Spring 2012                                                                 Issue 7 

News from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges


At the recent 2012 Annual Conference of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), veterinarians, veterinary medical educators and representatives of the veterinary industry focused on some of the financial challenges facing the profession and proposed solutions.

Despite serious setbacks in recent years, such as deep state cuts to higher education, the overall take-away from the conference was that veterinary medical education is responding in thoughtful, focused, and meaningful ways.  In addition, "For students who really want to become veterinarians, there are options that can enable them to achieve their goals and thrive," said veterinarian Jim Lloyd, professor, economist, and associate dean for budget, planning, and institutional research at Michigan State University

Learn about what transpired at the conference and more in this spring edition of News from the AAVMC.
Economic Issues in the Spotlight at Conference
A tote bag spotted at the conference.

Among the financial issues discussed at the AAVMC's recent annual conference were a decline in the number of pet visits despite an increase in the number of pets and higher student debt loads as the result of state budget cuts and rising tuition (consistent with what is happening across higher education).

To help address some of the financial challenges, veterinary      medical education and the veterinary industry have jointly launched the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare (PPPH) to encourage more veterinary visits and to introduce curricular changes that place more of an emphasis on preventive healthcare."There is an alarming increase in the incidence of preventable diseases that appears directly related to a decrease in veterinary visits and, as a result, the health of our nation's pets is at risk," said Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA.  "We applaud the AAVMC for joining with us in this effort because the veterinary medical profession and education share a vital connection."

The AAVMC is also working to implement The Roadmap for Veterinary Medical Education in the 21st Century: Responsive, Collaborative, Flexible, a report developed by the North American Veterinary Medical Consortium (NAVMEC) that recommends economic strategies, such as resource sharing and consolidation of efforts through the development of veterinary Centers of Excellence for CVMs and more financial counseling and business education for students.

Student debt continues to be a problem for graduating veterinarians, as it is across all the health professions, but veterinarian, professor and economist Jim Lloyd from Michigan State University, reported that, except for a dip in 2011, the salaries of new graduates and veterinarians as a whole have been rising faster than the rate of inflation. He also outlined an array of new loan repayment and forgiveness options, such as debt consolidation, income-based repayment plans, the Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program, state-sponsored programs, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

See the AAVMC's summary of some options that students have for financing their educations here.

Conference Highlights the Changing Dynamics of Food Supply Veterinary Medicine

At the recent conference, representatives of the food animal production industry discussed the rapidly changing nature of animal agriculture and how veterinary medical education and veterinary practice can respond.

Worldwide, experts expect that a great demand for agriculture and animal protein will expand the market for U.S.-produced food, increasing the need for the veterinary medical supervision and expertise. For example, China is about equal to or slightly smaller than the U.S. in size, but 70 percent of China's land mass is mountains, plateaus, and hills, much of which is not conducive to agriculture or livestock.  With 1.34 billion people versus 313 million in the U.S., China is expected to experience a huge demand for food to feed its burgeoning population, as will other areas of the globe.

Experts described a strong global demand for food combined with the changing dynamic in the U.S. of the consolidation of the livestock and poultry industries and the regionalization of the swine, poultry, and dairy industries.  In the U.S., the swine industry is primarily located in the upper Midwest and in North Carolina; the poultry industry is primarily located in southeastern part of the country. In contrast, the dairy industry is migrating west, focusing in the upper Midwest, California, Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico, and the Texas panhandle.

In each commodity, the number of farms is decreasing but the size of operations is increasing, reducing the number of veterinarians required to serve on a day-to-day basis. Instead, these industries are hiring veterinarians as consultants for specialized services related to education and management to minimize diseases, address food safety and animal welfare concerns, and become more involved in managing the impact of these operations on the environment. "Rural veterinary practitioners will need to respond to this changing dynamic by offering a diversity of services, including those that address the health of all species as well as the community's public health and environmental management needs," said veterinarian Bennie Osburn, interim executive director of the AAVMC.

"The Animal Health Industry is at a crossroads," said Rick Sibbel, the director of technical services for U.S. cattle at Merck Animal Health. "Most of my company's recent hires in the cattle and swine businesses have been veterinarians and I expect that trend to continue."

Valerie Ragan, a veterinarian and director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, said that she sees "opportunities in areas where few or no veterinarians were working five years ago."  She said that public practice is "an expanding area in veterinary medicine" and she specifically named opportunities that are emerging in disease surveillance, risk assessment/modeling, and emergency preparedness and response. 

Veterinary Medical Education in the News
To sign up for this ebulletin, please contact jjohnson@aavmc.org
In This Issue
Economic Issues Take Center Stage
Food Supply Veterinary Medicine: At the Crossroads
Veterinary Medical Education in the News
NIH Specifies DVM Eligibility
Stakeholders Converge on Congress, Communicate Legislative Agenda

NIH Specifies Veterinarians as Eligible for Student Loan Repayment

In a new development, veterinarians are now listed under the general eligibility requirements for student loan repayment programs administered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the NIH website, found here.
The site states that to qualify for loan repayment, "you must have a health professional doctoral degree (M.D., Psy.D., Pharm. D., D.O., D.D.S., D.M.D., D.P.M, D.C., N.D., D.V.M., or equivalent doctoral degree) from an accredited institution..."

The specific inclusion of DVMs  resulted from meetings with NIH representatives, arranged by the AAVMC's governmental affairs firm of Cavarocchi, Ruscio, Dennis (CRD) Associates, LLC.

"This is a breakthrough," said Brian T. Smith, the AAVMC's governmental affairs director.  "AAVMC has consistently maintained that veterinarians have always met the general eligibility requirements and we appreciate that NIH publicly recognizes this fact on its website.  This also aligns with our mission, as outlined in the NAVMEC report, to stress One Health and how veterinarians are important members of our nation's healthcare team. However, veterinarians are still excluded from participation in the clinical loan repayment program. There has been progress, but much work remains to be done."

AAVMC will continue to work with CRD Associates to expand the inclusion of veterinarians to clinical NIH loan repayment programs, which under current guidelines, require the participation of human patients.

Record Number of Congressional Visits Helps Convey the AAVMC's Legislative Agenda 


Scot brown visit Dean Kochevar and other Tufts representatives in the office of Sen. Scott Brown during the AAVMC's congressional visits.  


"My daughter wants to be a veterinarian," Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) told Deborah Kochevar, dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, during the AAVMC's recent congressional visits.  "She's like the Pied Piper.  All kinds of animals follow her everywhere -- you know the type."


"Yes, I do," Kochevar replied, "I meet about 100 of them every year."


Brown, an avid dog lover, also brought out his two, trusty pet dogs to meet the dean.


"It gave me an opportunity to let him know that, in addition to caring for companion animals, veterinarians do many other things," Kochevar said.


This year, there were over 160 congressional visits, a record number for the AAVMC. The deans advocated for two key initiatives that involve loan repayment programs for graduates: one geared toward those opting for food animal practice in rural areas and another focused on veterinarians who go to work in public health.  



JVME Spring Issue Now Available Online  

Highlights of articles in the Spring issue of JVME online  include commentaries on veterinary medical education in transition, the high risk of suicide among veterinarians and students, employer satisfaction with the skills of recent veterinary graduates, and other pivotal papers on veterinary medical education.

If you do not already receive the e-mail alert notifying you of when a new issue of JVME is posted online, please go to the JVME website, register or log-in, and select Sign up for TOC Alerts.
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July 27-28: The AAVMC's Veterinary Educator Collaborative, Colorado State University

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