WASHINGTON, March 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Veterinarians, veterinary medical educators, and veterinary industry representatives often turned their attention to economic issues this past weekend at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), which was preceded by the second economic summit between the AAVMC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), an association of professional veterinarians.
At the conference, held in Alexandria, Virginia, the group looked at current economic challenges to the veterinary profession and veterinary education, such as a decline in the number of pet visits despite an increase in the number of pets, higher student debt loads of graduating veterinary medical students as the result of state budget cuts and rising tuitions, and salary and employment trends.
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. Some schools have also increased their emphasis on teaching preventive medicine. "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 a collaborative plan for the future of veterinary medical education, called The Roadmap for Veterinary Medical Education in the 21st Century: Responsive, Collaborative, Flexible. That report 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.
Another segment of the conference focused on the growing food supply veterinary medicine industry and employment opportunities for veterinarians that go beyond the scope of small animal companion medicine, such as those in food safety and security, animal health and welfare, public health, epidemiology, and research. "The Animal Health Industry is at a crossroads," said Rick Sibbel, the director of technical services for U.S. cattle for 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.
Student debt continues to be a problem for graduating veterinarians, but Jim Lloyd, a veterinarian, professor, and associate dean for budget, planning, and institutional research at 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.
"For students who really want to become veterinarians, there are options that can enable them to achieve their goals and thrive," said Lloyd.
The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Its members include all 33 veterinary medical colleges in the United States and Canada, nine departments of veterinary science, eight departments of comparative medicine, 12 international colleges of veterinary medicine, and three affiliate members. On the Web: http://www.aavmc.org
SOURCE Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges