José Miguel de Campos, DVM PHD got his Master’s Degree at Vasco da Gama University School (EUVG) in Coimbra, the oldest and most important academic city in Portugal. He made postgraduate studies in areas of soft tissue surgery, orthopaedics, intensive therapy and anaesthesia. He also accomplished a lot of externships at European Universities and private practices in several countries. He got his PhD in Veterinary Sciences at University of Porto, in the area of biomaterials and cell therapies for bone regeneration. His research on the use of dental pulp stem cells to bone regeneration in dogs served to develop new therapy, which he is using in his private clinic, Veterinary Surgical Center Assafarge. He has been also the teacher of theoretical and practical anatomy at EUVG since 2014. He is the member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Portuguese Association of Expert Veterinary Surgeons in Company Animals and British Small Animal Veterinary Association. In an interview with Vet Trends, he shares his insights into the work of a veterinarian in Portugal, his thoughts on the future of veterinary orthopaedics and the need of sharing the clinical knowledge.
You travel a lot and have the opportunity to see how work in veterinary medicine looks like in other countries. Which countries did you visit in means of work or accomplishing professional training?
After finishing my master’s degree, I had a chance to take a closer look at work in the veterinary profession in a few countries, among others Spain, Italy, Holland, UK and recently Poland. This allowed me to realize that there are different ways of working and that the quality of life of other societies influences our way of working. In my opinion, this does not mean that in some countries people are smarter or more capable people than in others. Actually, it seems to me that vets, wherever they are, can be limited depending on the level of quality of life in a society. In each country I found incredible colleagues with whom I learned so much in such a short time. Practicing with vets from other cultures is one of my favorite things.
Have you noticed any particular distinctions between these countries? What in your opinion differs them from Portugal in means of work in the veterinary field?
In my opinion, there are a few countries that are more developed in the field of veterinary medicine comparing to Portugal. They have a higher capability of treating animals and higher quality of medical care, which is of course strictly connected to more money spent on veterinary services. This can be particularly seen in the UK and Germany. The minimum salary and quality of life are higher in these countries and people have the ability to pay more for pet health and welfare. In the UK and Germany the veterinary insurance also function, conditioning the amount of money owners can spend. This is something that does not exist in Portugal. Some clinics are trying to introduce private insurances, but they only lower the price of the services in their practices.
Do you notice any other substantial problem for veterinary medicine in Portugal?
During my training in the UK, I realized that they are much more organized. Veterinary doctors and nurses have more qualifications, they know their tasks and cooperate during every day work. Commonly, more nurses less doctors. They also have CPD (Continuing Professional Development), an educational platform tailor-made to help all veterinary professionals evaluate their knowledge and complete their mandatory CPD requirements. In Portugal, we have too many vets and not enough nurses, which makes this kind of work model impossible. We should have much more veterinary nurses.
Another problem I see is that vets in Portugal are not accustomed to referring difficult cases to specialists. This is something that works very well in the UK, Germany, and in a measure also in Spain. In my opinion, if there is a specialist, not even exactly entitled as a specialist, but experienced in one particular field of medicine, complex cases should be referred to that person to ensure better treatment of an animal. It also teaches owners that vets should have more focused opinions. For sure in veterinary medicine in Portugal, the level of methodology and organization could be much better.
Nevertheless, do you like to work in your home country?
Yes, I really like to be a vet in Portugal, however, sometimes I just need to work in another place. It allows me to develop my skills and gives me new ideas about doing surgical procedures. I think it is beneficial to "go outside of the box" and realize that there are a lot of other colleagues working hard in the same fields from whom we can learn and whom sometimes we can teach. In 2013 I became a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the UK, which allowed me to work also in this country. I usually make locum, a kind of staff replacement. It's good to learn and make money.
What’s your favorite field in veterinary medicine and why?
Surgery. Definitively. Since I finished my degree I started doing surgery under the eye of very good teachers. In the hospital that I have worked at, a lot of surgeries were undertaken and it was a great opportunity to learn. I realized then that I wanted to do that for a living. But I have to confess that my favorite field is orthopedic surgery. It is very visual and rewarding to see how animals come to recover from bone fractures and joints diseases.
What in your opinion is the future of veterinary orthopaedics?
I think that the future is in using 3D printer for reconstructions, as well as in using biomaterials like scaffolds for bone tissue engineering and cell-based therapies (in particular use of mesenchymal stromal cells).
Are you using some of these “future therapies” in your practice?
Yes, I use dental pulp stem cells from dogs in combination with Bonelike®, a bone graft hydroxyapatite, to provide better bone regeneration. Actually, I did this in my PhD research, but in the ovine model.
Were you the first to use this kind of therapy in veterinary medicine?
We are never alone when we do some kind of research. While we are doing one thing, on the other side of the world someone can try to solve the same research problem. For that reason, I don’t know if I was the first one. There is a lot of vets already using mesenchymal cells to the bone regeneration, but I suppose I am the first one to use dental pulp stem cells extracted from dogs, to be used on dogs. I choose them because they are more similar and compatible to the bone tissue. I wish that in a couple of months more colleagues will be using our cells in their cases. I belong to a fantastic research team in University of Porto. You are invited to meet us if you want.
You link practice with scientific work. Why did you choose to do it and how do you manage it?
The main reason why I linked research with practice is that in my opinion, we should use the techniques that are near the state of art. I think it is very useful to be a researcher with the skills of the practice. For thus fact I feel more contextualized in scientific work. I was needed in a research group because I am a surgeon with practical skills, and in the clinical work I needed to be more theoretical. First of all, I am a veterinary surgeon and secondarily I am a researcher with surgical skills that are really useful for lab researchers.
Do you see the meaning of basic science, which sense is more and more often call into question, in veterinary research and practice?
I think that bases are very important in the field of veterinary medicine. It is interesting to sometimes find answers to very serious and concerning questions in basic sciences. So in my opinion research in basic science can be very helpful.
What are your plans for the future? Do you want to focus on research or practical work?
Practical work. I think I am much more useful to the research if I continue to work in practice. But I would also like to carry on cooperation with researchers on the subjects concerning surgery of small animals. I'm currently doing a clinical trial about the use of stem cell on the bone and skin.
During my externship in your clinic, I have noticed that you are very open to cooperation not only with researchers but a lot of kinds of people. A lot of vets ask you for opinions and advice, some of them want to see how you perform particular surgical procedures. Are you not scared of the competition?
No, I am not afraid. I think knowledge should be shared. I live in a city that has a motto “knowledge makes sense only when shared with others”. Above all, my daily competition is with myself.
You also share a lot of interesting cases on Instagram and Facebook. Do you think that social media are needed to share how work in veterinary medicine looks like?
I think that we live in the XXI century and social network should be used also in our field, but of course with moderation and common sense. I think that this is a good way to promote, not the person, not the vet, but the whole profession of veterinary medicine. Social media can also help to educate clients for better responses and being more conscious owners. That's why I like to publish my work.
The interview conducted Martyna Frątczak, 5th year veterinary medicine student from Poznan University of Life Sciences.