What is a Veterinary Specialist?

Many people aren't aware of the advanced training that is required to be considered a veterinary specialist.  Just like your primary care physician might refer you to a specialist for additional testing, surgery, or treatment; your primary care veterinarian might recommend that you take your pet to a specialist for these things.  Veterinarians specialize in many different fields including neurology, orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, cancer treatment (oncology), dermatology, ophthalmology, nutrition, dentistry, etc.  

To become a veterinarian, a person typically completes a four-year Bachelor's Degree followed by a four-year Doctorate Program and then must pass a national board exam.  To practice veterinary medicine in a particular state, a veterinarian often has to pass a state board exam as well.

But for those individuals that feel a strong interest and passion for a specific area of veterinary medicine, there are additional challenges to face before you can be called a 'Specialist' and be considered an expert in your field.  Typically, these people complete a one-year internship following their doctorate program to be followed by three years in a residency.  

These internships and residencies are very stringently monitored for the quality of teaching and the expertise of the individuals involved.  The oversight committees for these programs are controlled by the individual 'colleges' that certify specialists in their particular fields of expertise.  For instance, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine certifies specialists in internal medicine, oncology, cardiology, and neurology.  To become a specialist in these fields, you have to complete a qualifying residency and then pass two rigorous board exams.  Then, to maintain licensure and competency, Veterinary Specialists have to meet requirements for continuing education, teaching, research, and publications too.

A lot of work goes into becoming a Veterinary Specialist and in making sure that Veterinary Specialists meet very high requirements.  For more information, check out the links below:

American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

AVMA - Veterinary Specialists

Vet Specialists.Com