Clinical Medicine to Offer Doctoral Degree
The Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine boasts a strong faculty
research program and a full roster of clinical residents. To augment these
strengths, the department has recently joined the other two academic departments
of the College in being authorized by the University of Illinois Graduate
College to grant a PhD degree.
The College of Veterinary Medicine now enters a relatively elite circle
of about five other U.S. veterinary schools that offer doctoral degrees
with clinical emphasis.
Career opportunities for those with a DVM and clinical PhD are broad.
“This double-barreled degree opens a wonderful array of doors in academia,
industry, and government,” says Dr. Robert Clarkson, who was instrumental
in securing approval of the PhD-granting program. Positions such as research
manager at pharmaceutical companies and group leader at the National Institutes
of Health may seek this hot degree combo, he says.
The new degree will also meet a growing demand for academicians who
have both the PhD degree and diplomate status in a specialty area. “It
is difficult to recruit faculty with advanced clinical training as well
as a PhD degree,” notes Dr. Ann Johnson, interim head of VCM. Currently,
10 of the 35 VCM faculty members have a DVM and PhD, with most of the remaining
having a DVM and master’s degree.
the doctoral degree through the veterinary clinical medicine department
will help meet a growing demand for this credential and will enhance the
departmental research program.
The interdisciplinary nature of the clinical PhD program is revolutionary
and adds to its appeal. “When you are dealing with real problems—and nothing
is more real than clinical medicine—you’ve inherently got problems that
are complex and interdisciplinary,” says Dr. Clarkson. “This is the future.
Eventually all graduate education will look like this.”
Students will select faculty for their doctoral advisory committees
from any department within the University—for example, from biophysics,
engineering, and veterinary clinical medicine—depending on the unique needs
of their research. In most doctoral programs advisory committees are composed
of faculty within a single academic department, bringing a rather narrow
perspective to the research problem.
All students in the program will take a core curriculum including biochemistry,
statistical analysis, and research methods; beyond those, the course work
will also be tailored to the individual.
The availability of advanced graduate students will facilitate current
VCM research and make it easier for the department to attract new clinical
faculty with research interests. “Training doctoral students in clinical
science enhances our research thrust,” says Dr. Johnson. The department’s
faculty brings in more than $1.5 million annually in research funding.
Clinical residents in the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital form
one group of potential candidates for the new PhD program. Over the last
5 years the department has hosted an average of 25 DVM residents, most
of whom have concurrently pursued a master’s degree in veterinary medical
Students in the physical and medical sciences—traditional areas of strength
at the University of Illinois—may also find this degree appealing, given
the tremendous emphasis on biotechnology today.