I have always been a fan of smaller vet schools.
Having studied in Hanover with more than 230 students in the same year, there wasn’t much direct interaction with our lecturers and it was easy to feel just like a small fish in a large pond.
Large institutions like UC Davis or London’s Royal Veterinary College are world renowned for their ground breaking scientific work, but this not necessarily translates into better day one professional competency of the graduates of these universities.
Smaller vet schools can provide a more personalized and bespoke education, which might be more suitable for day to day clinical work. This I could see when I visited Bristol Vet School, which at the time had 80 students per year and even more so at Oslo Vet School which was education only 45 (lucky) students per annum.
One of these smaller vet schools that I had heard of a lot and that was the Alma Mater to a number of my Baltic colleagues, is the veterinary faculty of Estonia, based in the picturesque city of Tartu.
Taking advantage of an invitation of my friend Ingrid Hang who was lecturing there for a few days, I didn’t had to be asked twice to make a little detour to finally visit the place.
Already at the entrance I was reminded that these days more than 90% of veterinary undergraduates are women – a considerable change to my time at university where we had a fairly equal gender distribution. Historically veterinary medicine had been – unsurprisingly – an exclusively male profession.
We were welcomed by Aleksandr Semjonov the Head of the Small Animal Clinic and it was interesting to learn that Tartu was not only running a course for Estonian students, but was offering in addition to this a Finnish stream. This – as already seen in Zagreb – provides the vet school with a not inconsiderable extra income source.
The consulting rooms were spacious and well lid and there was a relaxed atmosphere with no shortage of staff attending to a number of small animal patients – some of them not so impressed to be here….
As this is a teaching hospital the operating theatres were probably larger then in a privately owned clinic and Aleksandr, an anaesthesiology specialist, made not only sure that state of the art knowledge in this field was applied, but live feeds of every anaesthesia monitoring machine in the building were accessable at all times in his private office.
The lecturing rooms including the anatomy collection – a typical feature of all veterinary schools – were well kept and these rooms just showed that certain elements of veterinary education just can not do without the opportunity for hands on experience.
Some of the life sized models were hand made and according to Aleksandr the model of a horse with artificial but anatomically correct internal organs had to be shipped all the way from the US with a five figure Euro/Dollar price tag.
Another example why the veterinary course – not only in Estonia – is the most expensive form of education universities can offer and a reminder to me to be eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to become a member of this profession.