The Extra Special World of Specialities

By Trudee DeWitt, RVT

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The journey to becoming a veterinary doctor or registered technician is not an easy one. It takes years of study and continuous learning in an ever-evolving field. What many people don’t know is that there is a sub-set of credentialed individuals who go above and beyond in particular areas of study called Specialists. These are the individuals that your daytime practice may refer your pet to for necessary diagnostics, procedures and treatments for cases that need extra expertise or tools that are not typical to daytime practices. Let’s look at what they go through to achieve the title of “Specialist”.

Each specialty is recognized as an “Academy” or “ College” of an area of interest and is made up of an elite group of veterinarians or registered technicians. Beyond the typical 2 or 4 years of technician or veterinary school respectively, becoming a specialist requires at least 3 to 5+ years of additional work. This consists of rigorous coursework, residencies and mentorships with boarded specialists, extensive case logs, and lengthy reports demonstrating superior knowledge in the field of their choice. Upon the completion and submission of all required continuing education and residency hours, case logs, and case reports the academy board representing the specialty reviews all submissions. The board approves or denies the application based on a set of required standards. Should an individual pass this portion, he/she may move on to sit for testing to become a boarded specialist in the chosen field. Should he/she miss anything, or not be thorough enough, their application is denied and they must submit materials the next time applications are being accepted. Depending on the particular specialty, this delay may take months or years!

Veterinary medical specialties include surgery, anesthesia, ophthalmology, oncology, internal medicine, dentistry and many more. Our very own Dr. Jen already is currently working on her residency and has begun the 5-year process of becoming a Veterinary Dental Specialist (DACVD). She hopes to become one of a very small group of veterinarians in the country (less than 160 in North America) who have specialized in this sub-field of veterinary medicine. Currently, there are no veterinary dental specialists in Iowa. We are all looking forward to Dr. Jen’s completion of this ambitious accomplishment!

Aside from academy-boarded specialties there are areas where doctors and registered technicians can receive specialized training to become certified “experts” in certain fields as well. The fields in which Dr. Jen is certified already include veterinary journalism (CVJ), veterinary pain management (CVPP), and veterinary medical acupuncture (cVMA). As lead technician, and manager of our South location, I intend to pursue my rehabilitation (CCRP) and pain practitioner (CVPP) certifications. In the near future, the Academy of Rehabilitation Technician Specialists will become established, and I plan on becoming a boarded Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS) in that field as well!image2

Overall, numbers of specialties are growing each year as more individuals find a particular niche to develop further and call their own. It is these ambitious individuals who strive hard to progress veterinary medicine to its fullest potential. They put in a massive amount of work to ensure that they are the crème de la crème, the most elite of the elite in veterinary medicine. The doctors and staff at the Family Pet Veterinary Centers often work in conjunction with the local specialty centers (IVRC, IVS) to provide our patients with the best available care.