A board certified veterinary specialist is a veterinarian with advanced education and training in a specific discipline of veterinary medicine. His or her knowledge and skill in this area is evaluated and recognized by a specialty organization (college) sanctioned by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Over the past 15 years there has been tremendous growth in the volume of new information and procedures available within the veterinary field. As a result, it is virtually impossible for any one veterinarian to be completely versed in every medical discipline.
As in human medicine, this reality has led to the development of advanced training programs in specialized areas. Until recently, only human medical facilities and university veterinary hospitals provided many of the services offered by AMVS.
To become a specialist, a student must complete four years of veterinary school. Next, he or she must subsequently complete a one-year internship in small animal medicine and surgery, followed by a three-year residency training program in their elected discipline at an accredited School of Veterinary Medicine. Successful completion of written and practical examination by a Board of Examiners, approval of case reports, and the publication of a research article in veterinary literature are also required.
When successfully completed, the individual is referred to as a diplomate in one of the 14 specialty colleges. Specialists can now be found in veterinary colleges, industry practices, and private practices throughout the world. They perform research, teach, and provide specialized veterinary care.
The relationship between a specialty veterinarian and a family veterinarian is important. Specialists are an extension of your family veterinarian. We take cases that are beyond the scope of the family vet.
This referral is similar to when your family doctor refers you to an orthopedic surgeon for a serious knee injury. It is not that the family veterinarian, or for that matter your family doctor, is not good at what they do. In fact, just the opposite is true. They are good because they refer you to a specialist, when their patient needs advanced care.