Horses for courses: a novel distance equine PhD programme

equine distance learning

Distance learning is an important and increasing area within the University’s teaching and learning portfolio. It allows students to embark upon and engage in their studies in a more flexible way that can integrate with their busy day-to-day lives. The right blend of student, supervisors and research topic is important, but if the blend is right then it can lead to a different, productive and exciting learning experience for all concerned.

A new and exciting Distance PhD programme has entered its third year at the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. PhD student, Dominique Lefebvre, is based in Montréal, Canada, yet makes scheduled study visits to Edinburgh to complement her research activities. Her most recent visit in February of this year coincided with her second year Thesis Committee meeting. The Programme designed and led by Neil Hudson and Scott Pirie is new to the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and is believed to be one of the first Distance PhDs at the University of Edinburgh.

Dominique’s project is focusing on equine colic (abdominal pain), a significant killer of horses, and the problem of disrupted gut motility which frequently occurs following colic surgery (postoperative ileus, POI). As part of her studies, Dominique has surveyed both equine specialist veterinarians and horse owners about colic and consequent hospital treatments. In addition, Dominique is in the process of collating clinical data on hospitalised surgical colic cases from university equine hospitals at Edinburgh, Montréal and North Carolina to facilitate completion of a case-controlled study of the risk factors associated with the development of POI. Work from Dominique’s first year of distance study has recently been published in the Equine Veterinary Journal and she will be submitting a poster on her ongoing studies ‘from a distance’ at the next Roslin Student Day in April.

Dominique said:

“I am delighted to be part of this exciting programme and I am so grateful to everyone in Edinburgh and Montréal for helping make this work so well. The subject area of equine colic and postoperative ileus led on in a logical and expanded way from my Edinburgh University Distance Equine MSc.”

Professor Colin Farquharson, Thesis Committee Chair for Dominique’s PhD, added:

“The Thesis Committee unanimously congratulate Dominique on her achievements so far and had no concerns with this Distance Learning PhD, the success of which is due to the right mix of student, supervisors and project.”

It is hoped that experiences gained from this ground breaking programme will inform the design and ultimately pave the way for similar future Distance Learning PhDs at the University in the future.

Neil Hudson

Dr Neil Hudson MA VetMB PhD DEIM DipVetClinStud SFHEA MRCVS is a Senior Veterinary Clinical Lecturer at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. An RCVS Diplomate in Equine Internal Medicine, Neil teaches throughout the BVM&S Programme, leads this Distance Learning initiative with Scott Pirie and introduced and leads the new Undergraduate Certificate in Veterinary Medical Education at the Vet School.

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