CONCLUSION 2: The decade-long decline in funding of education and research has jeopardized the profession’s future capacity to serve societal needs.
Veterinary medicine has made immense contributions to human well-being but is losing the breadth of its intellectual base as a consequence of reduced public funding for veterinary education and research. The trend jeopardizes the vigor of veterinary medicine, threatens the profession’s future, and urgently requires a change in direction. The profession will not be able to fulfill its responsibilities to society without maintaining a pool of high-quality scientific investigators and robust research programs.
The number of students who are exposed to sophisticated fundamental and applied research is declining. Crucial investments in the infrastructure of basic and translational research are not being made, and the creation of new veterinary basic-science faculty is fading. Research is declining in veterinary colleges on such topics as molecular genetics, molecular oncology, gene therapy, stem cells, immunology, virology, toxicology, pharmacology, and epidemiology, and the profession’s responsibilities in food safety and ecosystem health are also not being met. It is in those fields that some of the most important advances in comparative medicine can be expected and will define the profession in the years to come.
Recommendation 2: Veterinary academe should increase its commitment to research, developing future faculty, and encouraging current faculty to work across disciplinary and professional boundaries. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges is well positioned to take on this challenge.
Veterinary schools need to demonstrate a commitment to building the kind of faculty that can lead cross-disciplinary and inter-professional studies, to find partners to support graduate training, and to develop collaborations with entities outside the veterinary schools to seek research and other support. Effective research programs require long-term commitments by teams of investigators.
In addition, research-based educational environments draw students to research careers, an essential process for sustaining the profession’s intellectual core. The report National Need and Priorities for Veterinarians in Biomedical Research (NRC, 2004) offers several suggestions for attracting students to research careers, including acquainting students with research opportunities throughout veterinary school, including in the curriculum, actively seeking students with an interest in research, and working to find support for post-graduate research training.
There are unique opportunities for the profession to build research programs in the biomedical sciences. Comparative veterinary medicine addresses a broad spectrum of spontaneously-occurring diseases that are homologues of diseases in humans and could be funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many