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Veterinary Void Finds a Voice

by 5m Editor
10 April 2008, at 12:52pm

US - When Dr. Brad Leuwerke graduated from Iowa State University veterinary school in the summer of 2006, he was pleased to learn that he was a hot commodity.

"At the time I was looking for a position, there were six to seven practices that were actively looking to hire, of which there were three offers I was seriously considering," he explains.


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"It's a crisis for food supply veterinarians."
Dr. George Saperstein, chairman of Department of Environmental and Population Health at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

Dr. Leuwerke is a food supply veterinarian who works in St. Peter, Minn., and, as such, he is in high demand. Veterinary medicine has recently been recognized as one of America's most recession-proof careers, and part of the reason is a severe shortage of food supply veterinarians.

In an effort to get the word out about this shortage, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently launched a Web page at http://www.avma.org/fsvm/default.asp informing the general public that this shortage exists ... and it's a threat to food safety.

The AVMA Web page includes maps of the U.S. and of each state, highlighting each county where food supply veterinarians are lacking. Many areas with large populations of livestock don't have a single veterinarian practicing there.

"It's been a trend that we've been seeing for years now. Particularly swine and dairy practices are having troubling attracting new graduates," says Dr. George Saperstein, chairman of Department of Environmental and Population Health at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. "It's a crisis for food supply veterinarians. Food supply practices are realizing that they need to make the profession more attractive to new graduates."

This crisis has drawn the attention of lawmakers on the state and federal levels. A federal program passed in 2003 -- the National Veterinary Medical Services Act - will offer school loan repayment for veterinarians who practice in rural areas. Unfortunately this program remains unfunded.

Many states have adopted similar programs. North Dakota recently approved a state program that will offer new graduates $80,000, over three years, to work in food supply veterinary medicine in that state, and Missouri, Wyoming, Kansas, Ohio, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and Washington have all created similar incentive programs for food supply veterinarians.

Today, only 17 percent of veterinarians are food supply veterinarians, and this shortage is expected to grow. More information on this shortage, including a half-hour DVD on veterinary careers, is online.

5m Editor