Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Due to Shortages, Veterinary Students Get a Free Ride

(ARA) – First, the bad news: there is a growing shortage of veterinarians, particularly in the fields of public health and food safety. The good news: as a result, young veterinarians can get expensive school loans comped.

It’s long been acknowledged that there is a shortage of food animal veterinarians in rural areas. Now, a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that there are also shortages of veterinarians who are employed by the federal government. The Food Safety and Inspection Services, which is responsible for inspecting all meats we eat or export, has a 15 percent shortage. A GAO report says "a lack of veterinarians has impaired the agency’s ability to meet its food safety responsibilities." Furthermore, the Agricultural Research Service, which conducts research on diseases such as avian influenza, has a 12 percent veterinary shortage.

"The shortage of food safety and public health veterinarians has become a national crisis and it’s really put food safety in America in jeopardy," explains Dr. James Cook, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. "The good news is that many states, the federal government, and even the AVMA have begun college-loan repayment programs to entice young veterinarians into this field. So if you’re interested in working with farm animals or in public health, this could be a very good time to go to veterinary school."

The federal government has $4.8 million available in funding for its school loan repayment program, called the National Veterinary Medical Services Act, also known as NVMSA, which should start offering loan repayments this fall.

"The grants will be spread over a number of years," explains Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, head of the Washington, DC offices of the AVMA. "The finer points of NVMSA haven’t been determined yet, but it is our hope that veterinarians could earn as much as $25,000 a year for the first two years and then $35,000 for the third and fourth years if they agree to serve an underserved area like rural food supply veterinary medicine."

Dr. Jennifer McKee, a young veterinarian working on farms around Hendersonville, N.C., says that she’s witnessed the shortage firsthand. In her area some farmers have had to kill livestock that may have been saved because of the scarcity of veterinarians.

"I’ve had to drive up to two hours one way to serve a client because of the shortage," she explains. She believes that NVMSA is needed and plans on applying when it starts.

"It’s what I love to do, to work with large animals, but my veterinary school loans are over $140,000," McKee says. "This would really help support me while I continue to work in an area that I love."

Many states, including Ohio, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Washington, Wyoming and Kansas, have created state school loan repayment incentives for young veterinarians, and more are being passed by state legislatures every year.

Garrett Stewart, a second year veterinary student at Kansas State University veterinary school, is currently enrolled in Kansas’ incentive program, which offers students $20,000 a year for each year they practice in an area of need in the state

Stewart said the program should help fight a serious “brain drain” in Kansas. Last year, only 13 KSU veterinary school graduates out of a class of 118 stayed in Kansas.

“There is a pretty good chance that I would have left Kansas without the help I received from this program,” says Stewart, who grew up on a ranch in Washington, Kan. “This will help me to stay in Kansas and work with large animal medicine, which is what I love.”

There are also generous, privately funded incentive programs that are being developed for veterinary students. The AVMA and its charitable arm, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, are currently developing an ambitious plan to offer their own veterinary school loan repayment program offering $20,000 to $30,000 a year over four years to young veterinarians willing to practice in rural areas.

"We are seeing a serious shortage in the number of new graduates going into food animal practice, particularly into rural areas. This program is intended to identify up to 50 new graduates a year and make it more economically feasible for them to go into rural agricultural practice," explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. "It is an exciting program, and we have been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve received from our corporate sponsors."

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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1 comment:

John said...

When checking out a vet school, this looks like an awesome place to begin your academic program! The True Blue Campus at St. Georges University.