Biological and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program



Cornell Combined DVM/PhD Degree Program

Combined DVM/PhD Curriculum:
Preclinical Veterinary Courses

Veterinary Education for the 21st Century:
The DVM Curriculum

The professional curriculum at Cornell is science-based, and reflects the leading edge of scientific knowledge and clinical medicine. It is comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and continually evolving to prepare veterinarians to pursue diverse career paths within the veterinary profession. It provides a broad-based education in all of the traditional subjects and, in an era of increasing specialization, gives students the opportunity to develop an area of greater expertise. In addition to a strong foundation in biomedical and clinical disciplines, the educational program also emphasizes important related topics in veterinary medicine such as: communication skills, client relations, ethics, public health, practice management, and professional development.

DVM Curriculum Chart

The goals of the professional curriculum at Cornell are to:

  • provide each student with the knowledge and skills that form the foundation on which to build a career in the profession;
  • foster critical thinking and scientific curiosity;
  • inculcate a rigorous approach to problem solving;
  • emphasize the scientific principles underlying veterinary medicine;
  • foster habits of self-education and lifelong learning;
  • stress preventative as well as curative medicine;
  • promote ethical behavior and a sensitivity to the role of the veterinarian in society;
  • provide each student with a broad general veterinary education, but also the opportunity to pursue an area of interest from among the many opportunities available to veterinarians;
  • teach students to recognize the limits of their skill and knowledge and to make effective use of additional resources and expertise.

These goals are achieved through the design of the curriculum and the flexible structure of Foundation and Distribution courses. The teaching formats, in particular the incorporation of small group learning and collaborative work, foster self-education, problem solving, and help students recognize the limits of their knowledge and skills. Preclinical courses use clinical cases to fuel scientific curiosity, while emphasizing the scientific principles that underlie medicine. In this curriculum, students become actively engaged -- working independently as well as with faculty, peers. This rich learning environment helps students assume greater responsibility for their education, learn to use additional resources, and fosters habits of lifelong learning.

The College has modern and well-equipped teaching and clinical facilities, and draws upon faculty who are dedicated teachers and leaders in their respective fields. A variety of educational resources are available to support student learning; these are readily accessible to students at all hours. Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA) is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that allows for the most up to date diagnostic and therapeutic procedures on inpatients and outpatients. Under the direction of the clinical faculty, students play an integral role in the healthcare of animals, and in communications with CUHA clients.

Foundation Courses

These courses, required of all students, account for approximately 70% of the four-year curriculum.

  • The Animal Body: gross anatomy, histology, radiology and imaging, introduction to surgical approaches.
  • Neuroanatomy and Clinical Neurology: structure and anatomic basis for the diagnosis of diseases of the central nervous system, and their differential diagnosis.
  • Cell Biology and Genetics: cell biology, cell signaling, medical genetics, and cancer biology.
  • Function and Dysfunction: physiology and homeostasis, biochemistry and cell biology, cell injury and repair, histology, hematology, and principles of pharmacology.
  • Host, Agent, and Defense: inflammation and infection, the immune system and immunopathology, histology, bacteriology and mycology, parasitology, virology, antimicrobial therapy, and disease outbreak investigation.
  • Animal Health and Disease: integration of pathology, applied anatomy, clinical pharmacology, medicine, surgery, nutrition, and related clinical disciplines.
  • Clinical Rotations: supervised clinical work in the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, starting in the third year and continuing through the fourth year. Students rotate through a series of required clinical rotations, and select one of several pathways that offer the opportunity to develop specific skills necessary for their chosen area of veterinary medicine. The required clinical rotations include: ambulatory medicine, anesthesiology, dermatology, large animal medicine, large animal surgery, ophthalmology, pathology, imaging, community practice service and small animal theriogenology, small animal medicine, small animal surgery, and emergency and critical care medicine. Pathways include: Small Animal, Equine, General (Mixed), Exotics, Zoo and Wildlife, and Production Animal Medicine.
  • Animals, Veterinarians, and Society: physical examination, biomedical ethics and clinical genetics, communication skills, information management, human-animal bond, health maintenance in individual animals and populations, veterinary public health, professional development, societal responsibilities of veterinarians, and hospital and practice management.


Distribution Courses

Approximately 30 percent of the professional curriculum is provided through Distribution courses, which are grouped in sets. Students must fulfill credit requirements for each set, but may choose from among the courses in each set. A large number of courses is available, offering additional flexibility and opportunity to pursue special interests, or to develop knowledge about a particular topic or species in greater depth.

Distribution requirements include the opportunity to complete additional clinical rotations in the following areas: theriogenology, cardiology, exotic animal medicine, oncology, laboratory animal medicine, and equine primary care. Students may also obtain clinical experience for academic credit off campus-in institutional settings with established teaching programs, or in facilities offering unique clinical or research experiences. Cornell students pursue a wide range of experiences according to their professional goals and interests.