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Clinical Rotations Revamped to Give Students a Marketing Edge

Beginning in May 2000, a new system for clinical rotations goes into effect for fourth-year DVM students. The Class of 2001 will be the first to benefit from the changes, which allow students some flexibility in tailoring their clinical experiences to match their career aspirations. During the 1999 fall semester, third-year students chose from among the small animal, equine, food animal/production medicine, general, and custom options.

“The changes will let students pursue an area of interest,” says Dr. Gerald Pijanowski, associate dean for academic and student affairs. “It’s not tracking in the usual sense, because the first three years of the curriculum continue to have a general focus, with the exception of elective choices. And even the clinical rotations will still require general exposure in all areas of veterinary practice.”

For example, only four weeks are spent differently between the general (mixed) and the small animal options: the mixed option devotes four weeks each to Food Animal Medicine and Surgery and to Production Medicine/Theriogenology, whereas the small animal option splits a total of four weeks between those two areas and provides an additional two weeks each in small animal medicine and small animal specialties or surgical selectives.

The custom option frees eight weeks for concentration in the student’s “area of interest.” Dr. Pijanowski says students choosing the custom track will have to persuade the curriculum committee that their proposal uniquely matches their career objectives and contributes significantly not merely to their experience but to their medical education. 

Choosing a rotation option provided an opportunity for students to think about careers and receive guidance from counselors.

After graduation, Sarah Probst would like to find a position in a predominantly large animal, particularly swine, practice, but with some small animal work to keep open the possibility of a career shift in the future. She explored the mixed and custom options, but decided on food animal/production medicine after talking with faculty advisers. She will be able to use her two two-week free electives to double the four weeks of small animal practice that rotation requires and still have room for a broad sampling of food animal practice through hospital rotations, internships, and consortium experiences.

The new system reflects a philosophical shift that emphasizes students’ post-graduation needs over hospital staffing needs. Under the old system, the hospital established a minimum number of students that had to be scheduled at all times for non-elective services. The upshot of that policy was that students’ choices were sometimes sacrificed for the sake of hospital staffing. Additional clinician and technician staffing will ease the workload previously shouldered by students. 

[Equine rotation]
Under the new rotation system, students who choose an equine emphasis will spend 12 weeks in equine service compared with four weeks for those in all other options. Here fourth-year students (from left) Sandy Zygadto, Beth Lehman, and Lisa Wardisiani, all headed for small animal practice, are on the equine rotation with Dr. Mark Martinelli.

The hospital will benefit from greater continuity in student staffing of service areas. Currently all rotations are three weeks long and all students switch to a new area every three weeks. Under the new system, in which each core area rotation lasts four weeks and electives two weeks, students enter and leave rotations on an overlapping schedule.

Among the other notable differences, students will be required to spend 44 weeks in rotations, with 8 weeks off, a shift from the previous 39.5 weeks in rotation and 12 weeks of off-blocks. Many students chose to spend off-blocks in electives that kept them here at the College even so, says Dr. Pijanowski. He strongly encourages students to use the time off to get away from Urbana, whether it is for an externship or other educational experience or simply for vacation time. 

“They need some time away from this place,” he says with a knowing smile.

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