What is a Board Certified Specialist?

We featured a story on our critical care specialists last month and wanted to talk about board certified specialists in general. What does it mean to be a board certified specialist? That you are an expert in your field, and have done a LOT to get there.

In addition to critical care specialists, VESCNM also has surgery and internal medicine specialists. We also work closely with a dermatology and behavior specialist in the building.

When veterinarians go to school they receive 4 years of intense didactic and clinical training to prepare them to be a veterinarian. Some veterinary schools also require you to “track”, which means sometime in school you decide if you want to work primarily with small or large animals, and focus on that area throughout your schooling. In the final year of schooling you take the NAVLE, which is the North America Veterinary Licensing Exam. If you pass this exam, and pass all your courses in school, you are awarded your diploma and graduate from veterinary school as a veterinarian (given the letters DVM or VMD to certify you as a doctor of veterinary medicine). Then you also have to take an exam for whatever state you wish to practice in, and once that is complete you are a licensed veterinarian which is able to practice medicine.

Technically any veterinarian can perform any act of medicine or surgery to help their patients. But some veterinarians further their education after school to become specialists, or experts in their area of specialty.
When a veterinarian decides to become a specialist they first must complete a general internship for one year, typically rotating through medicine and surgery and focusing on either small animals (dogs, cats, and some exotics) or large animals (horses, cows, pigs, sheep, etc.). After this some specialists also must complete a specific internship for a year in the area they want to specialize in. And finally the specialist-to-be must complete another 3 year residency in the area they chose to specialize. Specialists are required to publish a paper in their field during the residency, complete a specific amount of hours and skills during that residency, and finally take an examination (or sometimes multiple examinations each year) proving their knowledge base in their specialty field. Most of these exams are very difficult with low pass rates. Once this is completed, you earn additional letters after your veterinary degree to discern you as a specialist.

In addition to critical care, VESCNM has a surgery department with three surgery specialists. Drs. Tallant, Freeman, and Schwarz provide their surgical expertise six days a week, and are on call for the seventh. It was mentioned earlier that veterinarians can perform any surgery after they complete school legally, but the difference with a surgery specialist is they underwent at least an additional four years of training after veterinary school focusing just on surgeries. Most veterinarians in general practice are excellent surgeons, especially for the regular spays and neuters or other basic surgeries they perform. But when your pet needs that more complicated surgery, like an orthopedic surgery, or a gallbladder surgery, or a lung surgery, having a board certified surgeon means your patient is literally in the best hands for their surgery.

Per Dr. Freeman, “As surgeons working in a referral practice, our job is to work with clients and primary care veterinarians to meet the surgical needs of our patients. We provide information for treatment options during consultations with clients and veterinarians and perform complex surgeries when needed. Working in a hospital such as VESCNM we are able to provide safe anesthesia and aggressive pain management, 24 hour monitoring of our patients before and after surgery, and collaborate with other specialists to ensure our patients are getting the best care before, during and after surgery.”

Dr. Julie Stephens is VESCNM’s board certified internist, or a veterinarian specializing in internal medicine. What is that you might ask? Internal medicine specialists are commonly known as “the brainiacs” in most residency programs for a reason. These doctors work closely with you and your patient to manage many chronic diseases, focusing on all the details involved in fixing or managing chronic diseases. Some of the more common illnesses that these doctors diagnose and manage include diabetes, immune mediated diseases, and chronic intestinal diseases. They are typically very adept at ultrasound skills. Most clients that work with internal medicine specialists get to know their doctor very well since their pet needs ongoing and continual care for their disease process.

We at VESCNM wanted you all to know how proud we are of our veterinary specialists and what they can provide for your patients that might need that extra level of care.

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