America Faces Critical Shortage of Veterinarians

Thursday, September 25, 2008 General News J E 4
SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Sept. 25 America has a growing shortageof veterinarians. It's become a career with almost no unemployment, becausethere aren't enough veterinarians to fill available jobs.

This shortage is starting to reach crisis levels in some areas, reportsthe American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). For example, dozens ofrural counties across the country lack large-animal veterinarians to treatlivestock and poultry-putting the country's food supply in jeopardy.

"The shortage of veterinarians is getting the attention of legislators onthe state and federal levels," explains Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, head of AVMAfederal advocacy. "Veterinary student loan repayment programs to attractveterinarians to practice in underserved areas have been passed by some statesand Congress, but many of these programs lack adequate funding. Furthermore,to comprehensively address the shortage of veterinarians, we really needprograms that will fund the expansion of our veterinary schools to educate thenext generation of veterinarians."

America hasn't expanded capacity at its 28 veterinary colleges in overthree decades. As a result, the number of veterinarians graduating everysummer -- roughly 2,500 -- also hasn't increased. The Bureau of LaborStatistics ranks veterinary medicine as the ninth fastest growing occupationfrom 2006-2016, estimating that careers in this field will expand by 35percent over the next several years. And a Kansas State University studyfound that shortages of agricultural veterinarians will intensify as demandfor veterinarians grows by about 12 percent while the supply shrinks by 4 to 5percent annually.

Dr. Lutschaunig says that he hopes the Veterinary Public Health WorkforceExpansion Act (VPHWEA) is approved by Congress. VPHWEA would create acompetitive grant program to fund large expansion projects at U.S. veterinaryschools.

"This year VPHWEA stalled in committee, and is unlikely to pass," Dr.Lutschaunig explains. "A similar version of it passed in the 2007 Farm Bill,but, unfortunately, it was removed in conference committee."

There is good news. The Higher Education Reauthorization Bill, passed inJuly, includes the Veterinary Medicine Competitive Grant Program. Thisprogram would offer small grants -- up to $500,000 -- for improvements atveterinary schools.

"We're pleased that this grant program passed, but unfortunately, becauseit only offers small grants, it will not increase capacity at veterinaryschools adequately to have an impact on the shortage of veterinarians," Dr.Lutschaunig explains.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association


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