Postgraduate Training Programs in Veterinary Clinical Pathology in the United States and Canada (1998 to 2002)


  • This article was written on behalf of the Education Committee of the American Society for Veterinary Clinical Pathology (ASVCP). In addition to the authors, committee members at the time of this study were Dennis DeNicola, Laurie O'Rourke, Sonjia Shelly, and Karen Young. Results of this study were presented in part at the Teaching Clinical Pathology Discussion Forum at the ASVCP Annual Meeting, St Louis, MO, November 1998, and posted in part on the ASVCP website.

Corresponding author: Mary M. Christopher, Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, 1 Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616 (


Background: Residency and graduate programs in veterinary clinical pathology provide specialized training for board certification and are important pathways to careers in clinical pathology diagnostics, teaching, and research. Information about training opportunities is useful for assessing disciplinary needs, outcomes, and changes, garnering program support, and providing objective data for program evaluation by faculty, trainees, and prospective applicants.

Objectives: The goals of this study were to 1) compile detailed information on the number and types of postgraduate training programs in veterinary clinical pathology in the United States and Canada, 2) describe the goals, activities, strengths, and weaknesses of the programs, 3) assess the desirability of program accreditation and program standards, 4) identify supplemental training opportunities, and 5) evaluate changes in programs, trainees, and faculty 4 years later.

Methods: In July 1998, the American Society for Veterinary Clinical Pathology Education Committee sent a survey to representatives at the 31 schools and colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States and Canada and 31 diagnostic laboratories, private hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. Survey data were compared with updated information obtained from training program coordinators in November 2002.

Results: Survey response rate was 94% for universities, 39% for nonuniversity institutions, and 66% overall. In 1998, there were 20 clinical pathology training programs, including residencies (n=10) and graduate programs combined with residency training (n=10), with 36 total training positions. In 2002, there were 25 training programs (14 residencies, 11 combined), with 52 total positions. The median faculty: trainee ratio was 2.0 in both years. Of 67 faculty members involved in training in 1998, 57 (85.1%) were board-certified in clinical pathology and 53 (79.1%) had DVM/PhD degrees. Net faculty numbers increased by 17 (25.4%) but the median per institution remained at 3.0. Primary program goals were 1) eligibility for and successful achievement of board certification in clinical pathology by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, 2) proficiency in laboratory diagnostics, and 3) contemporary basic or applied research training. Many programs cited research opportunities, caseloads, and training in hematology and cytology as strengths. Program weaknesses included insufficient funding, too few faculty, and limited training in clinical chemistry and laboratory operations/quality assurance. Trainees completing programs within the past 5 years (n=70) were employed in academia (28.6%), diagnostic laboratories (32.9%), and industry (18.6%). For trainees completing programs between 1999 and 2002 (n=38), these percentages were 52.6%, 21.1%, and 7.9%, respectively. Most (62.5%) respondents supported program standards and accreditation, and 76% supported board review sessions for trainees.

Conclusions: Opportunities for postgraduate training in veterinary clinical pathology increased between 1998 and 2002, with 5 new programs and 16 new training positions. These additions and the increased emphasis on diagnostic proficiency, efforts to strengthen training in clinical chemistry and quality assurance, and continuation of combined PhD-residency programs will help address the perceived need for increased numbers of qualified clinical pathologists in academia, diagnostic laboratories, and industry.