Dr. Zafar Qureshi & Dr. Mishba Ijaz
UAF Veterinary Faculty returned to Pakistan with ideas on how to improve curriculum and teaching.
After a month visiting the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, two members of the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences at Pakistan’s leading agricultural school, the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, returned home with a simple message: veterinarians in Pakistan need to improve their clinical skills.
“The livestock sector in Pakistan is now 50 percent of agricultural production and 11 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product,” explained Dr. Zafar Qureshi. “Our vets need to be up to the standard now required by the livestock sector.”
Dr. Qureshi and his colleague, Dr. Mishba Ijaz, came to Davis as part of an exchange and curriculum-development program known as the U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security. The U.S. Agency for International Development-funded project is a five-year partnership between UC Davis, the leading agricultural and veterinary university in the world, and UAF, Pakistan’s top agricultural university.
The two UAF veterinary professors spent all of January observing courses, clinical training and field work, studying the UC Davis veterinary medicine curriculum, and meeting with faculty and administrators. Their goal was to bring back recommendations to UAF to improve its veterinary training programs, and through that, the quality of veterinary medicine throughout Pakistan.
“We arrived January 6, and were in meetings the morning of January 7,” Dr. Qureshi said. “It was a very busy month. Our expectations were high and were absolutely met. What was expected was achieved.”
For the pair, though, the work has just begun.
“Now we have to go back and discuss our findings with our colleagues and administration, and determine what will be the next steps,” explained Dr. Ijaz. “We’re taking so much back.”
Some of the recommendations the visiting scholars will bring back to UAF are the development of a master’s degree program in clinical practice, exploring a veterinary residency program, and curriculum improvement to increase clinical skills. Both also will push for improvements in the university’s information technology infrastructure to give students better access to syllabi, learning resources and information they’re learning in classrooms.
At UC Davis, the pair worked closely with Dr. Alan Conley, who served as their faculty host.
“The challenge was to show them as much as possible in the time we had,” he said. “I think we did 110 percent of what was reasonable.”
The visiting scholars did manage a little sightseeing, too.
“It was my first visit to any foreign country,” said Dr. Ijaz, who said she is the youngest member of the UAF veterinary faculty. “I got to visit San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. The whole experience has been unforgettable.”
Getting Things Right Incrementally
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine was an ideal place for Drs. Ijaz and Qureshi to look at curricular reform, because four years ago it conducted its own curriculum review and adopted a new approach.
“We changed from a very discipline-based program to a very integrated, learning-centered approach,” Dr. Conley explained. “We don’t know yet if it’s better, so we’re not encouraging UAF to adopt it.”
What they do know, Dr. Conley said, is just the process of examining the way things are taught brings improvements, and constant evaluation, review and revision is a path to “getting things right incrementally.”
One challenge UAF will have in improving the clinical skills of new vets is marshaling the resources to train them.
“They have many fewer faculty and many more students and that puts a lot of pressure on faculty there,” Dr. Conley said. “It’s one thing in a classroom setting, where you’re disseminating knowledge, but if you want to improve clinical skills, you need a much higher faculty-to-student ratio.”
Getting resources to hire more faculty and make the other programmatic improvements Drs. Qureshi and Ijaz will recommend will take a commitment by UAF and Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission, but Dr. Qureshi sees it as an economic imperative.
“The livestock sector is so much larger and more important now,” he said. “People import many types of cows, and we have large diaries. Our vets have to up those standards, and if we’re going to produce professional sound vets, we have to make these changes.”
Profile written by Steve Elliot.