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WE welcome Stephen May's Viewpoint article on developing a scholarship of primary health care (VR, June 27, 2015, vol 176, pp 677-682). It raises two critical, long-neglected and related issues: the potential benefits of primary health care and the role of the generalist; and the importance of undergraduate training in the context of general, first-opinion practice.
Primary health care is, indeed, the unloved orphan child of veterinary medicine. Professor May correctly identifies several key parts of this discipline: the enormous potential animal welfare benefits of community-based approaches, the affordability of this approach, the potential gains for society, its role in the human-animal bond and the role of universities in introducing primary care knowledge and skills.
We agree with him that the discipline of primary health care is not adequately integrated into the undergraduate curriculum, and welcome his call for greater recognition of general practice as specialism in its own right.
Our own experience is that new graduates are insufficiently equipped to meet the demands of real-life first-opinion small animal practice. We have no reason to believe that these deficiencies are purely in the small animal realm and they almost certainly apply to other practical disciplines (equine, large animal, production animal, poultry, etc). In our practices, we have introduced a formal residency programme for new graduates to allow …