Let the Twinning Begin
The University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and Chiang Mai University (CMU) Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Thailand have been chosen to partner with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on the first-ever veterinary education “twinning” project. Over the next two years, the colleges will assess their curricula against the OIE’s new international framework of Day 1 Competencies that all veterinarians should possess upon graduation and then develop training and education plans to strengthen any gaps identified. They will also engage in student and faculty exchanges to help compare teaching approaches used to strengthen OIE Day 1 Competencies through participation in Veterinary Public Health rotations and clerkships at each school. As an OIE collaborating center in veterinary services, CAHFS is a major partner in this project. This twinning project exemplifies CAHFS outreach programs focused on capacity-building at the interfaces of animal, human, and environmental health.
Spearheading the campaign to institute the twinning project were the University of Minnesota’s Dr. Karin Hamilton and Dr. Will Hueston. Hamilton has been a grantee with the USAID RESPOND project in Southeast Asia for several years and was able to establish connections through workshops and trainings with veterinary professionals at CMU. Hueston’s position as a global public health leader helped CVM secure OIE funding for the twinning project.
The project aims to augment current curricula so that graduates from both colleges meet the OIE’s Day 1 Competencies, as no common global benchmarks of veterinary education were previously in place. Such standards are vital to ensure veterinarians in both public and private practice are able to support the needs of their countries. The schools will evaluate their curricula against the Competencies established by OIE, and work to fill any gaps that are identified. “Chiang Mai already has one of the most solid veterinary programs in Southeast Asia,” says Hamilton, and the improvements rendered by the twinning project will help bolster its position as a regional hub for veterinary medicine.
Twinning will also offer veterinary students and faculty members extensive opportunities for learning and teaching experiences abroad. CMU students will participate in UMN’s Veterinary Public Health Rotations alongside UMN students, and these same students will participate in CMU’s Veterinary Public Health clerkship, thus exposing all students to different methods of production, livestock-rearing, and agriculture.
Bringing instruction in line with a set of global competencies is not intended to bring about uniformity. Students who go on the exchange in Chiang Mai will observe deeply rooted cultural conventions which influence animal care and use within the country. For example, Hamilton points out that eating a traditional raw pork dish in Thailand has resulted in Streptococcus suis infections. An American public health veterinarian might conclude that the obvious solution is to cook the meat; however, changing cultural traditions is not that simple so the way these challenges are addressed is a reflection of Thai culture. Such case studies in public health, says Hamilton, “are pretty cool because there are diseases in Thailand that we only read about.”
When asked what excites her most about the partnership between CVM and CMU, Hamilton responds, “the people!” In the long term, she hopes to involve a veterinary public health resident from CAHFS in the project. CMU recently established a similar residency program, which could potentially draw in more participation to the twinning program. Although this is the first twinning project of its kind, Hamilton optimistically says that “it will be neat to see how everyone works together.”
Click here to view a side-by-side comparison infographic of UMN CVM and CMU.