15,000  17,000  19,000  20,000  22,000  24,000

2   93-94    9,978   9,978  NA  11,460  11,460  11,460  19,496  21,852  23,026 

3   93-94   12,000  12,000  NA  12,000  12,000  12,000  21,700  22,200  22,700   

4   93-94   13,475  13,680  13,887  13,475  13,680  13,887  19,292  20,683  21,131

5   93-94   11,694  12,045  12,406  12,617  12,996  13,386  19,769  20,362  20,973

6   92-93   10,528  10,528  10,528  10,528  10,528  10,528  20,500  20,500  20,500

7   93-94   8,600   8,858   9,124   10,400  10,712  11,033  19,250  19,750  20,250

8   93-94   10,598  10,916  11,243  11,475  11,819  12,174  18,972  19,541  20,127

9   93-94   9,631   9,917   NA  10,843  11,152  11,448  16,406  16,837  17,284

10  93-94   9,762   10,336  11,000  9,672   10,336  11,000  12,000  13,000  14,000


    No. obs 10  10  7   10  10  10  10  10  10 
    Average 10,272  11,126  11,884  11,747  12,168  12,592  18,739  19,673  20,399 
    Median  10,563  10,722  11,243  11,468  11,640  11,730  19,394  20,431  20,737 
    Minimum 8,600   8,858   9,124   9,672   10,336  10,528  12,000  13,000  14,000 
    Maximum 13,475  13,680  15,000  15,000  17,000  19,000  21,700  22,200  24,000  
    Std.Dev.1,393   1,513   2,027   1,598    2,005   2,488  2,720   2,815   2,921   
*Survey of:  Texas A&M, Ohio State, Georgia, Tennessee, Minnesota, Florida,
Cornell, Colorado, North Carolina State, and Univ. of California-Davis.  The
list above is sorted from highest to lowest at the 3rd year DVM seeking PhD and
therefore is not alphabetical.

Footnotes for Table 1

    University 1: Stipends do vary accoring to funding programs.
    University 2: IS tuition = $452, OS tuition = $2,653 which is "tuition waived by university from state or grants funds"
    University 3: IS tuition = $854 of which $582 is paid by university or extramural funds; OS tuition = $2,270, but for qualified students, difference between IS and OS is paid by university.
    University 4: DVMs seeking PhD are paid on basis of relevant experience. The base is shown. IS & OS pay same tuition.
    University 5: IS tuition = $651 of which $525 is "tuition waived with state or grant unds"; OS tuition = $1,518 of which $1,446 is "tuition waived."
    University 6: Faculty competing for students may offer asstships somewhat higher from extramural grants.
    University 7: IS tuition =$810, OS tuition = $1,992. Non-DVM students receive increases based on university guidelines (estimated at $3 for this spreadsheet).
    University 8: Tuition and fees about $1,047 per quarter. Stipends for 2nd and 3rd year within a group are based on Cost of Living (estimated at 3% for this spreadsheet)
    University 9: Students holding DVM degrees are appointed at 75% reather than 50%. OS tuition is waived for student on competitive stipends. Graduate students receive fringe benefits (19 to 29% of salary).
    University 10: OS tuition = $1,363 and paid by university or grant.