WASHINGTON, March 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In what is characteristically the largest one-day visit by academic veterinary leaders on Capitol Hill, the deans and department chairs of our nation's colleges of veterinary medicine (CVMs) and comparative medicine are planning to meet with congressional representatives and staff on Thursday, March 8, to raise awareness about the need to support veterinary medical education. As in previous years, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) expects to coordinate more than 120 congressional visits to coincide with the kick-off of the 2012 AAVMC Annual Conference in Alexandria, Virginia.
"Considering recent cuts in public support to CVMs, this year's Capitol Hill visit is particularly needed," said Dr. Bennie Osburn, the AAVMC's interim executive director. In recent years, CVMs have been hit by $140 million in state cuts, contributing to rising tuitions. The trend is consistent across higher education, but it strikes veterinary medical education particularly hard because many CVMs are state-supported and lack the federal support that often underpins other, exclusively human health professions, Osburn said. In addition, many CVMs were originally established through passage of the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Act, which stressed "agriculture and mechanic arts," with most financial support coming from state departments of agriculture. "As veterinary medicine's role has expanded, our educational funding sources have remained stagnant or — in the case of state support —undergone radical reductions," said Osburn. "We need to educate our leaders and the public about the important role that veterinarians play as part of our nation's health care team and the urgent need to maintain the quality of veterinary medical education."
Veterinarians are perhaps best known for providing companion animal health care and nurturing the human-animal bond, but they are also involved in disease detection and containment, protecting our nation's food supply, and other issues at the intersection of animal, human, and ecosystem health, Osburn said.
The academic veterinary leaders will visit congressional offices from their home states and advocate for the AAVMC's legislative agenda, which includes:
- Support for programs that fund animal health research through the United States Department of Agriculture, which are addressed through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and the Animal Health and Disease Research Formula Fund.
- HR 525, the Veterinary Public Health Amendment Act, which clarifies the inclusion of veterinarians under programs authorized by the Public Health Service Act, making them eligible for a public health loan repayment program as well as institutional grants to increase the number of veterinarians in the public health workforce.
- The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), which provides financial incentives for veterinarians to work in rural areas where there is a need for veterinarians to look after the health of livestock and poultry and protect our nation's food supply.
"Veterinary medical education is in transition as society's need for our services increases and our focus expands, even in an economically challenging time of limited resources," said Dr. Osburn. "It's our conviction that, if we can educate our nation's leaders about the important and vital work that veterinarians perform, they will recognize veterinary medicine's inherent value and make its support a priority. It's important for us to develop, nurture, and support the veterinarians of the future because, in many ways, the health and safety of our nation depend upon it."
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