C. Diederich1, B. Bihin2, F. Tilquin3, J. Coppine3, E. Depiereux2, J.Y. Matroule3

1University of Namur (IVRU: Integrated Veterinary Research Unit) (BELGIUM)
2University of Namur (UMDB: Unit of Methodology and Didactics of Biology) (BELGIUM)
3University of Namur (URBM: Research Unit in Biology of Microorganims) (BELGIUM)
Students joining the Veterinary programme at the University of Namur (Belgium) are 18 years old and they do love animals. Yet, they are not really aware of their future job's scope that stands at the crossroads of Human Medicine, Biology, Ecology, Agronomy, Psychology and Pharmacy. Most of the time, they do not consider how broad and diversified the vet training and job can be. For instance, if Animal Behaviour’s course (during 1y-Bachelor degree - Bac1) gains their utmost interest, Genetics (Bac2) and Statistics (Bac3) theoretical and practical courses generate far less enthusiasm.
Therefore, the Professors in charge of the above 3 courses have decided to integrate their practical courses in the following original protocol: in October 2013, each Bac1 student (n=178) collected from one Belgian Malinois companion dog buccal epithelial cells together with its behavioural assessment filled online by the owner; in November 2013, Bac2 students (n=68) processed all the buccal samples and carried out the genotyping of the Dopamine transporter’s canine gene (according to Lit et al, 2013(*)); in December 2013, Bac3 students (n=59) determined the potential significant effect of the genotype on the dog behaviour from a final data set of 171 dogs. In May 2014, a debriefing was performed by the 3 Professors to all the students. In June 2014, individual results were made available online for the dog owners(**) and all those 305 students were surveyed about their perception of this new approach.
Globally, the students were enthusiastic (85% of them agreed, [81-89%]1), and would recommend this approach to other students (75% [70-80%]). They thought that it represented an applied illustration of the theory (71% [66-76%]) and that each exercise was related to the theoretical content of its respective lecture (85% [81-89%]). The collaboration of all the students (Bac1-2-3) around one single goal, and the use of state-of-the-art technology were rewarding, respectively for 76% [71-81%] and 86% [82-90%] of them. The final debriefing was considered necessary for a complete understanding of the protocol, especially for the Bac1 students (72% [68-81%]) and Bac2 students (68% [57-80%]) and maybe less for Bac3 students (60% [48-73%]). Moreover, the online access to the individual results was viewed as a necessity for 86% of the students [82-90%]. However, only 50% [44-56%] agreed with the idea that this protocol helped them to connect the 3 courses to each other. They were just a few more to think that it succeeded at stimulating their interest about the mechanisms of the research (58% [52-64%]). Bac 1 students thought that this protocol incited them to formulate their own questions of research (62% [55-69%]), while Bac 2 (50% [38-62%]) and Bac 3 students (33% [21-46%]) were less convinced.
In conclusion, our new approach of trans-generational and multidisciplinary practical courses was globally successful at stimulating the Bachelor Veterinary students’ interest, especially in less appreciated matters such as Genetics and Statistics. These positive results drive the authors to reiterate the protocol next year, with another behavioural question and new genetic targets.

(*)Lit L., Belanger J.M., Boehm D., Lybarger N., Haverbeke A., Diederich C., Oberbauer A.M., 2013. Characterization of a Dopamine transporter polymorphism and behavior in Belgian Malinois. BMC Genetics 14:45
(1) 95 % confidence interval