Veterinary medicine consists of virtually the same medical specialties as human medicine, with veterinarians performing similar roles as medical doctors, albeit with different species. Despite these similarities, anecdotally, some perceptions of veterinarians as not “real doctors” persist. The purpose of this study was to explore and compare public perceptions of physicians and veterinarians. Participants were provided brief definitions of a physician and a veterinarian and then asked to provide a rating that best describes their perception with respect to 25 different personality characteristics/traits. A sample of 606 participants (unweighted) in the United States completed the survey. The results of this research show that the public tends to perceive veterinarians more favorably than physicians. More specifically, veterinarians were viewed as more approachable, sensitive, sympathetic, patient and understanding, while physicians were viewed as more proud, arrogant and overconfident. These results point to the favorable public perceptions of veterinarians. These findings are particularly relevant for veterinary educators who train the future workforce and have a significant role both in how the profession is portrayed and emphasizing the relationship between the public trust and social responsibility. Reinforcing the public’s strong trust in the veterinary profession throughout students’ education could enhance their own self-concept, self-esteem and overall mental health and well-being.
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