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Opportunities for clinical research in primary-care practice
  1. Richard J. Mellanby, BSc, BVMS, PhD, DSAM, DipECVIM-CA, FRCVS
  1. Division of Veterinary Clinical Studies, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK; e-mail:

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A HIGH proportion of published veterinary clinical research involves patients evaluated at specialist, multidiscipline university hospitals, in part because veterinarians in academia often have the time, expertise and support to engage in research involving their patients. In contrast, the commercial reality of private primary-care practice can limit opportunities for many practitioners to undertake clinical research.

While specialist-led, university hospital-based clinical research has an advanced understanding of many diseases, this approach is not without its limitations. Clinicians in universities engaged in specialist practice often have a low daily caseload compared to colleagues in primary-care practice, which limits their ability to generate large cohort studies. In addition, cases referred to multidiscipline referral hospitals often have several concurrent disorders, which complicates the investigation of specific diseases. Furthermore, common diseases, which arguably have the greatest impact on animal welfare, are often diagnosed and managed exclusively in the primary-care setting. Therefore, it remains challenging for many university-based specialist clinicians to address important research questions on diseases that cause significant morbidity to veterinary patients.

Why clinical research in primary-care practice is important

Research in primary-care practice has the potential to be some of the most impactful research undertaken by veterinarians (Mellanby 2015). Primary-care practitioners typically examine large numbers of patients each day suffering from common disorders that presently cannot be adequately treated. An improved understanding of these common diseases, which can often be readily diagnosed in primary-care settings, …

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