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A Behind-the-Scenes look at Veterinary Residency in Nigeria with Dr. Bolu Sarumoh

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MY MEMBERSHIP EXPERIENCE

Back in 2012, I heard about the Membership programme and at first I was really excited because I wasn’t aware of a residency programme available for vets up until that time. Then, when I found out about it, there were about 4 different specialities: Pathology; Medicine; Surgery and Public Health. Each university was mandated with the responsibility to be study centres for each of the specialty groups. So, it wasn’t a university programme per say, but a college programme, that is, The College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigeria {CVSN}.

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When I began in August 2012, we were supposed to have three months of academic sessions, exams etc. So, we had our academic sessions which were not too far from what was obtainable in DVM as at the time I graduated in 2002. It was like DVM-repackaged and handed back to me. The only observable difference was that I was required to attend clinics; required to make clinical reports. Back when I was an undergraduate, there wasn’t so much of that, I can’t say about undergraduate students now. At the end of the sessions, we wrote exams until the next academic session, which was a repeated cycle of more courses. At the end of the third year, I was required to do research which I did to come out with a thesis whether published or not and then I gained my Membership.

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While, I was going through Membership, I was also following up on what was going on in Fellowship. And in reality, I had more course work and learning opportunities as a Membership candidate than the people in Fellowship had. So, I was taken aback! I had discussions with some of the Foundation Fellows and as well as senior Fellows and lots of other people and the impression I got was that every residency programme starts from somewhere. We need foundation fellows. The foundation fellows will then build upon that and over time it will take shape and become what we expect it to be.

WHAT I BELIEVE A PROPER RESIDENCY PROGRAMME SHOULD BE

I am by no means an authority on this matter, but this is my outlook. First of all, the questions that should be asked are:

  • Why a Residency Programme?
  • What is the point?
  • What wasn’t learnt in DVM, that needs to be taught in a Residency Programme?
  • What makes it different from a Masters or PhD degree?

In answering these questions we need to explain the science and art of medicine.

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THE SCIENCE OF MEDICINE

The practice of medicine is both a science and an art. A science that is constantly evolving and the only thing that makes a thing evolve is research. So, yesterday we were using Amphotericin B and we found out Amphotericin B is toxic to the kidneys. Years later, we started using Itraconazole. Itraconazole didn’t appear from thin air! There were people who sat down in their research laboratories and were working on a new drug and those people were not residents (not usually anyway). This person will be somebody who majored maybe in one minute aspect of therapeutics, studied that aspect deeply and got his/her PhD there. So, in reality, when we say someone has a Masters and eventually a PhD, we are talking about a person who knows so much about one very narrow specific field and it is usually these people who can contribute effectively to building the body of knowledge. It’s what doing a Masters and PhD prepares you towards.

THE ART OF MEDICINE

When I was in the CVSN’s Membership Programme, my specialty was Internal Medicine. The job of an internist is to take all the information that he gets from his patient in a particular field of study and use his abilities to zero in quickly and efficiently on a possible diagnosis and management options. He has the ability to channel diagnostic resources without wasting them because he has enough working knowledge about the subject field. For example, when an animal comes in walking a certain way, an internist will be able to ask two questions and get the diagnosis whilst proffering a solution, while a good doctor will have to ask many questions, if he is good enough and conduct many tests {wasting time and resources} to arrive at the same diagnosis if he is lucky. The intern can do this because he has been STUDYING AND PRACTISING in one specific area. He has been seeing many, many, many cases. After about 3 to 5 years of doing this, it becomes routine. Such that it can be compared to riding a bicycle. The first time one rides a bicycle, you think through all the steps and still ride like a drunk. Compare this to having ridden one for many years and the difference between a General Practitioner and a specialist becomes ever so clear.

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THE PURPOSE OF RESIDENCY

The purpose of residency is perfecting certain skills along with the science such that they become second nature to you. This cannot be done with the whole of veterinary medicine because it is very wide but with a specific field like Cardiology wherein a veterinary cardiologist for example, knows and fully understands everything about the heart and the different hearts of various species. He also does research, contributing to the body of knowledge not necessarily because the vet cardiologist is particularly gifted (although they usually are) but as a result of years of repeated practice. It’s important to note here that residents also are involved in clinical research and the same principles apply. Therefore, a general practitioner can examine a patient and localize the problem to the cardiovascular system. It becomes easy and indeed preferable to thereafter refer the patient to a cardiologist because that is his specialty. This is the idea of a residency. Hence, from the beginning of a residency programme a resident should know where it is headed.

WHO SHOULD FACILITATE VETERINARY RESIDENCY PROGRAMMES IN NIGERIA?

Another important question to address here is: who is going to facilitate a residency programme in Nigeria? You cannot give what you don’t have. The facilitators at the time I got involved in the residency program were academics- that is to say Masters, PhD holders. They are very brilliant people in their own right but would be relatively ill equipped to handle the complexities of training residents. However, there are certain fields that may be exceptions like Pathology e.t.c.

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In my opinion, if one wants to start a residency programme, one really needs to have the human resources first. People who have gone through a world class residency program and who are consultants/diplomats themselves and preferable who have clout in their chosen expertise. These are the people that will form the foundation of the Department which one wants to develop. For example, if we want to develop a Neurology Department, and one knows a certain Dr. ABC in the UK who is a veterinary neurologist, what the college should be thinking of doing is to bring Dr. ABC to Nigeria and pay him to start the college in Nigeria. Dr. ABC will thence be responsible for initial procurement of equipment and disposables, staffing, take residents, evaluating them and at the end of a certain period, Dr. ABC will decide that those residents are good enough and good to go. We have thus, without wasting too much money established veterinary neurology in Nigeria. Or a Dr. XYZ in Japan who has been acknowledged in Gastroenteritis in large animals. Bring him to Nigeria, pay him and do the needful. That way the foundations of a real college is built.

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If I were in charge, I wouldn’t mind bringing in a foreigner. The goal is to get people who actually have the knowledge and expertise, the experience and the clout. VERY IMPORTANT. Someone who is well-known; published and cited. It is unfortunate that in Nigeria, it appears that we do not value expertise. In certain parlances, excellence is seen as a threat. It is sad and this really needs to change. Don’t ask me how. It is expertise {the people who know} that should drive everything not bureaucrats, politicians or I-old-pass-you.

13087911_10153369565841580_5692647593327426293_n-01.jpegDr. Bolu Sarumoh, DVM, MCVSN, MSc (in view) graduated from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 2002. He is a Member of the College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigeria (CVSN). He works as a Senior Veterinary Officer, Department of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Agriculture, Lagos State.

He is currently undergoing research work in medical mycology at the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Japan.

Many thanks to Dr. Bolu Samuroh for so graciously sharing with us his experiences, perceptions, and erudition on Veterinary Residency in Nigeria. If you are a Nigerian Veterinarian and desire to know more about The College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigeria, (including eligibility, specialties offered and more) you can check out this link.

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