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Surgery Residency Training Impacted by the Pandemic
Surgery residency training programmes for veterinarians that evolved over the last half century have their origins in the United States, thanks to the leadership and commitment of great surgeons like Bruce Hohn and others. The shape of residencies has had to change and adapt to keep pace with changing times, not all of which have been expected or welcome.
Initially veterinary surgery residencies, and indeed other specialties, were the exclusive domain of academia and some select institutions like the Animal Medical Center in New York. Since these beginnings, various forces have required the reshaping and adaptation of residency programmes. However, the importance of a strong mentor-guided model of mentee development has remained a core value of surgical residencies. Knowing why and when to perform surgery is equally paramount for a great surgeon, as knowing how to do it.
Powerful forces, such as the growth of veterinary specialization, led to the proliferation of private multi-speciality hospitals. This competition from the private sector specialists contributed to the decline in case-load in the academic hospitals; a trend being further exacerbated by the wholesale takeover of veterinary practices by large corporations. Perhaps this evolution was predictable, but no one imagined how the world would be changed by the pandemic. Sadly, some of the not-so-visible victims in the wreckage consequent to all these changes have been our veterinary surgery residents. Many have struggled to keep their ‘head above water’ and complete their residency.
Without much warning, the long-running surgical training opportunities, such as the AO courses, and the annual scientific college meetings were cancelled due to the pandemic. Moreover, both privately-owned and corporate specialist practices lost key specialists in surgery, anaesthesia, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine and critical care. Additionally, clinical programmes in the universities shut their doors during the pandemic. Student clinical teaching switched to zoom for a few years, and some academic surgery specialists moved to private practice. The result of all this being that the residents lost their supervising mentor(s), their clinical programme evaporated and the residency training programmes became ‘non-compliant’. Added to this, some resident's research projects could not be done in this environment. All in all, this has been a disaster for a good number of residents in training. Therefore, we should make great efforts to re-build strong residency programmes, be inspiring mentors and encourage the colleges to be flexible and supportive in helping those affected residents to get back on track with the completion of the required credentials. These residents will be part of the future of our profession and deserve our support.
Article published online:
17 November 2022
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