Educator Highlights

Here we highlight exciting work in education within our community and important new developments in Veterinary Medical Education research.

Highlights are written by Academy members.  If you have something you wish to highlight, let us know at  If you have an idea, but not the time to write it up, that’s okay – we’ll find a partner for you.

May 2019

Making Ophthalmoscopy Teaching More Versatile

Retinal examination is a critical clinical veterinary skill to identify vision-threatening conditions. It is not easy to examinean animal’s retina but educational methods can help train novices, as research from an NC State CVM educational team outlined recently. The team of two ophthalmologists (Freya Mowat and Hans Westermeyer) collaborated with the NC State simulation laboratory (Gail Druley) and an assessment expert (Kenneth Royal) to perform these studies. Primary care veterinary practitioners were surveyed regarding their methods and comfort with retinal examination using an online survey, and it was found that despite retinal examination being a commonly performed skill, 48% of practitioners experience some lack of confidence and that most felt that they would benefit from additional training. This led the researchers to test a model-based educational tool (pictured) to help to provide additional training for veterinary students prior to performing it in a more complex scenario in clinical patients. This simple to construct model is versatile, and students felt that it benefitted their training. The model also improved students’ ability, as students who had used the model previously were significantly more competent in a test of the skill compared with those who had not. The two studies were published in The Veterinary Record and the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. Use of the teaching model has been adopted into the NC State DVM curriculum.

Persons interested in reading these series of papers may locate the article using the following citations and links:

Mowat FM, Royal KD, Westermeyer HD. Ophthalmoscopy skills in primary care: a cross-sectional practitioner survey. The Veterinary record. 2018;182(15):435.


Westermeyer HD, Druley GE, Royal KD, Mowat FM. Use of a Versatile, Inexpensive Ophthalmoscopy Teaching Model in Veterinary Medical Student  Education Increases Ophthalmoscopy Proficiency. Journal of veterinary medical education. 2019:1-5.

April 2019

Passing Gas: The Podcast

Anesthesia and pharmacology are tightly linked. They present unique challenges to veterinary students in both content and timing within the curriculum relative to other clinical topics. It was with this in mind that Drs. Kate Bailey and Kristen Messenger decided to create the “Passing Gas” podcasts as a vehicle for providing supplementary learning, and interactive question answering. The goal was to give the veterinary student audience another medium to listen to the information and potentially retain it as it supported their core curriculum. Because the topics of anesthesia and pharmacology contain challenging concepts that often overlap, we hope to increase retention of information by using an alternative medium to show how the topics are related and overlapped. A broad series of topics have been covered thus far, often emphasizing the clinical application of pharmacology in anesthesia settings. We’ve included participation with guest speakers, including fellow faculty, registered veterinary technicians, and upperclassmen students. Each episode follows an outline, but is unscripted, which results in some improvisation, and gives us flexibility to cover topics that are relevant to the students, who provide write-in questions.

While the goal is not to use the podcast as a primary delivery method of information, the hope is to give the students another, potentially more familiar, way of obtaining and absorbing relevant information. The podcast has been very well received thus far, and we hope to continue to utilize this technique in the years ahead.

You can check it out for yourself with a UNITY log in, here:

Passing Gas with Dr. Kate Bailey and Dr. Kristen Messenger


March 2019

Spit Take: Using Salivary Science to Measure Student Stress

This Educator Highlight features an innovative study conducted by the General Practice team. The study was recently published in Veterinary Surgery and describes an experiment that measured students’ stress levels before performing surgery on a live animal. The researchers used salivary biomarkers (salivary cortisol and salivary alpha amylase) to produce objective measurements of stress. Students were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The treatment group performed a 5-minute breathing (mindfulness) exercise whereas the control group did not. Students provided three saliva samples with the first collected at the same time in the morning, the second sample collected 10 minutes before performing surgery, and the third sample 10 minutes after performing surgery. Although students in both groups were extremely stressed prior to surgery, those that completed the breathing exercise experienced a decline in stress levels while the control group did not.

The authors’ concluded there is evidence that a breathing exercise (mindfulness intervention) may help nervous students reduce stress levels, thereby decreasing the likelihood of committing a medical error and/or negatively impacting animal health.

Persons interested in reading the study in its entirety may find the article using this link (DOI: 10.1111/vsu.13169).

A news story featuring the article can be found at: