Earning a doctor of veterinary medicine degree and a doctorate at the same time can be a demanding and financially challenging undertaking. But it also can provide several career options beyond that of a traditional D.V.M.
To make the option of earning the two degrees more financially practical, the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine is offering a dual D.V.M.-Ph.D. scholarship program to a select group of deserving students.
College of Veterinary Medicine class of 2014 member Charley Cull is the first student to complete his doctor of veterinary medicine as part of this special scholarship.
“What’s nice about the program is that there are some financial incentives, as well as with both degrees,” Cull said. “The D.V.M. profession has many opportunities through general practice and veterinary specialties, as well as working for the USDA, government or even politics. The Ph.D. probably brings in more of the data-driven jobs — wanting to know more answers, seeing if we can treat populations of animals — while looking at disease processes and food safety.”
The scholarship program covers tuition and fees for the students’ Doctor of Veterinary Medicine courses, regardless of their resident status. Those interested in a dual degree can apply any time after acceptance to the D.V.M. program. Participants must maintain good academic standing in both the veterinary and Ph.D. programs.
“Any student who enrolls in a dual-degree program has to have some time-management skill and has to be an excellent student,” said David Renter, a professor of epidemiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “The D.V.M. program in and of itself is very demanding, and to do a graduate degree alongside that D.V.M. is challenging. You have to be a good student, and Charley has done well in that regard.”
As a veterinary student, Cull took additional graduate courses in epidemiology and preventative medicine in the evenings. He also conducted research examining the effectiveness of vaccines and other interventions used to reduce E. coli contamination of beef. With so much going on, Cull said an important part of his success was his relationship with Renter, his mentor.
“It takes a student who has the ambition and drive to study both degrees, but your mentor has to be understanding of your veterinary curriculum,” Cull said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have the best mentor, although others might argue. Dr. Renter also earned his D.V.M. at K-State and then came back and completed his Ph.D., so I think he’s able to relate to the work and the veterinary course load as well as the course load of the Ph.D. He’s taught me a lot, not just in veterinary medicine or research, but how to grow as a person and a researcher.”
With his D.V.M. now in hand, Cull will spend the next year or so finishing his Ph.D. While not fully complete, he has appreciated the challenges and opportunities provided by the dual-degree program.
“I would promote this program to anyone,” Cull said. “I think you have to be willing and driven, just like you were when you came to study veterinary medicine. Research requires that same passion. It takes a special individual, but I think what K-State is doing with this program is setting itself up to find outstanding candidates to come here and finish their veterinary degree, which is a wonderful profession, but then maybe look at it in a different aspect, throwing research on top of there with a Ph.D.”