and approve training programs in the United States. There are currently 41 of these training programs that cover a wide spectrum of opportunities for students, including positions in medical schools, veterinary schools, research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, primate centers, and the military.
An important component to consider is funding. The NIH National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) has historically been the catalyst and the major provider of training in laboratory animal medicine and biomedical research, and it continues to do so. Although its efforts and the successes of these programs over the years are truly appreciated, the amount of dollars put into these programs for biomedical training programs has been flat over the last 20 years, with the exception of the relatively new T-35 program, which continues to grow and provides a summer research fellowships for veterinary students. The number of trainees has grown to 146 per year. These are the students who can be cultivated into postgraduate careers in laboratory animal medicine. We must continue to help our colleagues at the NIH convince the legislators of the importance of this occupation as part of the biomedical research enterprise.
NCRR recently announced its intention to build the research workforce as part of its strategic plan. One of its central recommendations is to increase the number of qualified research veterinarians and ensure that veterinarians are recognized partners on translational research teams. This presents a real opportunity for all of us to embrace this plan and to champion the concept of one medicine, one health. We must capitalize on the opportunity and move forward.
In conclusion, there clearly are challenges that lie ahead for us. We have to convince the deans and professors in the veterinary schools that there is a vital place for a veterinarian in a research setting. Clinician scientists may also be involved, but the goal is to create a higher profile for veterinarians in their professional training so they may reach out beyond the clinical track. We want to encourage new career paths and role models. We must try to effect substantive curriculum change in the veterinary profession and encourage students to apply for these T-35 training programs. In addition, we need to expand our opportunities in the comparative medicine programs, not only in veterinary schools but also in other research institutions, including medical schools.
I leave you with the epilogue of the Foresight Report: “This is…a pivotal point in time for the veterinary profession and for veterinary medical education. A decision to broaden the scope and potential of veterinary medical education is fundamental for the profession to navigate this transition.”
And finally, as Paulo Coelho said, “The truth is that all problems seem very simple once they have been resolved. The great victory, which appears so simple today, was the result of a series of small victories that went unnoticed” (from Warrior of the Light, 2003).