It’s back to school time for veterinarians

This is a big week for veterinarians in Ontario. Our annual continuing education conference is taking place in Toronto and lots of us will be there stuffing our brains with the latest techniques in animal care.
Like any professional convention, it will provide for some schmoozing at sponsored dinners and giveaways in the exhibit hall, but most importantly, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association conference offers hours and days of practical advice I can’t wait to make use of for my patients.

At last year’s conference, I learned a new spin on an old technique for surgically stabilizing the stomachs of large dogs so they can’t twist around on themselves in an often fatal condition called gastric dilation volvulus. There was also a session on a new approach to finding testicles that have failed to emerge from the abdomen. Previously, this surgery could be really traumatic for the dog, with the potential for lots of complications.

Certainly the advent of online courses makes old-fashioned conferences seem a little archaic. I admit to learning at least one very useful surgical procedure from a You Tube video. However, the presence of more than a thousand colleagues and former classmates under one roof, with dozens of lectures ongoing daily makes learning exciting again. It’s sort of like being back at school, albeit in somewhat more boring clothes.

In a lot of ways, most vets never really leave school. Few days go by that don’t require some research into a forgotten treatment protocol or unusual symptoms. There is just way too much information – information that keeps changing with new research – to depend on one annual conference for all the answers.

And it’s not just vets themselves that drive continuing education programs. There is an expectation by our governing body, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO), that we continually refresh our knowledge. As part of its mandate to protect the public’s interests, the College currently recommends all vets participate in at least 150 hours of professional development every three years.

Along with many local vets, I’ll be putting in quite a few of those hours in Toronto this week and hope to report back here with lots of exciting developments in veterinary medicine, my brain stuffed full once again.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital – Trenton/Quinte West
January, 2013