Developing an extramural studies placement for vet students with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate

What springs to mind when you think of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)? For most veterinary professionals, it is probably ‘the cascade’ or ‘being inspected’. However, there is a lot more involved in our mission to assure the safety and effectiveness of veterinary medicines.

The VMD is keen to engage with both current and future vets to ensure they understand what we do and, importantly, why we do it. As part of this strategy, we give lectures to students in their clinical years at vet schools in the UK – however, we can only scratch the surface of our work in a one-hour presentation.

In addition, the VMD is keen to improve awareness about careers in government for vets. After all, we are aware that many aspiring government vets start their career with a period working as a ‘traditional’ vet. Moreover, many vets end up on a very different career trajectory than they ever anticipated – something that we are testament to!

We have therefore set up our first-ever extramural studies (EMS) placement this July, offering comprehensive, interactive training for six vet students in their clinical years.

The EMS placement is a structured training programme of interactive lectures, workshops and journal clubs, led by VMD experts, delivered over a two-week period. We expect that future placements will take place annually over fixed dates. Owing to Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s placement will be held virtually but we hope to run future placements at our offices in Surrey.


This year, the placement will be held virtually, but future placements will hopefully be held at the VMD’s offices in Surrey


Why we are doing this

We see the importance of engaging with vets of the future, who are both important stakeholders and potential future employees. Similarly, the Government Veterinary Services organisation (GVS), of which we are members, is keen to improve awareness about careers in state veterinary medicine.

Recently, we both helped to deliver some scientific training for staff from other veterinary medicines regulatory agencies through the VMD’s international development programme. This was a rewarding experience and we discovered that we had an interest in teaching. When the subject of EMS came up in discussions, we both volunteered to lead on developing a placement, which would complement our international work. 

About the VMD and what the placement will cover

The VMD is an agency of Defra and our mission as the UK Government regulator of veterinary medicines is to assure their quality, safety and efficacy. Our vets work in areas as diverse as the authorisation of medicines, pharmacovigilance, antimicrobial resistance, inspection of veterinary practices and providing training to other countries’ veterinary medicines regulators. During the placement, we will provide an insight into all their varied areas of work. That said, vets form only a small proportion of the VMD’s employees, and we couldn’t achieve our objectives without our other brilliant staff working in a wide range of roles across the agency. The placement will teach students about the myriad essential work that they do too.

Dog spot on

The VMD’s mission is to assure the quality, safety and efficacy of veterinary medicines


Overall, the placement will cover the process of veterinary medicines authorisation from start to finish and many areas in between: from the legislation we follow, through to the quality, safety and efficacy data requirements for the authorisation of veterinary pharmaceutical and biological products. Our postauthorisation surveillance activities will be explored through the work of the Pharmacovigilance, Residues and Enforcement teams. 

We will also focus on more specific areas of interest, such as the work of the Antimicrobial Resistance team, the activities of the International Training and Development Office and the emerging area of novel therapies. 

In addition, we will cover aspects pertinent to vets in practice, including the responsible use of veterinary medicines, the prescribing cascade and the work of the Inspections team.

Cattle injection

The placement will cover aspects pertinent to vets in practice, including responsible use of medicines and antimicrobial resistance


After listening to a number of talks from VMD staff, it will be the students’ turn to each present an article of their choice in a journal club. 

Finally, there will be a careers session in which students can find out more about working as a government vet, including the opportunity to quiz a panel of VMD vets!

Making the placements an annual event

We were thrilled to receive lots of applications for the first placement from highly motivated students from across the vet schools, who clearly understood the relevance of the VMD’s work to their career aspirations. 

We are therefore keen to give more students the opportunity of an EMS placement in 2022. Please look out for details on the VMD’s GOV.UK site. 

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