DOI: 10.3138/jvme-2023-0055 ISSN:

Teaching Evidence-Based Medicine and Non-conventional (Alternative) Therapies in Portuguese Veterinary Schools—A Curricular Assessment

Manuel Magalhães-Sant’Ana, Isilda Rodrigues, Daniel Costa, George Stilwell, Nuno Henrique Franco
  • General Veterinary
  • Education
  • General Medicine

Applying evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM) is considered a Day One competence for veterinary graduates. Furthermore, the increasing interest in the use of complementary and alternative (non-conventional) veterinary therapies (NCTs) must be grounded on EBVM principles. Few studies have mapped the teaching of EBVM and of NCTs and assessed their content. This study analyses the official curricula of six (out of eight) Portuguese veterinary schools in terms of EBVM and NCTs, using the self-evaluation documents submitted to the National Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education (A3ES) (2014–2015). Results show that, with few exceptions, veterinary education in Portugal follows a traditional, clinically-driven approach to evidence, with concepts taught mostly from an empirical and experiential perspective instead of a systematic one. Core EBVM topics, such as placebo effect, methodological validity, PICO, cognitive bias, and systematic review are either absent or insufficiently covered. Moreover, the teaching of NCTs was found in three out of the six curricular programmes, namely acupuncture, phytotherapy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, aromatherapy, Bach flower remedies, ayurveda, energetic healing (reiki), and massage. We found no evidence that these therapies are being taught under the principles of EBVM. Taken together, these results highlight the need for more explicit and targeted teaching of EBVM-related topics, namely regarding the critical appraisal of scientific literature and the integration of best evidence into clinical decision-making. Results can also be useful to inform the accreditation process by the A3ES and by education quality assurance agencies in other jurisdictions.

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