Interdisciplinary Training in Aquatic Animal Health at the University of Florida
The University of Florida has offered veterinary, graduate, and continuing education courses in aquatic animal health for many years. Increasingly, university administrators recognize that this highly specialized field provides an excellent opportunity to develop interdisciplinary programs using resources from diverse areas within the university community. At the University of Florida, existing programs are being expanded, and new ones planned, that will use facilities and faculty within three distinct units to create a comprehensive program to enhance the education of veterinary students, non-veterinary graduate students, and graduate veterinarians. Significant collaboration with specialists in the private sector, and with federal and state agencies, will further enhance these educational programs. Barriers within the university itself have been removed due to willing collaboration and effort from all participating units. Administrative barriers to development of these programs can be challenging to overcome, but our experience indicates that the benefit of shared resources and productivity outweighs the costs of a more traditional approach.
The evolving program is being called "Aquatic Medical Education," and the three main participating units within the University are the College of Veterinary Medicine, The Whitney Laboratory and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. To date, most programmatic activity with regard to teaching and extension has been in aquaculture and fish health management. A new and exciting component is being added that will bring marine mammals and other aquatic species into the curriculum. The goal is to try and unite the many diverse programs on campus, and within the state, under an umbrella program to maximize cooperation and minimize duplication. We foresee that two new educational short courses, tentatively entitled Sea Vet I and Sea Vet II will start in 2004. Following the successful aquaculture and fish health programs, it is hoped that the Sea Vet programs will be able to take advantage of the vast expertise in the state. The cooperation that develops through collaborative teaching programs will enhance research by creating more awareness of what different programs are doing and what the interests and needs of diverse units are. As state and federal resources dwindle, the opportunities created by successful collaborations and partnerships should keep this exciting new program area relevant and important to all involved.
This effort has been supported in part by a grant from the Florida Marine Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, St. Petersburg, FL.