An Interview with Dr. Richard B. Ford
Richard B. Ford, DVM, DACVIM, DACVPM (Hon), is a professor of internal medicine at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. A member of the Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel, he cowrote its guidelines, in addition to cowriting Kirk and Bistner's Handbook of Veterinary Procedures and Emergency Treatment.
What is the most exciting change you've seen in veterinary medicine?
What book are you reading now?
Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat. It's about change in the global marketplace and the impact that change, for example outsourcing, is having on us today and will have on future generations. It's a complex subject, but it has been well-researched and, interestingly, sheds some insight on how a profession, such as veterinary medicine, may be impacted in the future.
What part of your work do you enjoy most?
Teaching. That's my passion and probably what I do best. It's certainly the part of my professional career that I gain from the most. But it's not just getting in front of an audience to convey what little bit of expertise I might have to anyone willing to listen that drives my enthusiasm for teaching, it's also the incredibly steep learning curve that comes with teaching. Whether it's teaching veterinary students, practicing veterinarians, or veterinary technicians, teaching has always rewarded me with more knowledge and insight than I've ever been able to deliver.
What do you consider the greatest threat to the profession?
Change. The tectonic plates, as I call them, of veterinary medicine are shifting in such a way that we will teach, learn, and practice the skills of our profession much differently in the future. For example, one of the plates is the gender shift in veterinary medicine. Are we becoming a part-time profession? Will sufficient numbers of graduates be available in the future to meet the needs of equine and food-animal practice? Another shifting plate is the migration of clinical faculty and residents from academia into private specialty practices. Who will teach in the future? What will the veterinary teaching hospital of tomorrow look like if there are insufficient numbers of faculty to support a teaching caseload? A number of other plates are shifting as well, but you get the drift.
What animal health needs are currently unmet?
One only has to open the door of what is now called shelter medicine to appreciate the overwhelming number of animals, of all species, that are underserved by veterinary medicine. There's an irony here. In clinical practice today, the very highest standards of care are expended on veterinary patients, but only on those animals belonging to individuals who can afford our services. A much larger proportion of the domestic animal population in the United States will never have access to even the most basic healthcare services our profession can offer.
What changes do you hope will happen in the next 100 years?
The globalization of veterinary healthcare. There are few countries in the world where a veterinarian can practice to the same standard of care offered in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. I hope in the next 100 years we will share our knowledge in such a way that practicing veterinarians throughout the world, and the patients they treat, will benefit from our knowledge and expertise.