Veterinary Students Are Actively Seeking Training in Holistic Medicine

Story at-a-glance -

  • Dr. Barbara Royal, president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AHVMF), discusses the need for holistic medicine research and education programs
  • Dr. Royal is excited and inspired by the growing number of veterinary students interested in holistic therapies, and the fact that more of them are graduating already certified in, for example, acupuncture and chiropractic
  • Veterinary school is the environment in which students should be learning about complimentary and alternative veterinary medicine, because their minds are open and they are actively seeking answers to difficult problems

By Dr. Becker

My guest today is Dr. Barbara Royal, current President of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AHVMF). The foundation is the fundraising arm of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), and is charged with securing funding for research programs and other projects that promote and support holistic and integrative veterinary medicine.

Holistic Medicine Research and Education Programs Await Funding

Fundraising for holistic medicine research is difficult, and there are a lot of veterinary facilities and independent researchers applying for grants. In addition, the AHVM Foundation also provides financial support to education and veterinary student programs, so there is a long list of projects and not enough money to go around.

Dr. Royal explains that there are many amazing studies waiting for funding, and often the results of veterinary studies can be beneficial for use in human medicine as well.

The types of research studies the foundation focuses on involve common veterinary disorders and diseases for which conventional medicine has few answers. Examples include cancer, resistant infections, and environmental toxin sensitivities that no one really understands or knows how to deal with.

Holistic Medicine Has the Answers Many Seek

As Dr. Royal explains, holistic medicine can provide many of the answers pet parents and veterinarians seek. If the foundation can find funding for studies to prove the benefit of holistic treatments and then publish the results, people will be surprised to learn that some seemingly unsolvable problems are not that hard to solve.

"We have the solutions in the earth, which if you think about it, makes a lot of sense," says Dr. Royal. "Because everything we've made here and all the stuff that we do was made on the earth, and the earth does have a way to detoxify and help itself. It has always been able to do that."

"Every organism has a way to try to help itself," she continues, "and we just need to tap into the best way to do that for particular conditions in animals."

Currently, there are many individual practitioners using natural remedies successfully, but only in their own little world. Research studies and clinical trials are the means by which all veterinarians can eventually see the benefits of alternative therapies and begin to use them as well.

Published studies available on sites like PubMed provide credibility with a much larger audience in the veterinary community.

Take mushrooms for example, which have the ability to detoxify the earth:

"It's sort of their job," Dr. Royal explains, "but we forget it's their job. You can have an oil spill, and you can put oyster mushrooms on it, and they clean it up for you, which is fabulous."

Mushrooms can even break apart Styrofoam!

Many Veterinary Students Today Have a Keen Interest in Holistic Medicine

Are there things we could be doing better in veterinary medicine using the tools provided by the earth? Dr. Royal thinks there are, and we need to put money into researching those tools so that we can get the word out about them. And of course we also need to invest in veterinary students so they can learn how to integrate holistic and conventional healing tools for better outcomes for patients.

Dr. Royal is seeing a burgeoning interest among veterinary students in complimentary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM). Many are now graduating already certified in acupuncture and chiropractic, for example, and with knowledge of the benefits of essential oils.

This isn't as easy to accomplish as it sounds, because the typical veterinary school curriculum is so daunting that most students don't feel they have the extra time or energy necessary to tackle additional training in holistic therapies.

Dr. Royal feels the best time for veterinary students to learn about CAVM is while they are still in school and their minds are open to learning. Planting the seeds of interest in holistic medicine in veterinary students also means that some of them will become researchers themselves.

In vet school students are in learning mode and constantly seeking answers. Once those students have graduated and are in practice, they are more apt to feel that, "This is what I do. I'm not going to think about it anymore because I'm too tired. I've already learned everything," says Dr. Royal.

Veterinary School Is Where Students Should Be Learning About Complimentary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine

Many veterinarians spend the first five or 10 years of practice growing increasingly frustrated and burned out because they realize they don't have all the tools they need to help their patients. Veterinary students who graduate able to integrate a range of holistic therapies into their treatment of patients have many more tools in their veterinary toolbox to help with particularly difficult cases.

"At the same time, they have a very good, solid, and critical mind," says Dr. Royal. "They understand the system, and they're very fresh in a lot of anatomy and how things work, while at the same time being open to things like body work, stressors, and so forth."

This is the great value of the AHVM Foundation in funding both integrative medicine education for veterinary students, as well as the research necessary to move the practice of medicine forward in the direction of non-toxic treatments.

Dr. Royal explains that the foundation is asking for donations to help move the practice of medicine forward in a positive direction for the world. She wants everyone to know that each donation, large or small, makes a huge difference.

How You Can Help

To donate, go to the AHVMF website, click on Ways to Give on the top menu, and there you'll find a number of different ways to make a donation. If you're not comfortable donating online, scroll down to the bottom of the Ways to Give page, and you'll see a Ways to Donate Online and Offline link.

At, you can also read amazing stories of animals who have been healed with holistic medicine, as well as stories of animal teachers. There's also a blog that reports on some of the projects the foundation is working on. If you have any questions while visiting the site, you can send the foundation an email at [email protected].

Many thanks to Dr. Barbara Royal for sitting down with me today to talk about the growing interest by veterinary students in holistic therapies, and the work the AHVM Foundation is doing to promote education and research into holistic and integrative veterinary medicine.


Donate Today!