Veterinary colleges cut back after seeing less income
The recession's impact on veterinary schools and colleges has resulted in mothballed teaching positions, delayed building projects and equipment purchases, and smaller endowments.
State funding accounts for 10 percent to 40 percent of veterinary colleges' budgets. The percentage has steadily decreased over the past decade, according to Dr. H. Michael Chaddock, deputy executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. This decrease, he said, has forced veterinary colleges to rely more on tuition, teaching hospital fees, private donations, grants, and research funding from the private sector. He says this has also caused institutions to be run increasingly like businesses, causing deans to operate more as CEOs as they spend more time on economic issues, fundraising, and development.
Most veterinary colleges were looking at funding cuts just shy of double digits by the state during the legislative process this past spring. Some veterinary college officials have had to deal with cuts by neighboring states as well. At Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dean Bryan K. Slinker said there might be fewer students from Arizona and Montana because they're not certain how many students these states can sponsor.
For current veterinary students, less funding for scholarships may have the greatest impact of all the cutbacks. Often these students are reliant on endowments and private donations, Dr. Chaddock said, so if money isn't coming in from donors or investment income is down, that can spell trouble.
Even reaching out to alumni may be harder, as the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has learned. To supplement its income, the school has focused on connecting with alumni and friends, but Dean Bennie I. Osburn said most of the foundations the school has gone to have said revenues are down, and that they won't have money this year to give.
The biggest setback for UC-Davis, according to Dr. Osburn, is the delay in construction of a $92 million building that would house research and basic sciences activities for the school. The project was scheduled to move forward with leased revenue bonds, but the state cannot pay them anymore.
On the other hand, if money has been raised specifically for a building, the project will often still go forward, Dr. Chaddock said. That's why some colleges are going forward with large-scale infrastructure projects, despite having to make cuts elsewhere.
Teaching hospitals across the U.S. have been affected by the economic downturn as well. Veterinary college officials report flat or declining revenues as a result of fewer patients, particularly patients that need more expensive care.
Deans are trying to be more creative in developing alternative revenue sources. Many hope to grow their class sizes or form lucrative collaborations and partnerships with other countries and organizations. Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, for example, plans to improve its primary care and teaching activities by partnering with the local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Students would perform spays, neuters, and other primary care procedures, thereby lowering costs for the college.
Dean Michael I. Kotlikoff of Cornell said partnerships are ways in which the college can provide its core missions while lowering teaching costs and performing as effectively as possible.
“The bottom line is veterinary education is extremely expensive, and the profession is becoming more complex and larger, and state funding is not keeping up,” Dr. Kotlikoff said. “In the future, it's only going to continue.”
New stem cell lab for horses opens at UC-Davis
A state-of-the art facility that will process, culture, and store stem cells to treat injuries in horses opened May 18 at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
The Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital will provide stem cell collection kits to private practitioners, according to a UC-Davis press release. That way, they can harvest stem cells from their equine patients and safely ship the cells to the UC-Davis laboratory for processing or storage. Processed stem cells then will be returned so that the veterinarians can treat their patients.
The new laboratory is supported by funding from the veterinary school and the Center for Equine Health. It is one of only four such university-based veterinary stem cell laboratories in the U.S. and Canada, according to the press release. Similar laboratories—those that provide research and stem cell therapy services for equine patients—are located at the veterinary colleges at Cornell University and Kansas State University and the University of Guelph in Canada.
The UC-Davis veterinary school's Center for Equine Health also is coordinating a five-year collaborative research study, now in its second year, on the use of stem cells in horses. Eleven veterinary researchers are working to develop methods for collecting, processing, storing, and administering stem cells to repair bone, tendon, and ligament injuries. The team's early findings indicate that stem cell treatments may reduce the recurrence of certain tendon and ligament injuries and lessen the progression of arthritis associated with traumatic joint diseases in horses.
This veterinary team, under the direction of professor and equine surgeon Dr. Larry D. Galuppo, also has established a working partnership with the UC-Davis Health System's Stem Cell Program in human medicine.
The Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the University of London Royal Veterinary College have similar research programs, but services are provided through independent companies.
Funding shortage forces closure of Fresno lab
Budget shortfalls caused the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System to close its Fresno location July 19.
The laboratory system, operated by the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine since 1987, provides diagnostic services for veterinarians and animal producers in California's agricultural heartland. Closure of the nearly 60-year-old Fresno laboratory will shift diagnostic testing to other facilities in the laboratory system, according to a May 18 UC-Davis press release.
Dean Bennie I. Osburn said reduced state funding combined with rising costs associated with managing a sophisticated laboratory system has left it struggling to maintain services. Those factors, compounded by the weak economy, have left the system with a projected funding deficit of more than $2 million in 2009–2010.
The system's reference laboratory is at UC-Davis and its branch laboratories are located in Turlock, Fresno, Tulare, and San Bernardino. The network of diagnostic laboratories receives approximately 80 percent of its funding from a contract with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The remainder comes from fee-for-service testing provided to veterinarians and agricultural producers.
The laboratory system has contacted area veterinarians and agricultural producers via e-mail, alerting them to the Fresno laboratory's impending closure and informing them of plans for continued diagnostic services.
AVMA delegates to consider revised random-source dog and cat policy
One of the four resolutions the AVMA House of Delegates will consider at its regular annual session in Seattle, July 9–10, is a revision of the AVMA policy “Use of Random-Source Dogs and Cats for Research, Testing, and Education.”
Submitted by the House Advisory Committee, Resolution 2 would, the authors claim, amend the policy to express AVMA opposition to the use of live animals procured from animal shelters or from dealers who obtain such animals from shelters.
The proposed revisions to the policy are as follows, with deleted text struck and added text underlined:
Use of Random-Source Dogs and Cats for Research, Testing, and Education
(EB 1983; revised 6/91, 4/00, 11/07)
While the use of animals
The carefully controlled use of random-source dogs and cats contributes greatly to improving the health and welfare of both animals and human beings Therefore, the AVMA believes there is ample justification for prudent and humane use of random-source dogs and cats in research, testing, and education, provided that: The institution conducting such research, testing, or education has met all legal requirements and guidelines pertaining to the acquisition, care, and use of dogs and cats for these purposes; The investigators have thoughtfully examined the need for such dogs and cats, appropriately justified the use of the species, and carefully determined the minimum number required to meet the needs of the protocol; Adequate safeguards are used to ensure that only appropriately screened dogs and cats are obtained legally; and Preventive measures are taken to optimize the health of dogs and cats used in research, testing, and education.
that no live dogs or cats shall be procured from an animal shelter, or a dealer who provides live animals from an animal shelter, for the purpose of such research, testing, and education (with the exception of dogs/cats which may be used by students in veterinary programs for harmless procedures).
Random-source animals can include dogs and cats obtained from shelters, breeders, individuals who offer their own pets, pet stores, and class B dealers, according to the statement about the resolution. Resolution 2 focuses only on live animals, and specifically, live animals originating from animal shelters.
The HAC explained in its statement about the proposal that the AVMA should not support a policy whereby animals that are abandoned, neglected, or lost are given over to a research or testing facility instead of a loving home or, when necessary, are euthanized.
The present AVMA policy on random-source use runs counter to the public's concept of an animal shelter and may impede the surrender of pets to such a facility, the HAC added.
In the resolution statement, the term “pound seizure” is described as being commonly used to denote pets originating from an animal shelter as the source for research or testing. It is illegal in 17 states and Washington, D.C.
Examples of the “harmless procedures” mentioned in the resolution are physical examinations, spaying and neutering, bandaging, ultrasonography, and radiology, the background states.
All four resolutions to be considered by the HOD and their accompanying statements are posted on the AVMA Web site at www.avma.org/about_avma/governance/hod/resolutions/2009_annual/default.asp.
Amendments affect HOD referrals, councils
Three issues addressed by the AVMA House of Delegates at its regular winter session this past January in Chicago are again on the slate for the regular annual session in Seattle. The HOD will act July 10 on nine proposed amendments to the AVMA Bylaws.
Six of the amendments propose procedures by which AVMA entities developing information on resolutions at the HOD's request would ensure that the information is provided back to the HOD. Another amendment would eliminate the Council on Communications. And another amendment would reduce the term of service on most councils. Earlier this year, delegates voted down similar or identical proposals at their regular winter session.
A new amendment proposes a deletion in the bylaw about disciplinary action/termination of AVMA membership, striking information on how a statement of charges must be delivered to a member.
To read the text of each amendment, go to www.avma.org, click on the green About the AVMA bar, then on House of Delegates 2009 Annual Session Agenda Items, and then Proposed Bylaws amendments.
Six veterinary technology programs become accredited
The AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities accredited six new veterinary technology programs at its April 24–26 meeting in Schaumburg, Ill.
The colleges include Piedmont Technical College, Newberry, S.C.; Brown Mackie College-Louisville, Ky.; Brown Mackie College-Michigan City, Mich.; Carver Career Center and the Community and Technical College at West Virginia University, Charleston; and Pima Medical Institute-Renton, Wash.
Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market also was accredited. It has veterinary technology programs at its member institutions of John A. Logan College, Carterville; Kaskaskia College, Centralia; Rend Lake College, Ina; Shawnee Community College, Ullin; Southeastern Illinois College, Harrisburg; Southern Illinois University-Carbondale; and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
All six veterinary technology programs were given provisional accreditation status at the CVTEA meeting. Provisional accreditation is granted to new programs in veterinary technology when students have not completed the entire curriculum or the program has not produced sufficient numbers of graduates to adequately assess outcomes. Programs may remain on provisional accreditation for up to five years. Graduates of a provisionally accredited program are considered graduates of an AVMA-accredited program.
The CVTEA has accredited 160 programs in total. Eighteen of those offer a four-year degree, and nine offer distance-learning opportunities. Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, and Rhode Island are the only states, along with the District of Columbia, that do not have AVMA-accredited veterinary technology programs.
Studies link occupational exposures to preterm delivery, birth defects
A recent study suggests that pregnant veterinarians have a higher risk for preterm delivery if they work long hours or perform surgery in the absence of a system for scavenging waste anesthetic gases. Another study indicates that occupational exposure to radiation or pesticides may increase the risk of birth defects.
The studies appeared in the May issues of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, respectively. They are part of a series of studies analyzing data from a survey of veterinarians who graduated from Australian schools between 1960 and 2000. Previous analysis of the data indicated that pregnant Australian veterinarians with occupational exposure to anesthetic gases, radiation, or pesticides may have twice the risk of miscarriage (see JAVMA, May 15, 2008, page 1445).
The study of preterm delivery found that the prevalence was 7.3 percent in pregnant veterinarians who had exposure to anesthetic gases, in comparison with 5.7 percent in the general population. Further analysis revealed a dose-response relationship. The risk of preterm delivery also was higher for pregnant veterinarians who worked more than 45 hours per week, in comparison with those who worked fewer hours.
The other study found an increase in the risk of birth defects among the children of female veterinarians who took more than 10 radiographs per week while pregnant. The risk of birth defects was also increased after occupational exposure to pesticides at least once a week in veterinarians working exclusively in small animal practice.
Feline health studies funded
Morris Animal Foundation announced in May that the organization's new Helping Shelters Help Cats program is funding three studies aimed at reducing stress in cats and increasing adoption rates.
Helping Shelters Help Cats is part of the foundation's Happy Healthy Cat Campaign to raise pet owner awareness of feline health issues and increase funding for health research and scientist training.
Study funding is made possible by an anonymous challenge gift through which the donor will match every dollar given to this program up to $500,000, for a potential total of $1 million.
Dr. Kate F. Hurley, director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California-Davis, will receive MAF funds to study factors that increase the risk of outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infections in shelters and to develop practical, cost-effective recommendations to improve shelter cat health and comfort.
An international team from the United States, Canada, and Australia is spearheading the second study. The researchers will analyze shelter conditions that cause emotional stress and develop effective behavioral interventions to minimize the spread of upper respiratory tract infections in cats.
The third study will be conducted at The Ohio State University by a team of veterinary scientists trying to identify ways to increase cat safety and comfort by altering their surroundings. Researchers will use the results of their study to create a training program for reducing stress in shelter cats through cage and environmental enhancements.
Study examining organic, conventional milk production
A four-year, $1 million study will examine the health and welfare of dairy cows at 200 organic farms and 100 conventional farms in New York, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
Dr. Pamela L. Ruegg, the lead researcher on the project and a professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Dairy Science, said the study will examine the effects of current U.S. standards related to organic milk production and the standards' impact on animal care, as well as identify preventive care practices that are successfully used on both types of farms.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding the study, which involves researchers from UW-Madison, Oregon State University, Cornell University, and the Organic Centre in Oregon.
Dr. Ruegg said the United States requires producers to permanently remove cows from organic milk production once they receive treatments not approved for animals used in organic production, while the European Union and Canada allow farmers to return cows to organic milk production after extended holding periods.
Researchers will examine the implications of those rules and the preventive medicine practices used by veterinarians and producers on organic and conventional farms. The research into farm practices will be used to develop an extension program that could help farmers on either system improve their programs, Dr. Ruegg said.
The first two years of the study will involve site visits and data collection, Dr. Ruegg said. The last two will involve developing an integrated extension program.