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America Faces Critical Shortage of Veterinarians

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Sept. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- America has a growing shortage of veterinarians. It's become a career with almost no unemployment, because there aren't enough veterinarians to fill available jobs.

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

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

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

Dr. Lutschaunig says that he hopes the Veterinary Public Health Workforce Expansion Act (VPHWEA) is approved by Congress. VPHWEA would create a competitive grant program to fund large expansion projects at U.S. veterinary schools.

"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 in July, includes the Veterinary Medicine Competitive Grant Program. This program would offer small grants -- up to $500,000 -- for improvements at veterinary schools.

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

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association
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