Alphabet Soup

The letters behind veterinarians names.


Cailin Heinze

“You keep making a typo when you refer to one of the veterinarians on your editorial board,” a reader wrote. “Cailin Heinze is always called a ‘VMD.’ But the designation for a vet is ‘DVM.'”

Good proofreading! But Dr. Heinze is indeed a VMD. It is equivalent to a DVM. It just signifies that she graduated from the veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania, which confers its own designation, Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris, as opposed to the “Doctor of Veterinary Medicine” earned at all other 29 U.S. veterinary schools.

The difference stems from the origin of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. It began as the veterinary department of the medical school for people. As the medical school awarded the Medicinae Doctoris (MD) degree to graduating physicians, it was consistent to use a similar Latin format for the veterinary degree.

In the United Kingdom, where there are eight veterinary schools, a veterinarian will have one of several designations depending on the university she or he attended: BVSc (Bachelor of Veterinary Science), BvetMed (Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine), BVM&S (Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery), or VetMB (Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine, awarded by Cambridge). All are equivalent, and all are regulated by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

It takes five years to get a degree from a veterinary school in the UK (six if it’s from Cambridge University). But those years do not include a four-year undergraduate degree. Students start specializing in high school, then go on to university in the form of veterinary school at age 18 or 19. Here, veterinary school takes only four years, but students have to get a bachelor’s degree first. They become veterinarians at around age 26, as opposed to age 23 or 24 in Great Britain.

Okay, back to Dr. Heinze. The letters at the end of her name coming after VMD — DACVN — signify that she is a diplomate of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition. That means she is board-certified; she underwent intensive clinical, teaching, and research training for at least two years, then had to sit for a written exam. (There are only 100 veterinary nutritionists in the entire country, three of them at Tufts.)

As a veterinary nutritionist, Dr. Heinze gets a lot of questions from clients about the wholesomeness of commercial pet food. They fear it’s dirty and contains remnants of dead dogs and cats and other animals that make their way to rendering plants along with general filth. Given what’s said on the Internet about dog food made in manufacturing plants, she understands the worry, particularly because putting certain undesirable ingredients into dog food is not illegal. She helps set the record straight in the article that begins on page 1.

Happy tails to you,

Lawrence Lindner
Executive Editor


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here