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Pulling Together to lower the debt-to-income ratio

Summit highlights need for teamwork to right profession's financial course

Story and photos by Malinda Larkin

Educational debt is a national concern across professions, as it now exceeds $1.2 trillion—surpassing national credit card debt and auto loan debt combined. However, veterinary medicine has the highest debt-to-income ratio, at least among the various health professions, according to a 2013 article in the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2013;369:1973–1975). The article had veterinary medicine at just above 1.6:1, followed by optometry at 1.3:1 and pharmacy at 1.1:1. It cited slow rises in veterinary income as educational debt “exploded.”

To address this complex issue, the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit was held April 20–22 at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, co-hosted by the college, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and the AVMA.

Many good ideas came from the 180 summit attendees, who represented various facets of the profession. There's the potential for more widespread advocacy efforts over better terms for student loans (see page 1318). The ideas put forward for revamping veterinary schools may not be new, but perhaps their time has come (see page 1320). And there's an opportunity to improve financial literacy for applicants and veterinary students (see page 1322).

Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, said the AVMA and AAVMC were positioned to coordinate efforts going forward, in addition to continuing to raise awareness and promote action on strategies through their communication channels.

What the summit's deliverables hinge on now (see sidebar), at least according to Dr. Andrew Maccabe, executive director of the AAVMC, is accountability, transparency, and most important, action.

In fact, one of the commitments made by representatives of the various associations and organizations represented at the summit was “To include student debt as a regular follow-up agenda item at annual events such as the AVMA Economic Summit, AVMA Convention, and AAVMC Conference; the purpose of this would be to monitor progress on efforts to reduce the debt-to-income ratio and to hold each other accountable.”

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About 180 attended the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit, held April 20–22 at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and co-hosted by the college, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and the AVMA. This was the first summit that has been held in the past 20 years specifically on educational debt. Stakeholders were grouped into four segments and were asked to collaboratively develop conceptual solutions and define clear steps to reduce the burden on students and new veterinarians.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

Dr. Trevor Ames, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, said, “Probably the greatest value of these meetings is they promote greater understanding of the challenges each group faces, so we get beyond thinking that it's someone else's problem to solve. It's all of our problem to solve.”

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Rebecca Ober, a fourth-year veterinary student at Kansas State University, says high educational debt among veterinary students and recent graduates is always seen as someone else's problem.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

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Dr. Trevor Ames (in rear), dean of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine; Dr. Andrew Lovelady, associate professor at Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine (speaking); and Dr. Laura Nelson, associate professor at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, discuss ideas on how to lower the cost of veterinary education.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

Four goals for reducing the debt-to-income ratio

The collective goal over the three-day summit was to agree on specific strategies to address the many facets of this complex challenge, with the idea of focusing on the debt-to-income ratio as a way to measure progress. Among the 2015 graduates of the accredited U.S. veterinary colleges, the DIR was 2:1, meaning that, on average, educational debt was approximately twice the starting income.

Michael Dicks, PhD, the AVMA's chief economist, said he is going to be the “scorekeeper” of the DIR going forward. And he outlined four major goals that he calculates would reduce that number.

The first would be to eliminate the difference between debt students incur and the actual cost to attend, through better management of expenses, potentially resulting in $9 million in savings. The second goal would be to eliminate interest on loans during school through lobbying efforts, which would save $22 million, Dr. Dicks estimates. Third would be to grow starting salaries by 10 percent by improving practice profitability, allowing new graduates to earn more. This could mean another $22 million in reducing the DIR. And last would be to reduce educational costs by 10 percent through various approaches, which would mean a savings of $43 million. (Dr. Dicks details these goals in the 2016 AVMA & AAVMC Report on the Market for Veterinary Education; see page 1326).

Dr. Dicks said if all four goals were phased in between now and 2020, the DIR could drop to 1.62:1 by 2025. But, taking into account two potential recessions in coming years, a continuing increase in seats, and three more veterinary colleges opening, it's more likely the figure would be reduced to 1.72:1 by 2023. “No matter how hard we try, these four changes won't have the impact desired,” which is a DIR of 1.4:1 by 2025, he said. For that to happen, structural changes would be needed by 2020.

Dr. Ames called the DIR a “useful tool to start discussion and start changing behavior,” particularly a college's conversations with central administration during budget presentations and with the state legislature. For the past three years, he has asked Minnesota lawmakers to freeze tuition and was able to do this for two years and part of a third.

Dr. Tony Bartels of the Veterinary Information Network asked during the summit whether cutting tuition was feasible. Dr. Andrew Lovelady, associate professor of large animal ambulatory medicine at Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine, explained that veterinary colleges can't decide to cut tuition overnight.

“All those things come from the top. And not all tuition dollars are made available for use, so an increase or decrease in tuition doesn't exactly change money available to an institution,” he said.

Deja vu all over again

Reducing education costs. Managing debt load better. Helping new graduates become economic assets to the practice to offset costs and increase salary. Expanding professional opportunities.

These were some of the primary themes that came from the summit. They also happen to be the same solutions from the Managing Your Economic Future in Veterinary Medicine symposium, which took place April 13–14, 1996. Both meetings brought together stakeholders in the profession to address the economic future of veterinary students and recent graduates as well as that of the entire profession. At the meeting 20 years ago, however, the debt-to-income ratio for recent veterinary graduates stood at only 1.2:1.

Calling the predicament a “horrendous burden” affecting the lives of students and new graduates, then AVMA President Sherbyn W. Ostrich read what he called “a letter of despair” from a student with a debt load of greater than $100,000. “‘I do not believe older practitioners can fathom the debt younger veterinarians have,’” he read (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209:199–246). Today, roughly 16 percent of new veterinarians report debt from veterinary college in excess of $222,000, according to the 2016 AVMA & AAVMC Report on the Market for Veterinary Education.

Years from now, veterinarians looking back at the debt summit held at Michigan State will know whether the conceptual solutions were put into action and whether they were enough to make a difference.

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State of economic affairs for veterinary graduates, 1985–2015 (Sources: AAVMC Comparative Data reports, AVMA Senior Surveys, AVMA reports on debt management and also veterinary debt and income, and the 2016 AVMA & AAVMC Report on the Market for Veterinary Education)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

Action items from the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit

Four groups of stakeholders attended the summit: veterinary students and recent graduates, representatives from veterinary colleges, employers of veterinarians, and individuals from governmental agencies and veterinary associations. Each group was asked to collaboratively develop conceptual solutions and define clear steps to reduce the educational debt burden on students and new veterinarians.

More than 50 participants represented 30 of the 37 AVMA Council on Education–accredited veterinary colleges in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. They committed to the following:

  • To explore the possibility of implementing a five-to six-year combined preveterinary-veterinary degree program.

  • To encourage creation of national partnerships and campaigns to raise funds for scholarships.

  • To work with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and AVMA in advocating for legislation to help reduce student debt. 6 To document actual educational costs to create greater transparency in revenue lines for research versus education.

  • To explore and implement shared educational resources for clinical and preclinical courses.

Thirty-seven participants represented associations and organizations that support the profession, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, American Animal Hospital Association, National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, and state VMAs. They committed to the following:

  • To enhance awareness among students by delivering financial literacy materials and training.

  • To compile and standardize career-related student messaging and develop a career guidebook for use by preveterinary and high school counselors.

  • To increase advocacy efforts to address student debt.

  • To create a national campaign around student debt.

  • To include student debt as a regular follow-up agenda item at annual events such as the AVMA Economic Summit, AVMA Convention, and AAVMC Conference for the purpose of monitoring progress on efforts to reduce the debt-to-income ratio, keeping the topic active, and holding each other accountable.

About 50 veterinary students and recent graduates represented 16 veterinary colleges and more than 10 employers. They committed to the following:

  • To personally engage deans, their peers, and future students in conversations about financial literacy and student debt.

  • To inform preveterinary and high school students about the current student debt issue and discuss what is being done to address it.

  • To change the mindset of students and recent graduates to encourage them to think not just in terms of practice ownership but more broadly in terms of entrepreneurship.

  • To collectively draft a letter that each student and recent graduate who attended the summit would send to their respective deans and policymakers detailing specific action items.

Employers of veterinarians, including Banfield Pet Hospital, National Veterinary Associates, and The Humane Society of the United States, committed to the following:

  • To reconsider compensation packages for new graduates and associate veterinarians.

  • To improve the onboarding of new employees and create a toolkit for best practices.

  • To promote veterinary preventive care among staff within practices and in other areas of the profession, opening opportunities for recent graduates to earn more income.

  • To promote practice ownership as an attractive career.

Upcoming legislative activity to center on education

Lobbying efforts focused on improving terms, conditions for federal student loans

By Malinda Larkin

With 88 percent of veterinary students borrowing from federal student loan programs, according to the 2016 AVMA & AAVMC Report on the Market for Veterinary Education, even small changes in borrowing practices and regulations could have a dramatic impact on their collective debt.

And it just so happens that there is opportunity to advocate on this issue, as lawmakers are currently laying the groundwork for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in the 115th Congress, which begins in January 2017. A thorough review of the measure will give lawmakers a chance to revisit all of the major federal student aid programs that assist so many postsecondary students, including veterinary students, pay for college.

Already, more than a hundred bills have been introduced in the 114th Congress dealing with various aspects of federal student financial aid, including 34 pertaining to student loans and repayment programs and 10 dealing with education tax issues.

“The sheer volume of bills means lawmakers are engaged and many advocates are weighing in. It is imperative for veterinarians and veterinary students to remain engaged now and in the coming months,” wrote Gina Luke, an assistant director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division, in a backgrounder on the reauthorization.

The topic of advocacy came up frequently during the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit in late April at Michigan State University (see page 1314) as a way to help reduce the debt-to-income ratio for current and future veterinarians. Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, said he envisions launching a national campaign on veterinary student debt and promoting legislation aimed at fixing the problem. This would involve creating a coalition to promote better funding of veterinary colleges, with coalition organizations potentially including the Student AVMA, state VMAs, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and other related associations with representatives in Washington, D.C.

Already, the AVMA and other veterinary organizations are seeking changes to existing federal policy that would ease the burden of student loan debt held by veterinary students and improve the terms and conditions on federal student loans, including grace, forbearance, and default. The top priorities, according to the AVMA GRD, are as follows.

Abolish origination fees

Origination fees range from 1.073 to 4.292 percent and are deducted upfront from student loans before the funds are paid to the school. The AVMA believes students should not be charged a fee for financing their professional education through student loans. This is why the Association supports the Eliminating the Hidden Student Loan Tax Act (HR 1285), which would abolish origination fees.

Reinstate Stafford loan subsidy

The Federal Stafford Loan subsidy prevents interest from accruing on a loan while a student is in school and for six months after graduation. The federal government pays for the interest that accrues on subsidized loans. But the Budget Control Act of 2011 eliminated subsidies for graduate and professional students with financial needs. While veterinary students may borrow the same annual and aggregate loan amounts as before, the entire amount is now unsubsidized. To address this issue, AVMA supports the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act (HR 4223), which would restore the in-school subsidy.

Maintain borrowing limits

The annual loan cap for veterinary students borrowing federal student loans is $47,167; the aggregate limit for each health profession student is $234,000. Lowering these loan limits, as proposed by the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act (S 108), has the potential to force veterinary students into higher-cost private loans, according to Luke, which is why the AVMA does not support lower limits. The FAST Act would establish a single graduate and professional federal loan program by eliminating Grad PLUS and subsidized Stafford loans and would institute a $30,000 to $45,000 annual loan limit and a $150,000 aggregate loan limit for graduate and professional students. Those limits could be increased on an annual, case-by-case basis so long as the aggregate would be no greater than $225,000. For perspective, the real weighted mean educational debt of veterinarians who graduated in 2015 from U.S. veterinary colleges was $141,354.

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(From left) Dr. Ernest Godfrey, Florida delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates; Aaron Judson (Tuskegee ‘19); Denae Campanale (Florida ‘18); and Rep. David Jolly of Florida's 13th Congressional District talk about legislation related to educational debt during the AVMA Legislative Fly-in earlier this year. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

Lower student loan interest rates

Interest rates on new federal student loans are fixed for the life of the loan, with the rate determined when the loan is taken out. Interest rates are reset on July 1 each year, with the rate based on the current 10-year Treasury note rate plus a fixed margin, as follows:

  • • Direct subsidized loans (undergraduate): 10-year Treasury note plus 2.05 percentage points, not to exceed 8.25 percent.

  • • Direct unsubsidized loans (graduate or professional): 10-year Treasury note plus 3.6 percentage points, not to exceed 9.5 percent.

  • • Grad PLUS loans: 10-year Treasury note plus 4.6 percentage points, not to exceed 10.5 percent.

During the reauthorization, Luke said the AVMA will seek to lower interest rates for graduate and professional students by working to lower the fixed margin portion that helps determine the interest rates on federal loans.

The interest rates for new unsubsidized Stafford loans will drop from 5.84 percent for 2015–2016 to 5.31 percent for 2016–2017, and the interest rates for new Grad PLUS loans will drop from 6.84 to 6.31 percent.

Remove restrictions on refinancing

Removing restrictions on refinancing would allow borrowers with federal student loans to refinance anytime a lower interest rate were available. The AVMA supports the Student Loan Refinancing Act (HR 649), which would permit those with federal student loans to refinance, just as with a home mortgage or car loan, bringing down the long-term cost of a college degree.

Preserve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program provides an incentive for veterinarians to work in eligible public sector and government jobs at the federal, state, and local levels as well as in 501(c)3 organizations that promote public and animal health and ensure food safety. Federal student loans are forgiven after 10 years of full-time service in an eligible job. President Barack Obama has proposed capping the program at $57,500. Placing limits on the program and withholding taxes from forgiven loans would create insurmountable barriers for veterinarians to participate in the program, Luke said.

Facilitate enrollment in income-driven repayment plans

The AVMA is urging Congress to help borrowers manage their federal student loan debt by making it easier for them to enroll in income-driven repayment plans. Currently, borrowers must know about the plans, assess which plan is best for them, complete paperwork and income verification, and provide ongoing documentation of eligibility.

Veterinary colleges look within for debt-reduction strategies

Main ideas involve shortened preveterinary requirements, scholarships

By Malinda Larkin

Dr. John C. Baker says tuition increases at veterinary colleges are unsustainable. He should know. As dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, he estimates that if MSU's tuition and fees continue to increase annually at the current rate of 2 percent over the next 10 years, they would grow from $109,639 in 2015 to $140,329 in 2025 for residents and from $217,903 to $307,176 for out-of-state students.

“Here at Michigan State, we really feel the threat,” Dr. Baker said during the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit. It was held April 20–22 and hosted by the veterinary college in conjunction with the AVMA and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. In fact, the summit was Dr. Baker's brainchild. Shortly after he was named dean in 2014, Dr. Baker saw the need for large-scale collaboration to address the educational debt crisis. He predicts that if nothing changes, one or more schools could close, or the existing ones could have far fewer faculty and students.

Dr. Baker announced at the end of the summit his plans to reduce educational debt for veterinary students at Michigan State. They include continuing to work with the provost to reduce tuition or the rate of increase, revising the curriculum, and advocating for increased support from state organizations and government in coordination with MSU. Already this year, he has worked with the state legislature to try to get $1 million in new appropriations for the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health.

He has also requested money from the university to hire a career counselor who can help students diversify their career opportunities and successfully navigate the transition into practice. (The Ohio State University, University of California-Davis, and North Carolina State University already have such staff members, and Colorado State University's recently left, but the position will be refilled.)

Two other ideas that seemed to resonate most with summit attendees and that Dr. Baker will pursue at MSU were reducing preveterinary requirements so they can be completed in two years and increasing both the amount and availability of scholarships.

Preveterinary requirements

Representatives from veterinary colleges at the summit said reducing the time to complete preveterinary requirements—from four years to two—would reduce student debt, by decreasing total time in college, and decrease age at graduation, resulting in increased lifetime professional earnings. Plus, payments on undergraduate student loans would start after six years instead of eight, which would reduce the amount of interest earned on any unsubsidized student loans.

Some U.S. veterinary colleges do not require a bachelor's degree for admission. Take, for example, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, which awards a bachelor's in veterinary science at the end of the first year of the DVM-degree program for students who did not previously earn a bachelor's degree.

Other veterinary colleges would also need to reduce preveterinary requirements, among other changes, to impact the debt-to-income ratio. These veterinary programs would also need to work with local undergraduate institutions on refining the curricula, for example, and work together to streamline the prerequisites and potentially create common ones across institutions.

The issue of dissimilar prerequisites was raised as early as June 2000 at the national meeting of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions as a substantial challenge for applicants during the admissions cycle, especially given that the mean number of veterinary colleges to which candidates apply is almost four. The need for common prerequisites has also been cited in three major AAVMC initiatives: the 2006 AAVMC Foresight Project, the 2007 AAVMC National Recruitment Strategy Project, and the 2010 North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium.

In fact, one of the NAVMEC recommendations says: “A task force could be established and charged with developing common core requirements and recommend these to AAVMC as the core prerequisite requirements for veterinary colleges. Identifying these ‘core entry requirements’ would simplify admissions processes for students to most CVMs. This may also enable some students to consider an accelerated pre-veterinary program that they could complete in less than four years.”

Challenges associated with compressing prerequisites into two years, as outlined by educators at the summit, are that preveterinary advising needs to be excellent and that required courses must be scheduled such that students can complete them in sequence within two years at the undergraduate level. Concerns were also raised that completing concentrated, difficult course work in two years instead of four carries more risk, as fewer credits are calculated in the overall and prerequisite GPAs, and that students who were not admitted to veterinary college after those two years would not have an alternative degree to fall back on. Also, two years leaves less time for students to gain professional nonacademic experience, such as contact hours.

Regardless, Dr. Baker says MSU will work in coordination with the other five veterinary colleges at Big Ten universities to create two-year prerequisites, as courses transfer with ease among these universities. If that doesn't work, MSU will go it alone, he said.

Scholarships

Veterinary colleges often point out that they hand out $400,000 to $600,000 in scholarships each year, but when calculated per student, that often comes up well short of the amount needed to make a substantial impact on student debt.

The mean amount of scholarship money available per student was just $2,488 for 2014–2015, according to the AAVMC. And that's for the lucky ones. Just 46.5 percent of veterinary students received scholarships for that academic year. Veterinary colleges, most of which are based at land-grant institutions, don't have the amount of gift endowments private institutions do, but now, with the decrease in state and federal government funding, they are playing catch-up, Dr. Baker said.

From the summit came ideas for veterinary colleges to work through the AAVMC and AVMA to develop a national campaign to raise new money for veterinary student scholarships, develop metrics to measure success, and set an annual goal that includes reducing the debt-to-income ratio of new graduates. The idea is to leverage connections with alumni and pet owners to promote veterinary student scholarship contributions.

The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine is carrying out a targeted scholarship campaign right now.

Dr. Jim Lloyd, veterinary dean at Florida, said late last year that since 2014, the veterinary college has seen a 24 percent increase in the amount of scholarship money being awarded and an 11 percent decrease in mean student debt.

“Some of it is luck, some of it is emphasis on scholarships, and some of it is financial literacy,” he said.

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Dr. John C. Baker, dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says MSU will work in coordination with the other five veterinary colleges at Big Ten universities to compress prerequisites into two years. He has also told his development office that scholarships are the highest priority. (Courtesy of MSU CVM)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

Dr. Lloyd continued, “We need to think about how to raise scholarship dollars like we've never done before. We need to look at the profession first. Not that (veterinarians) aren't carrying the load, but we have the network, and there's enormous goodwill for the profession out there. Tell clients to donate to the scholarship fund at your alma maters. Once we understand the fundraising business better, it's a hill we can push rocks up without much difficulty. I think we're up to the challenge.”

Dr. Baker says he has told his development office that scholarships are the highest priority. He is also working on changing endowed scholarships to be less specific. “In the future, I want to see that they only require that a student is in good standing. As far as I'm concerned, they all have financial needs,” he said.

Leading by example

Many at the summit talked about mandating change at veterinary colleges through the accreditation process to impact educational debt. But Dr. Andrew Maccabe, executive director of the AAVMC, called it a blunt instrument that doesn't work fast. And further, neither the AAVMC nor any other single entity has the authority to force veterinary colleges to do anything.

A better and faster way to implement change is to track what each school is doing in terms of financial aid, financial literacy, tuition costs, and the like, and then widely publish that information, Dr. Maccabe said.

“We'll work with the high-performing veterinary colleges to demonstrate best practices and share those with the others so they can all improve,” Dr. Maccabe said. “Finding your school toward the bottom of a list can be a powerful motivation to institute change.”

Students press for personal finance education

AAVMC-commissioned document may help

Story and photos by Malinda Larkin

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Dr. Donna L. Harris is author of the Student Debt Initiative Report, commissioned by the AAVMC four years ago. She said the report could be used to evaluate programs already in place before other veterinary colleges create their own financial literacy programs.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

T. Will O'Neill says if he had known what he was getting into, he would not have gone to veterinary college. The fourth-year veterinary student at Michigan State University reports that he is better now at managing his expenses after receiving financial literacy education in his second year.

Still, when it comes to the true cost of veterinary education, “new veterinary students need to go in with open eyes,” O'Neill said. “The big thing is transparency, across the board. People are sick of being in the dark.”

The need for more and better information about how much students can expect to pay in total after graduation, how to finance educational debt, and how to earn more to pay that debt down faster (see page 1318) was frequently brought up by attendees of the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit as a way of helping reduce the debt-to-income ratio for new graduates entering the profession. In seems, however, that some resources are already available but haven't yet been well developed, well promoted, or fully used.

Data for applicants

Logically, a veterinary college's website is an important resource for potential applicants. But a recent search by JAVMA News of the financial aid and tuition sections shows that many lack useful, or even accurate, information.

Most veterinary colleges refer to the university's financial aid pages, but often these are geared toward undergraduates, particularly the net price calculators.

A handful of the veterinary colleges’ sites had out-of-date tuition information or broken links. Among those with budget estimates, some left out costs such as transportation or the required purchase of a laptop.

Only one institution, Iowa State University, listed mean educational debt of its veterinary students; no veterinary college listed its graduates’ mean debt-to-income ratio. That said, during personal communication with applicants, many colleges did offer them sample budgets and tools for estimating their cost of living while enrolled.

Other tools include the Veterinary Information Network Foundation's Cost of Education Map, available at http://jav.ma/costofeducationmap, and Student Loan Repayment Simulator, available at http://jav.ma/repaymentsimulator. The former lists cumulative tuition costs and living expenses for four years. Plus, it compares veterinary colleges’ costs and ranks them.

Jessica Carie, Student AVMA immediate past president, said at the summit she thinks it's important for veterinary colleges to spell out the total costs to obtain a degree rather than just tuition rates for four years.

“I feel like that's basically lying to students unless they have a magic tree to pay off their tuition at the time of graduation,” she said. “I rarely hear about students talking about the $700,000 it will cost over 25 to 30 years. I always hear whatever tuition is. You're setting up a false expectation when saying you'll be $150,000 in debt, when really, it's half a million dollars or more.”

Dr. Andrew Maccabe, executive director of the AAVMC, pledged that his association will work with the VIN Foundation and the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division to create a comprehensive set of data regarding the total cost of education, including personal expenses as well as the percentage of students who receive scholarships at individual member institutions. The information will be published this summer in a series of info-graphics on www.aavmc.org along with other information geared toward preveterinary students. Prospective applicants can then use this information as a tool when making application decisions, Dr. Maccabe said.

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T. Will O'Neill, a fourth-year veterinary student at Michigan State University, said he has recalculated his budget on the basis of what he needs rather than what he has at his disposal from loans, after being educated on personal finance. He spoke during the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit, April 20–22 at Michigan State, along with Dr. Sheena Christensen.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

ABCs of personal finance

Students at the summit also made it known that there is clearly a need for better financial literacy on veterinary college campuses.

Dr. Caroline Cantner, assistant director for student initiatives in the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division, spoke on behalf of the students and recent graduates group. She said financial literacy should be emphasized starting at orientation and supported throughout a student's four years with a suite of resources. A culture of personal financial literacy should be cultivated among students and faculty.

“Efforts to date have focused primarily on business education, not general financial literacy. The availability of statistically significant, peer-reviewed data on successful financial counseling interventions nationally is limited. And there has been no comprehensive assessment of outcomes for current business-related interventions in the student population,” Dr. Cantner said.

Dr. Cantner's statement was reinforced by a 10-question survey the Student AVMA House of Delegates sent this past year to its student chapter members to gauge what each veterinary college is doing to make its students “loan repayment literate.”

Thirty of the 36 SAVMA chapters provided at least one response; the six chapters that did not respond were Western University of Health Sciences, St. Matthew's University, Tuskegee University, Midwestern University, Lincoln Memorial University, and the Royal Veterinary College.

The survey results are as follows:

  • • 64 percent of respondents said loan repayment/debt management options were not included with any course work/curriculum at their institution.

  • • 37 percent said they were unaware of any resources about federal loan repayment at their institution.

  • • 24 percent who were aware of resources at their institution said they're easily accessible.

  • • 34 percent said their veterinary college employs a full-time financial adviser/counselor.

  • • 33 percent estimated that 25 percent or less of students at their institution use student loan repayment resources.

Matt Holland, SAVMA president, said, “Students are scared because we know we're in dire straits with debt, but we're not aware of support systems in place.”

Financial literacy and career advising

At the summit, attendees were reminded of a document that outlines recommendations for veterinary colleges to improve students’ ability to manage their educational debt, including financial aid counseling. The Student Debt Initiative Report, available at http://jav.ma/harrisreport, was created by Dr. Donna L. Harris. She teaches business and career development topics at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine and St. Matthew's School of Veterinary Medicine. The report, commissioned by the AAVMC, came out four years ago but has not been widely implemented.

In the report, Dr. Harris recommends that each veterinary college establish a financial aid officer who is responsible for helping students make better financial decisions as they attempt to most efficiently and economically fund their education. She suggests the AAVMC create an online forum for veterinary FAOs to share best practices, in addition to exploring options for an outside company to develop FAO educational tools or providing counseling for AAVMC member institutions without an FAO.

It was pointed out that a disadvantage of an FAO position is the cost. Dr. Trevor Ames, immediate past president of the AAVMC, suggested instead that the position could be a shared service provided by the AAVMC.

Other report recommendations involve developing a four-year financial literacy curriculum for shared use among AAVMC member institutions, integrating the VIN Foundation's Student Loan Repayment Simulator into the financial literacy program, and developing and maintaining an online private data organizer for students to input and track their educational loans.

Since the report came out, the AAVMC has created a member institution tuition map on its website and included on AAVMC applicant surveys information on financial literacy. The association also established an Educational Debt Working Group to review the report and determine the feasibility of curriculum development as described within the Harris report. The consensus on curriculum was that many elements of practice-ownership financial literacy are already included within business classes, and the group did not want to duplicate those efforts.

In addition, the AAVMC Admissions and Recruitment Committee has created a preveterinary adviser development subcommittee to develop tools for advisers on student debt and financial literacy.

Dr. Maccabe promised that the AAVMC will build on the Harris report, in part by working with the Veterinary Business Management Association, a student-run organization dedicated to increasing business acumen and providing networking opportunities to veterinarians and veterinary students.

“We know the VBMA has the infrastructure for teaching business and management skills and will hopefully work with (the VBMA) to add financial literacy,” he said.

Cause for hope

T. Will O'Neill said while he doesn't think financial literacy solves the debt problem, it is the most important first step in confronting it.

“The biggest part of the problem is ballooning tuition costs, which was barely addressed at the conference. However, financial literacy will help students plan individually to figure out how to make things possible for them,” he said.

O'Neill is optimistic that the summit was the beginning of real change in the profession. Already, students who were at the summit were sending letters to their representatives at the state and federal levels as well as administration officials to make them aware of the gravity of veterinarians’ situation.

“If nothing changes, lower-income students will stop coming; only those from wealthy families will be able to justify the costs, and we will lose any shot at true diversity our profession ever had,” he said.

A 10-question survey was sent this past year by the Student AVMA House of Delegates to student chapter members* to gauge what each veterinary college is doing to make its students “loan repayment literate.”

The survey results are as follows:

*Thirty of the 36 SAVMA chapters provided at least one response; the six chapters that had no responses were Western University of Health Sciences, St. Matthew's University, Tuskegee University, Midwestern University, Lincoln Memorial University, and the Royal Veterinary College.

Fighting a market failure

Report indicates education cost unsustainable, given current benefits

By Greg Cima

Debt among veterinary college graduates is rising at a faster pace than salaries, and the current 2:1 ratio of educational debt to starting income for new veterinary graduates is unsustainable, according to an AVMA report.

The report, published in April in collaboration with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, suggests that this ratio represents a series of market failures. For example, federal and state governments are paying less for education that provides public goods, such as zoonotic disease control, pushing greater education costs onto students.

“Other factors contributing to increased costs per student include the cost of administration, increasing pension and health care costs, and the increasing state and federal regulations that require reporting for compliance,” the report states.

Remarks near the end of the 76-page report, the 2016 AVMA & AAVMC Report on the Market for Veterinary Education, describe changes that could increase demand for veterinarians’ services and reduce education costs. The report sets a goal of eliminating interest on student loans prior to graduation, as well as more general goals of finding ways to reduce education costs by 10 percent, increasing starting salaries by 10 percent, and helping veterinary students manage expenses.

Debt-reducing scenarios

Among other proposals, the AVMA and AAVMC report recommends collecting information on loan defaults, which could be used to advocate for lower interest rates for student loans.

Reducing the amounts of unpaid “service” hours provided by veterinary college applicants may prevent such work from reducing incomes and sending a harmful message, it states. Developing lower-cost techniques for veterinary care could bring in more clients. Adopting new teaching models could reduce time in college or costs per year, and use of distance education could share specialized instruction. Collecting more financial data could help provide financial performance standards for practices and graduates.

The report also suggests that education costs could decrease if more universities were held accountable for graduates’ abilities to receive gainful employment that would let them pay off student loan debt. For-profit institutions operating veterinary education programs, for example, already can lose access to federal student aid programs if their typical graduates pay more than 20 percent of their discretionary income and 8 percent of total earnings toward student loan debt (see JAVMA, June 1, 2015, page 1154).

Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, executive director of the AAVMC, clarified that his organization would not advocate for such a requirement, which he noted is intended to prevent “diploma mills” from taking advantage of people and of federal loan programs by not providing paths toward meaningful employment, conditions he said are not applicable to AAVMC member institutions.

Instead, Dr. Maccabe thinks universities and the broader veterinary profession can provide more effective help by reducing the amounts students pay for education, particularly through increases in scholarships or other types of support. The veterinary profession can work to raise funds through philanthropy to endow scholarship funds, he said.

Dr. Maccabe said he graduated from veterinary school in the 1980s, and taxpayers had subsidized his education—good fortune that he wants to share with today's students.

Falling public support

From 2001 to 2015, mean starting salaries for graduates of veterinary colleges rose, on average, by $1,050 each year, but mean debt rose by $5,700 each year, according to the AVMA-AAVMC report. The report also indicates that for women graduating in 2015, mean starting salary was $2,400 lower and mean debt was $7,500 higher than mean values for men graduating that year.

Students of all types at public institutions have taken on an increased share of education costs during each of the three recessions since the early 1990s, yet the increasing burden remained with those students after each recession ended, according to the report. As a result, budget cuts in each recession provided another step upward in the portion of costs borne by students.

“Veterinarians provide both a private service and a public service and thus should receive compensation for both,” the report states. “The compensation from the public occurred in the past through the public support of the veterinary education. This support reduced the cost of education to the veterinary student and allowed them to obtain a standard of living that was somewhat unfettered by student debt.”

Today, many veterinarians pay the full cost of their education.

Cost and debt comparisons

Figures in the report also seem to suggest that some veterinary college students are paying part of their education costs prior to graduation, receiving aid that reduces costs, or both, since most 2015 veterinary college graduates had less debt than expected on the basis of estimated costs of receiving a degree. About 9 percent of the 3,000 veterinarians who graduated in 2015 from U.S. veterinary colleges had debt that exceeded the estimated combined costs of tuition, fees, living expenses, and interest, according to figures in the report. About 11 percent had zero education-related debt.

Other figures indicate 2015 graduates had a mean of about $140,000 in debt, and they paid a mean of about $210,000 in tuition, fees, and living costs. The latter figure excludes costs such as interest.

The report also indicates 2.3 percent of students who graduated in 2015 had more than $320,000 in debt, a figure two standard deviations higher than the mean debt. A chart in the report also indicates Western University of Health Sciences graduates had the highest mean debt in 2015, about $260,000, triple the mean debt for Texas A&M University graduates, who had the lowest mean debt.

AVMA advocates against prescription mandate bill

House lawmakers scrutinize Fairness to Pet Owners Act at hearing

By R. Scott Nolen

AVMA Board of Directors Chair John de Jong in April told a House subcommittee that requiring veterinarians to provide portable prescriptions for all prescribed pet medications, regardless of whether clients request them, is unnecessary and unduly burdensome on veterinarians and small businesses.

The April 29 hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee addressed the pet medication industry, including the Fairness to Pet Owners Act (HR 3174/S 1200), legislation that would federally mandate prescription writing for veterinarians. The subcommittee is currently reviewing the House bill that is intended to address a purported lack of competition in the pet medication industry.

Dr. de Jong explained that, though prescription writing is not required by federal law, the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics and its policy on “Client Requests for Prescriptions” direct veterinarians to write a prescription in lieu of dispensing a medication when desired by a client. Moreover, 36 states already have laws, regulations, or policies requiring veterinarians to provide clients with a written prescription on request, he said.

“(I)f this bill were to pass, veterinarians would still be required to provide the written prescription to these clients, take the piece of paper back, and then dispense the medication. This creates an administrative burden for veterinarians who should be spending their time and resources taking care of their animal patients,” Dr. de Jong said.

“Veterinarians,” he said, “understand that their clients must make financial decisions when planning and paying for services and medications, which is exactly why we support policies that give our clients the flexibility to choose where they fill their prescriptions.”

Dr. de Jong testified that veterinary clients can file a complaint with the state veterinary licensing board if they believe a written prescription was denied them. Even in states without such laws or regulations, state boards of veterinary medicine could find that failure to honor a client's request for a prescription constitutes unprofessional conduct, leading to discipline against a veterinarian.

A companion animal practitioner himself, Dr. de Jong told subcommittee members that veterinarians have incentives other than the deterrent of disciplinary action to honor clients’ requests for prescriptions. “A veterinarian who denies such a request risks alienating clients and harming his or her practice,” he stated. “In cases where the patient's condition may worsen quickly without medication and the client wishes to fill the prescription at a pharmacy, denial of a written prescription may place the veterinarian at legal risk.”

Claims that veterinarians are financially motivated to withhold prescriptions so clients will have them filled by the veterinary clinic are baseless, according to Dr. de Jong. He referenced a 2015 report in which the Federal Trade Commission found no evidence of veterinarians refusing to give a client a written prescription.

“Until we have real evidence showing that a problem actually exists, it is premature to consider such a sweeping federal mandate,” Dr. de Jong stated.

Also testifying before the subcommittee was Nathan Smith, vice president of strategy and international for True Science, a pet medication and wellness company headquartered in Eagle, Idaho. Smith said the Fairness to Pet Owners Act would ultimately make pet drugs more affordable and easier to obtain.

“This is not an ‘us versus them’ type issue,” he explained. “We believe that if the market for pet medication is opened to competition, everyone will benefit: manufacturers, veterinarians, pet owners, and pets alike.”

Smith called it a conflict of interest when the veterinarian is also the drug retailer who can prescribe or recommend medications manufacturers sell exclusively to veterinarians. Government action is needed, he said, because veterinarians can influence clients’ drug purchasing decisions.

“Having the prescription put directly and automatically into the hands of the consumer, without requiring the consumer to ask for it, sign a waiver, or pay a fee, is absolutely key,” Smith said. “That piece of paper lets the consumer know he or she has a choice.”

Tara Koslov testified on behalf of the FTC, where she's deputy director of the Office of Policy Planning. Because the FTC believes portability likely benefits consumers, the commission generally supports policies that would increase both consumer awareness and veterinarian release of portable prescriptions, Koslov explained.

The FTC staff's findings suggest consumers of pet medications may already benefit, to at least some extent, from price competition between veterinarians and alternative retailers, most notably for flea and tick control products and heartworm preventives, according to Koslov. Likewise, the benefits of price competition could be especially important for owners of pets with chronic health conditions that require the use of long-term medications, she said.

“Continued growth of retail distribution could increase competition and lead to even lower prices for pet medications in both veterinary and retail channels,” Koslov testified.

To learn more about why the AVMA opposes the legislation, visit www.avma.org and click on “Prescription Mandates” in the Advocacy section.

AVMA offers brochure on pet first aid

The AVMA has developed a new brochure that covers the basics of pet first aid.

The brochure starts by advising, “Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until he/she receives veterinary treatment.”

The main section of the brochure has the following headings:

  • • For your safety.

  • • If your pet is choking.

  • • If your pet is not breathing.

  • • If your pet has no heartbeat.

  • • If your pet is poisoned.

  • • If your pet is having seizures.

  • • If your pet is injured.

  • • If your pet's wound is bleeding.

  • • If your pet is burned.

  • • If your pet has heatstroke.

  • • If your pet is bitten by a snake.

Other sections provide a form to fill in emergency information and a checklist for a pet first-aid kit.

The “Pet First Aid” brochure is available at www.avma.org/products by clicking on “Brochures” and then on “Client Information.” The PDF version is downloadable for free. The print version is available to order via the same website or by calling (800) 248–2862, ext. 6669.

Report: Heartworm disease decreasing, diabetes increasing

Heartworm infection in dogs decreased between 2006 and 2015, while diabetes mellitus increased in dogs and cats, according to the State of Pet Health 2016 Report from Banfield Pet Hospital.

The sixth annual report, released April 20, draws on data from about 2.5 million dogs and nearly 500,000 cats in more than 900 hospitals across the country.

According to the report, there was a 41.5 percent decrease in cases of heartworm infection in dogs between 2006 and 2015, down to 54.2 cases per 10,000 dogs tested. Between 2013 and 2015, there was a 12 percent increase in the use of heartworm preventives in dogs seen at Banfield hospitals.

There is a distinct geographic pattern for heartworm disease, with the highest prevalence of heartworm infection in 2015 occurring in the Southeastern states and Puerto Rico. This includes Mississippi, 4.1 percent of tested dogs; Louisiana, 3.9 percent; Arkansas, 3.6 percent; and Puerto Rico and Alabama, 1.6 percent.

Diabetes mellitus in dogs increased by 79.7 percent between 2006 and 2015, to 23.6 cases per 10,000 dogs. Prevalence in cats increased by 18.1 percent over the same time frame, to 67.6 cases per 10,000 cats.

There is no clear regional pattern to the highest rates of diabetes in dogs and cats. The greatest prevalence of diabetes in 2015 in dogs was found in Nevada, Montana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. In cats, the highest rates were found in New Mexico, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Wisconsin, and Arkansas.

The Banfield report also delves into dental disease, otitis externa, and infestation with fleas, ticks, and internal parasites.

Dental disease is the most common disorder among dogs and cats, affecting 68 percent of cats and 76 percent of dogs in 2015. Dental disease increased by 8 percent in dogs and 9.7 percent in cats between 2011 and 2015. Tooth resorption in cats increased 1,587 percent between 2006 and 2015, with the cause for the drastic increase unknown.

Otitis externa decreased 6.4 percent in dogs between 2011 and 2015, with the prevalence in cats remaining unchanged. The condition remains very common in certain dog breeds, with one in four Golden Retrievers and one in five Labrador Retrievers having a diagnosis of otitis externa.

Flea infestation in dogs decreased 8.4 percent between 2011 and 2015 and remained unchanged in cats. In 2015, the prevalence of flea infestation in cats, 10.9 cases per 100 cats, was almost twice that in dogs, 5.9 cases per 100 dogs. Tick infestations in dogs decreased 11.3 percent between 2006 and 2015, remaining uncommon in cats.

Between 2011 and 2015, Banfield saw a reduction of roundworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections in dogs, although the prevalence of hookworm infections remained relatively unchanged. In cats, there was a reduction of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections—although, as with flea infestation, cats were more than twice as likely to have a tapeworm infection, compared with dogs, in 2015.

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(Source: Banfield Pet Hospital's State of Pet Health 2016 Report)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

The State of Pet Health 2016 Report is available at www.stateofpethealth.com.

AAFP releases guidelines on feline hyperthyroidism

The American Association of Feline Practitioners has released new Guidelines for the Management of Feline Hyperthyroidism, which appeared in the May edition of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

“Our hope is that by using these guidelines, veterinary professionals will be able to diagnose FHT long before the cat becomes the classic scrawny, unkempt patient with a mass on its neck,” said Dr. Cynthia Ward, co-chair of the panel of authors.

According to the guidelines, 1.5 to 11.4 percent of older cats around the world have hyperthyroidism; it is the most common endocrine disorder in middle-aged and older cats in the United States.

The guidelines state their scope as follows:

The Guidelines explain FHT as a primary disease process with compounding factors, and provide a concise explanation of what we know to be true about the etiology and pathogenesis of the disease.

The Guidelines also:

  • • Distill the current research literature into simple recommendations for testing sequences that will avoid misdiagnosis and separate an FHT diagnosis into six clinical categories with associated management strategies.

  • • Emphasize the importance of treating all hyperthyroid cats, regardless of comorbidities, and outline the currently available treatments for the disease.

  • • Explain how to monitor the treated cat to help avoid exacerbating comorbid diseases.

  • • Dispel some of the myths surrounding certain aspects of FHT and replace them with an evidence-based narrative that veterinarians and their practice teams can apply to feline patients and communicate to their owners.

A supplementary brochure and a client handout also are available. The brochure outlines clinical signs of FHT, diagnosis, management and treatment options, and management goals.

The guidelines and client materials are at www.catvets.com/hyperthyroidism.

FDA finalizes guidance on therapeutic pet food

The Food and Drug Administration has finalized guidance that the agency drafted in response to the increasing number of therapeutic pet diets and increasing marketing of such products directly to pet owners without veterinary direction.

On April 29, the FDA released the guide on “Labeling and Marketing of Dog and Cat Food Diets Intended to Diagnose, Cure, Mitigate, Treat, or Prevent Diseases.”

The FDA considers such products to be drugs as well as food, but most have not gone through the agency's drug approval process. In the past, FDA generally exercised enforcement discretion with regard to these products.

The guide lists the factors that the agency will consider in determining whether to take enforcement action against manufacturers of therapeutic diets. The FDA is less likely to initiate action if certain factors are present, including the following:

  • • The product is made available to the public only through licensed veterinarians or through retail or Internet sales to individuals purchasing the product under the direction of a veterinarian.

  • • The product label does not include representations that it can be used to treat or prevent disease (e.g., obesity, renal failure).

  • • Distribution of labeling and other manufacturer communications that contain representations that the product is intended for treatment or prevention of disease is limited so that it is provided only to veterinary professionals.

  • • Electronic resources for the dissemination of labeling information and other manufacturer communications related to the intended use of the product are secured so that they are available only to veterinary professionals.

AASV: Sick pigs need aid, regardless of marketing plans

Pigs should receive care to prevent suffering even if that precludes sale of pork as antibiotic free, according to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

The association published May 2 a statement that farmers marketing pigs as antibiotic free should have alternative plans for selling pigs that receive antimicrobials for disease treatment or prevention. An announcement accompanying the statement indicates some farms lack such plans.

The statement also advocates for timely decisions on treatment and euthanasia and for veterinarian involvement in herd health management.

Dr. Tom Burkgren, executive director of the AASV, said in an interview that he lacked figures indicating how often pigs with treatable bacterial illnesses are left untreated or euthanized, but the subject had become a concern. Plans to market pigs as antibiotic free can create incentives for farmers to forgo medical treatments, he said.

“For the veterinarian, our main concern lies with the pig and preventing suffering and death,” he said.

In April, officials with the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service proposed rules that would prohibit farmers in the nation's organic program from withholding treatments from injured, diseased, or sick animals in efforts to preserve organic status (see JAVMA, June 1, 2016, page 1214).

“All appropriate medications must be used to restore an animal to health when methods acceptable to organic production fail,” the proposal states.

Dr. Burkgren said he was unfamiliar with that proposed regulatory change, although he expected the AASV would support that provision as described.

Free webinar on surviving the school-to-practice transition

Transitioning from veterinary school to practice is exciting, but it can also be scary and confusing. How does one make the best decisions and follow the right path to starting a career?

Chicago-area practitioner Dr. Jim Park will explain how during a free AVMA Veterinary Career Center webinar June 27 from noon to 1 p.m. CDT. Dr. Park's live presentation will cover such areas as the job search, contract considerations, and ways to impress one's new boss and clients.

A 2007 University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Dr. Park is an associate at Care Animal Hospital in Arlington Heights, Illinois, where he enjoys the various aspects of general practice and has pursued additional training in orthopedic surgery and ultrasonography. He has also served on Illinois State VMA committees and enjoys contributing to the profession through organized veterinary medicine.

Register for the webinar at http://jav.ma/schooltopractice. Webinar viewers will earn one continuing education credit.

Vaccination, warnings ahead of Iditarod

Parvovirus found in Alaskan kennels, but dogs in race and rural villages unaffected

By Greg Cima

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Veterinarians examine members of a 2016 Iditarod team at a checkpoint in McGrath, Alaska. (Photos courtesy of Mike Kenney/Iditarod Trail Committee)

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

A parvovirus outbreak in private sled dog kennels prompted warnings to mushers and vaccination efforts in rural villages before the Iditarod race in March.

Dr. Robert Gerlach, Alaska's state veterinarian, said he has received no reports of parvovirus-related illnesses connected with the race, although one team dropped out prior to the race because of parvovirus infections. Dr. Stuart L. Nelson, chief veterinarian for the Iditarod Trail Committee, said that team had a devastating outbreak that killed puppies and adult dogs alike, whereas a few other sled teams participating in the race had smaller numbers of infected dogs.

The parvovirus outbreak occurred in two pockets: one in the Fairbanks area, which had the first report of an infected dog, and the other around Cantwell, which borders Denali National Park and Preserve between Fairbanks and Anchorage.

Dr. Molly Murphy, an associate professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said the outbreak involved about 20 dogs with confirmed infections in three kennels—as well as anecdotal reports about other infected dogs—from early through late February. The first mushers in the 2016 Iditarod started their almost 1,000-mile journey from Anchorage to Nome March 5.

Each sled dog kennel typically houses only animals from one owner, and each owner can keep upward of 80 dogs, Dr. Murphy said.

Dr. Gerlach said February's parvovirus infections raised concerns not only for dogs in the Iditarod but also those in villages along the race route, where access to veterinary care is limited. He and Dr. Nelson worked with two nonprofit organizations to expand vaccination in those communities ahead of the sled dogs’ arrival.

“They did a fantastic job of trying to get out in front of the race as soon as possible, right before the race started, to go out and offer vaccine clinics throughout a lot of these communities where the Iditarod was going through,” Dr. Gerlach said.

Those organizations, Alaska Rural Veterinary Outreach and Alaska Native Rural Veterinary, worked to distribute vaccines to communities in the Yukon River and coastal regions, Dr. Nelson said. Sarah T. Clampitt, president of Alaska Rural Veterinary Outreach, said her organization distributed 200 to 250 doses of parvovirus vaccines to four of the villages targeted for vaccination efforts.

She and Angie Fitch, executive director of Alaska Native Rural Veterinary, said their organizations hired planes to ship vaccines to the villages, where volunteers had pledged to administer them.

“Everyone was able to work together and get the vaccine out,” Fitch said. “And we haven't heard of any problems with the teams moving through.”

The Iditarod Trail Committee also provided vaccination clinics in two villages, Nikolai and Koyuk, as part of an outreach program that has provided similar services in past years. And Dr. Nelson sent Iditarod staff to race checkpoints with directions to test for parvovirus among dogs with relevant clinical signs. Tests on about 10 dogs, most of which had diarrhea, were negative for parvovirus.

Dr. Nelson also noted that, before the race, the Iditarod organization tested 80 dogs from five teams located near the outbreak area to ensure none of those dogs would be shedding parvovirus.

The original source of the outbreak is unknown, but lack of vaccination or vaccine mismanagement in sled team kennels appears to have left dogs vulnerable, Dr. Murphy said.

“The vaccination practices are not ideal,” she said. “Some of the kennels involved could not really confirm vaccination dates or may have been using products that had been expired.”

Dr. Gerlach noted that vaccination requires the right vaccine—handled, stored, and administered properly.

“If any of those areas break down, then you can end up having slips in the biosecurity program,” he said.

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A veterinarian examines a dog at the McGrath checkpoint.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

Dog teams also shared mushing trails, “providing a pretty easy mode for disease spread,” Dr. Murphy said. This year's mild winter may have contributed to the virus spread, since less-frequent snowfall could have left dog feces uncovered for longer-than-usual periods, she said.

After 30 years working with the Iditarod, Dr. Nelson said he has not heard of any parvovirus outbreaks connected with the race.

The Iditarod organization requires vaccination against parvovirus, among other disease agents, and Dr. Nelson sent additional notice before this year's race that mushers needed to obey vaccination rules and administer boosters when in doubt about vaccine quality. He said such life-threatening diseases require adherence to protocols.

Dr. Murphy said she and others at the university were planning educational seminars and outreach to prevent future outbreaks, possibly including vaccination clinics.

Study: Over half of pet dogs and cats were overweight in 2015

Approximately 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs were overweight or obese in 2015, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. The association is calling on the veterinary industry to clearly define and classify pet obesity as a disease and to adopt a universal body condition scoring scale for assessing pet obesity.

“The American Medical Association recognized obesity as a disease in 2013. I think the time has come for the American Veterinary Medical Association to follow suit,” said APOP founder and companion animal practitioner Dr. Ernie Ward. “By defining obesity as a disease, many veterinarians will take the condition more seriously and be compelled to act rather than ignore this serious health threat.”

The APOP 2015 findings are from the association's annual obesity prevalence survey. The latest survey included the assessment of 1,224 dogs and cats by 136 veterinary clinics. The clinics assessed the body condition scores of every dog and cat patient seen for a regular wellness examination on a given day last October. Body condition scores based on a five-point scale and actual weight were used in classifying pets as underweight, ideal, overweight, or obese.

The association defines clinical pet obesity as 30 percent above ideal weight, but as APOP board member Dr. Steve Budsberg noted, a lack of consensus regarding the definition of obesity exists among veterinary practitioners, industry stakeholders, and pet owners.

“Our profession hasn't agreed on what separates ‘obese’ from ‘overweight.’ These words have significant clinical meaning and affect treatment recommendations,” said Dr. Budsberg, professor of orthopedic surgery and director of clinical research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

The APOP is pushing for the adoption of a universal pet BCS—a whole-integer, one-through-nine scale. According to the association, such a scale would allow veterinarians to more consistently interpret veterinary research, accurately assess their patients’ body conditions, and clearly communicate with colleagues and clients.

“There are currently three major BCS scales used worldwide. We need a single standard to ensure all veterinary health care team members are on the same page,” said Dr. Julie Churchill, APOP board member and an associate clinical professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

The association has partnered with international industry organizations to form The Global Pet Obesity Initiative with the goal of creating obesity standards and providing training for the veterinary community. Learn more about the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and the 2015 study at www.PetObesityPrevention.org.

Members of the APOP board will be speaking with human health care professionals at a forum hosted by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association One Health Committee titled “Preventing Obesity in People and Their Pets: A One Health Approach,” scheduled for Nov. 9–11, 2016, in Atlanta. Visit www.wsava-obesity.com for additional information about the forum.

Veterinarian wins Indiana congressional primary

First-time candidate Dr. Angela Demaree won Indiana's 5th Congressional District Democratic Party primary election May 3. She will face Republican incumbent Susan Brooks in a historic matchup this November as two women compete for the congressional seat for the first time.

Dr. Demaree told supporters in Indianapolis after defeating primary challenger Allen Davidson, “We won the primary because we won't accept the status quo, and neither should Indiana. It's what I'm fighting for, it's what you are fighting for, and it's how we are going to win in November.”

The sixth-generation Hoosier and Indianapolis resident took an early lead in the Democratic Party primary and received 70 percent of the votes.

Three veterinarians currently serve in the House of Representatives: Drs. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Ted Yoho of Florida, and Ralph Abraham of Louisiana. Dr. Demaree would be the first female veterinarian elected to Congress, should she win in November.

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Dr. Angela Demaree

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

Dr. Demaree campaigned as a bipartisan problem solver, citing her experience as a veterinarian and an officer in the Army Reserve Veterinary Corps (see JAVMA, April 1, 2016, page 740). During the primary, she was endorsed by the Marion County Democratic Party, 5th Congressional District Democratic Committee, College Democrats of Indiana, Tipton County Democratic Committee, and Indiana Democratic Party.

A 2002 graduate of Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Demaree practiced companion animal and equine medicine before joining the AVMA staff in 2007 as an associate director of the Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C. Three years later, she took a job with the Indiana Horse Racing Commission as equine medical director.

In 2009, Dr. Demaree was commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserve Veterinary Corps and later deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She currently is a major in the Army Reserve.

Dr. Demaree told supporters following her primary win that the true challenge of unseating the GOP incumbent in November had started in earnest. “We have to remember, the hard work has just begun,” she said. “I'm standing here because together, with your help and the help of so many dedicated volunteers, we've exceeded expectations.”

National Academies of Practice accepts two veterinary fellows

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Dr. Robert P. Gordon

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

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Dr. Stephanie R. Ostrowski

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 248, 12; 10.2460/javma.248.12.1312

The National Academies of Practice, an interdisciplinary organization of health care practitioners and scholars, held an April 8–9 forum on “Interprofessional Practice and Education: Embracing Transformational Change” in Baltimore. The NAP accepted the following veterinarians as new fellows of the Veterinary Medicine Academy.

Dr. Robert P. Gordon (University of Bologna, Italy ′75) owns Oakland Animal Hospital in Oakland, New Jersey. He helped establish Bergen County task forces on rabies and served on a Bergen County task force on West Nile virus, and he initiated involvement of veterinarians in statewide emergency and disaster response. He has been president of the New Jersey VMA, New Jersey delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates, and chair of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Dr. Stephanie R. Ostrowski (Georgia ′80) is on the faculty at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, where she teaches food safety, epidemiology, and public health. In 2010, she retired after 20 years of service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a U.S. Public Health Service officer. She served in worldwide deployments relating to polio eradication, avian influenza, anthrax response after 9/11, community lead poisoning, foot-and-mouth disease, and hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Winn awards grants for feline health studies

The Winn Feline Foundation has awarded more than $140,000 in 10 grants for feline health studies.

The foundation awarded grants for the following studies:

  • • “cfDNA and liquid biopsy—a novel diagnostic approach for melanocytic tumors,” Drs. Barbara Nell and Jessica Rushton, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, $5,188.

  • • “Efficacy of a new treatment for cats with ronidazole-resistant Tritrichomonas foetus infection,” Drs. Jody Gookin and Mark Papich, North Carolina State University, $24,585.

  • • “Precision medicine for felines,” Leslie A. Lyons, PhD, and Barbara Gandolfi, PhD, University of Missouri, $4,900.

  • • “Evaluating new drug compounds for treating feline coronavirus, a continuation study,” Drs. Brian Murphy and Niels Pedersen, University of California-Davis, $12,175.

  • • “Mefloquine's potential to inhibit FIPV infection in the cat,” Drs. Merran Govendir and Jacqueline Norris, The University of Sydney, $11,750.

  • • “Exploring humoral responses to non-structural proteins of feline coronaviruses,” Dr. Magdalena Dunowska, Massey University, New Zealand, $25,000.

  • • “Holter monitoring in the home environment for cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,” Dr. Katherine Scollan, Oregon State University, $16,330.

  • • “Seeking genetic markers of Abyssinian/Somali hereditary amyloidosis,” Dr. Maria Longheri, University of Milan, and Leslie A. Lyons, PhD, University of Missouri, $6,900

  • • “Evaluation of DNA variants associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the Persian cat,” Dr. Kathryn Meurs; North Carolina State University, $23,531.

  • • “Phenotypic characterization of cardiomyopathy in Birman cats—a phase two continuation study,” Dr. Virginia Luis Fuentes, University of London, $10,812.

Obituaries: AVMA member AVMA honor roll member Nonmember

James H. Bailey

Dr. Bailey (Colorado State ‘57), 82, Great Falls, Montana, died Feb. 20, 2016. He co-founded Associated Veterinary Services in Great Falls in the early 1980s. Following graduation, Dr. Bailey ranched and practiced large animal medicine in northern Wyoming and southeastern Montana; owned a mixed animal practice in Pampa, Texas; and consulted on equine and bovine reproduction. In 1975, he returned to Montana, practicing at Great Falls Veterinary Services until 1980.

Dr. Bailey was a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and Montana VMA. His wife, Sharon; two sons and two daughters; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to the Great Falls Animal Shelter, 1010 25th Ave. NE, Great Falls, MT 59404.

Fred D. Bisplinghoff Sr.

Dr. Bisplinghoff (Missouri ‘51), 91, Fort Meyers, Florida, died Dec. 7, 2015. Following graduation, he owned a large animal practice in Linneus, Missouri, for five years. Dr. Bisplinghoff subsequently moved to Peoria, Illinois, and embarked on a career in the rendering industry. He retired to Florida in the 1980s.

Dr. Bisplinghoff was a past president of the National Renderers Association and received the inaugural NRA Don Franco Distinguished Service Award shortly before his death. He served in the Army from 1943–1946.

Dr. Bisplinghoff is survived by a son and a daughter, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Wayne W. Brown

Dr. Brown (Iowa State ‘55), 84, Ames, Iowa, died Feb. 14, 2016.A mixed animal veterinarian, he began his career practicing in Orion, Illinois. In 1959, after serving two years as a base veterinarian with the Air Force in Georgia, Dr. Brown moved to Paw Paw, Illinois, where he established a practice. He went onto found Tri-County Veterinary Service in Earlville, Illinois, in 1970.

Dr. Brown was a past president of the Illinois State VMA and authored “A Hundred Years of Veterinary Medicine in Illinois, 1882–1982.” In 1984, he received the American Association of Swine Practitioners Practitioner of the Year Award, the ISVMA President's Award, and the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Association Service Award. Dr. Brown was the recipient of the Iowa State University Stange Award in 1990 and the ISVMA Service Award in 1994. He was active with the Lions Club and Boy Scouts of America. Dr. Brown is survived by his wife, Doris; two sons and two daughters; and eight grandchildren. His daughter Dr. Gayle B. Brown (Illinois ‘86) serves on the veterinary faculty of Iowa State University, and his son Dr. Bruce N. Stewart-Brown (Iowa State ‘85) works for Purdue Farms in Salisbury, Maryland. Dr. Brown's son-in-law Dr. Tyler Holck (Iowa State ‘88) owns a swine veterinary consultant company in Gilbert, Iowa, and his daughter-in-law Dr. Barbara Stewart-Brown (Iowa State ‘84) is a former small animal veterinarian.

Memorials may be made to Iowa State University Veterinary Student Scholarship Fund, Iowa State University Foundation, 2505 University Blvd., P.O. Box 2230, Ames, IA 50010, www.foundation.iastate.edu, or Collegiate Presbyterian Church University Ministries, 159 N. Sheldon Ave., Ames, IA 50014, www.cpcames.org/index.cfm.

John W. Budding

Dr. Budding (Iowa State ‘51), 90, Grinnell, Iowa, died Jan. 9, 2016. In 1964, he moved to Wilton, Iowa, where he practiced until retirement in 1990. Earlier, Dr. Budding worked in Freeport, Illinois, and Ireton, Iowa. He was a Navy veteran of World War II. Dr. Budding is survived by two sons, a daughter, and five grandchildren. Memorials toward a fund in his name may be made c/o Cedar Memorial Park Funeral Home, 4200 1st Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.

John R. Dutton

Dr. Dutton (Texas A&M ‘78), 64, San Angelo, Texas, died Feb. 29, 2016. A mixed animal veterinarian, he owned Arden Road Animal Clinic in San Angelo from 1996 until retirement in 2013. Earlier, Dr. Dutton practiced in Houston for nine years and at North Concho Veterinary Clinic in San Angelo from 1987–1995. Dr. Dutton was active with the local animal control board. His wife, Pam; three daughters and two stepsons; and eight grandchildren survive him.

Theodore S. Fickes

Dr. Fickes (Ohio State ‘64), 75, Springfield, Virginia, died Nov. 6, 2015. A small animal veterinarian, he was the founder of Arriba Boxers in Springfield. Dr. Fickes’ Boxer breeding programs produced several American Kennel Club champions. A life member of the American Boxer Club, he served on its board of directors, was a member of its Health Committee, and co-authored the Boxer Standard.

Dr. Fickes is survived by his partner, Virginia Shames. Memorials may be made to the American Boxer Charitable Foundation, c/o Joyce Baker Brown, P.O. Box 1607, Mount Dora, FL 32756, www.abcfoundation.org.

James A. Fischer

Dr. Fischer (Diliman ‘85), 61, Montgomery, New York, died Jan. 9, 2016. A small animal veterinarian who graduated from the University of Philippines-Diliman, he founded Montgomery Veterinary Practice and Stone Cottage Veterinary Clinic in Newburgh, New York. Dr. Fischer also founded and served as president of the Orange County Animal Emergency Service in Middletown, New York.

He is survived by his wife, Jenny, and a son and a daughter. Memorials may be made to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Box 39, Schurman Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, www.vet.cornell.edu/gifts, or Humane Society of Walden, P.O. Box 135, Walden, NY 12586.

Robert E. Hall

Dr. Hall (Iowa State ‘50), 91, Madison, Wisconsin, died Oct. 25, 2015. After practicing several years in the Midwest, Dr. Hall joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine in 1961 as a professor of extension veterinary science. He retired from the university in 1980. A member of the Wisconsin VMA, Dr. Hall received a 50-year award from the association in 2001. He is survived by his wife, Kathryn; two sons and a daughter; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to Oakwood Village Foundation, 6201 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705, or Nature Conservancy, 4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203.

William C. Lofton

Dr. Lofton (Tuskegee ‘64), 78, Omaha, Nebraska, died Oct. 26, 2015. A small animal veterinarian, he owned Miller Park Animal Clinic in Omaha since 1975. Dr. Lofton began his career as a poultry inspector with the Department of Agriculture in Alabama. He subsequently served in the Army as a food inspector in Omaha during the Vietnam War. Dr. Lofton attained the rank of captain. He then worked for a practice in north Omaha for a few years before establishing Miller Park Animal Clinic.

Dr. Lofton was a member of the Nebraska VMA and Nebraska Academy of Veterinary Medicine. He is survived by his wife, JoAnne; two daughters; and five grandchildren. Memorials may be made to Josie Harper Hospice House, 7415 Cedar St., Omaha, NE 68124.

Janet M. MacCallum

Dr. MacCallum (Cornell ‘46), 91, New Hartford, New York, died Feb. 19, 2016. She and her late husband, Dr. Alexander D. MacCallum (Cornell ‘45), were co-founders of Utica Animal Hospital in New Hartford, where they practiced small animal medicine until retirement in 1994.

Dr. MacCallum also volunteered with the Stevens-Swan Humane Society. An avid horsewoman who won an American Horse Show Association national equitation championship medal at the age of 17, she was a founding member and a past regional vice president of the New York State Horse Council. Dr. MacCallum served on the board of directors of the Central New York VMA. She was a founding member of the Women's Fund of Herkimer and Oneida Counties; served as a tutor through Literacy Volunteers of America, Refugee Center, and the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services; and was active with the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and YWCA. Her two sons, two daughters, and eight grandchildren survive her.

Memorials may be made to Madison-Oneida BOCES, Attn: Kathleen Rinaldo, P.O. Box 168, Verona, NY 13478; Stevens-Swan Humane Society, 5664 Horatio St., Utica, NY 13502; or Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Box 39, Schurman Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, www.vet.cornell.edu/gifts.

Robert L. Michel

Dr. Michel (Pennsylvania ‘49), 91, Knoxville, Tennessee, died Feb. 18, 2016. A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, he was a professor of pathology and head of the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine from 1975 until retirement in 1989. Earlier in his career, Dr. Michel worked a year in Johnstown, Pennsylvania; owned a practice in Troy, Pennsylvania, for 13 years; and served as a professor of pathology at Michigan State University for 10 years.

In 1972, while at MSU, he received what is now known as the Zoetis Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award. Dr. Michel was an Army veteran of World War II. His three daughters, son, and five grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to Horse Haven of Tennessee, P.O. Box 22841, Knoxville, TN 37933, or Messiah Lutheran Church, 6900 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919.

Thomas W. Moore

Dr. Moore (Ohio State ‘63), 78, Pittsburgh, died Feb. 12, 2016. A small animal veterinarian, he owned Avalon Veterinary Hospital in Pittsburgh from 1967 until retirement in 2014. Early in his career, Dr. Moore served as a veterinarian with the Army post in Fort Knox, Kentucky. He attained the rank of captain. Dr. Moore was a member of the Masonic Lodge. His three daughters, son, and 11 grandchildren survive him.

John W. Morgan

Dr. Morgan (Auburn ‘45), 92, Topping, Virginia, died Nov. 16, 2015. In 1958, he established Cary Street Veterinary Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, where he practiced small animal medicine for 50 years prior to retirement. Dr. Morgan also served as veterinarian for the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for more than 40 years. Early in his career, he owned a practice in Williamsburg, Virginia; worked for Levinson Livestock; owned a cattle auction business; and practiced at Ambassador Animal Hospital in Henrico, Virginia.

Dr. Morgan owned and raced Thoroughbreds and trained Labrador Retrievers. He served on the board of directors of the Labrador Retriever Club, founded the James River Retriever Club, and was a past president of the National Amateur Retriever Club. In 1997, Dr. Morgan was elected to the Retriever Field Trial Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife, Debarah; three daughters and a son; 11 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild. One daughter, Dr. Molly H. Morgan (Auburn ‘04), is a small animal veterinarian in Richmond. Memorials may be made to Bird Dog Foundation Inc., Retriever Endowment Fund, 505 W. Highway 57, Grand Junction, TN 38039.

Glenn D. Rinn

Dr. Rinn (Texas A&M ‘73), 68, Richmond, Texas, died Dec. 31, 2015. He was a mixed animal practitioner. Dr. Rinn served as a captain in the Army.

Kenneth L. Rundle

Dr. Rundle (Kansas State ‘64), 80, Franklin, Nebraska, died Jan. 17, 2016. In 1977, he moved to Franklin, where he established Tailgate Veterinary Clinic, practicing mixed animal medicine until retirement in the late 1990s. Earlier, Dr. Rundle worked in Smith Center, Kansas, for 13 years. He was a veteran of the Navy. Dr. Rundle is survived by his wife, Patricia; three daughters and a son; 10 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.

Margaret R. Souby

Dr. Souby (Minnesota ‘80), 60, Corpus Christi, Texas, died Feb. 23, 2016. She served as a relief veterinarian prior to retirement. Dr. Souby's husband, Jeremy Smith, survives her. Memorials may be made to the Native Plant Society of Texas, P.O. Box 3017, Fredericksburg, TX 78624.

John J. Strickler

Dr. Strickler (Pennsylvania ‘51), 89, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, died Jan. 15, 2016. A mixed animal veterinarian, he founded Chambersburg Animal Hospital, retiring in 1984. Dr. Strickler was a past president of the Pennsylvania VMA and a member of the American Animal Hospital Association. He served in the Navy during World War II. Dr. Strickler was a member of the Franklin County Board of Health; volunteered with the Red Cross, Chambersburg Hospital, and Meals on Wheels; and tutored for the Chambersburg School District. His two sons and two daughters, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to the Wounded Warriors Foundation, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675, or Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, 5051 Letterkenny Road West, Chambersburg, PA 17201.

Ronald W. Symonds

Dr. Symonds (Michigan State ‘71), 67, Westminster, Maryland, died Feb. 9, 2016. A small animal veterinarian, he was the founder of Mountainside Veterinary Hospital in Reisterstown, Maryland. Dr. Symonds was a past president of the Maryland VMA. He is survived by his wife, Karen; four sons and a daughter; and three grandchildren and a stepgrandchild.

Thad E. Thorson

Dr. Thorson (Ohio State ‘49), 89, Joshua Tree, California, died Jan. 6, 2016. He practiced small animal medicine for more than 40 years in California's Orange County prior to retirement in 2005. During his career, Dr. Thorson also consulted with the California Alligator Farm in Brea, Lion Country Safari in Irvine, California, and the University of California-Long Beach and California Institute of Technology for their monkey colonies, and treated and rehabilitated animals sent by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. He was a member of the American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology, American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, and American Association of Avian Veterinarians. Dr. Thorson was a past president of the Garden Grove Rotary Club.

Dr. Thorson served in the Army infantry during World War II, receiving a Purple Heart, and was a member of the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. His wife, Merilee; three sons, a stepdaughter, and a stepson; 11 grandchildren and five stepgrandchildren; and four great-grandchildren survive him. Memorials, with the memo line of the check notated to 4 Paws for Veterans, may be made to 4 Paws for Ability, 253 Dayton Ave., Xenia, Ohio 45385, www.4pawsforability.org/paws-for-veterans.

Dick C. Walther

Dr. Walther (Texas A&M ‘55), 86, Houma, Louisiana, died March 25, 2016. He was the founder of Walther Animal Clinic, a mixed animal practice in Houma. Dr. Walther was a past president of the Louisiana VMA, Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine, and Terrebonne Parish and Louisiana Cattlemen's associations. In 1992, he was named Louisiana Veterinarian of the Year. Dr. Walther was a member of the National Cattlemen's Association, Louisiana Livestock Sanitary Board, and Terrebonne Parish Farm Bureau. He was also a member of the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce and served on the board of directors of the Louisiana 4-H Foundation.

Dr. Walther's wife, Ernestine; four sons; and four grandchildren survive him. One son, Dr. Glenn Walther (Louisiana State ‘86), practices at Walther Animal Clinic. Memorials may be made to the Gibson Cemetery Association Fund, 1205 St. Charles St., Houma, LA 70360; or First United Methodist Church, 6109 Highway 311, Houma, LA 70360.

Melissa J. Watership

Dr. Watership (North Carolina State ‘02), 46, Bar Harbor, Maine, died Feb. 24, 2016. A small animal practitioner, she was an associate veterinarian at Acadia Veterinary Hospital in Bar Harbor. Early in her career, Dr. Watership served as chief of staff for an emergency veterinary hospital in North Carolina, also serving as the chief veterinarian for a wildlife conservation center.

Her husband, Matthew Cough, and her son and daughter survive her. Memorials may be made to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Hancock County, 141 Bar Harbor Road, Trenton, ME 04605.

Thomas E. Watson

Dr. Watson (Ohio State ‘65), 83, Grovetown, Georgia, died Jan. 15, 2016. He was a retired mixed animal practitioner and a veteran of the Navy.

Dr. Watson's wife, Othelia; three sons and a daughter; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren survive him.

James C. Zgoda

Dr. Zgoda (Cornell ‘85), 57, Campbell Hall, New York, died Feb. 10, 2016. He practiced small animal medicine at Otterkill Animal Hospital in Campbell Hall. Dr. Zgoda served on the board of directors of the New York State VMS and was a past treasurer of the Hudson Valley VMS.

Dr. Zgoda is survived by his wife, Sue, and his daughter and son. Memorials may be made to the Veterinary Information Network Foundation, 413 F St., Davis, CA 95616, www.vinfoundation.org, or Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Box 39, Schurman Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, www.vet.cornell.edu/gifts.

Curtis A. Zillhardt

Dr. Zillhardt (Pennsylvania ‘58), 89, Paradise, Pennsylvania, died March 19, 2016. He practiced large animal medicine in Paradise for 40 years. Dr. Zillhardt was a member of the Pennsylvania VMA. He served in the Army during World War II. Dr. Zillhardt's wife, Phyllis; his son; and his stepgranddaughter survive him. Memorials may be made to St. John's United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 86, Paradise, PA 17562.

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