• 1. Nolen RS. Profession's economic health coming into focus: summit elucidates strengths and weaknesses of veterinary markets. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 247: 13381341.

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  • 2. USDA awards $4.5M for food animal, public practice. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 247: 1351.

  • 3. Report: Appalachia's rural counties have veterinary shortage. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 247: 1351.

  • 4. Reimer K. Report pinpoints heavy veterinary shortage in Appalachia. Available at: veterinarynews.dvm360.com/report-pinpoints-heavy-veterinary-shortage-appalachia. Accessed Dec 29, 2015.

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  • 1. Cohn TJ. Our role, our promise: to protect, promote, and advance the veterinary profession. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 246: 1150.

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Letters to the Editor

Troubling economic landscape in rural practice

The recent JAVMA News story1 on the economic health of the veterinary profession suggests that the profession is seeing economic growth, but I believe the focus on the profession as a whole overlooks a bleak economic landscape for those in rural practice. Tellingly, according to one of the presenters at this past fall's AVMA Economic Summit, of the 17,033 US veterinarians who graduated between 2011 and 2015, only 0.3% entered food animal practice. This comes to 50 veterinarians over a 5-year period. Although an additional 9.7% of these graduates reportedly entered mixed-animal practice, I would guess that most of their income is derived from companion animal medicine. The USDA's Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is presented as a way to attract students into rural practice by helping to repay participants' student debt, but the maximum loan repayment is only $75,000 and only 49 veterinarians received awards last year.2 The report from Lincoln Memorial University on veterinary shortages in Appalachia concluded that 75% of rural counties within the footprint of the Appalachian Regional Commission had apparent shortages of veterinarians.3 However, that same report described an overall excess of 264 full-time veterinarians within Appalachia as a whole,4 suggesting that the problem is not so much a shortage of veterinarians as a maldistribution.

Graduating more veterinarians or opening new veterinary colleges will not, in my opinion, fix the economic problems facing rural veterinarians or solve the shortage of veterinarians in rural practice. The solution lies in knowing that students usually return from whence they came. Most students entering veterinary school are from urban and suburban areas, and inducing them to enter rural practice will take a carrot much larger than is currently being offered. Thus, rural students who want to practice in rural areas should be on the highest priority list for admission. Meanwhile, the money being used to open new veterinary colleges in the United States should instead be channeled into scholarships for students at existing colleges.

David M. Lane, dvm, ms

Albion, Ill

  • 1. Nolen RS. Profession's economic health coming into focus: summit elucidates strengths and weaknesses of veterinary markets. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 247: 13381341.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2. USDA awards $4.5M for food animal, public practice. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 247: 1351.

  • 3. Report: Appalachia's rural counties have veterinary shortage. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 247: 1351.

  • 4. Reimer K. Report pinpoints heavy veterinary shortage in Appalachia. Available at: veterinarynews.dvm360.com/report-pinpoints-heavy-veterinary-shortage-appalachia. Accessed Dec 29, 2015.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

The President's Column

In June 2015, Dr. Ted Cohn announced that the JAVMA would begin publishing a monthly column that would allow the AVMA president to communicate with the membership on important matters affecting the veterinary profession.1

The President's Column may seem like a small change for the journal. It appears, however, that some considerable thought went into this idea and that a well-reasoned plan has emerged. Importantly, these presidential opinion pieces are not meant to be limited to one-way communication with JAVMA readers. The hope is that they will prompt members of the veterinary community—through letters to the editor—to engage in profession-wide discussion of issues addressed by the president. Additionally, veterinarians should take the opportunity to speak out about their personal thoughts, fears, hopes, and ideas for the future.

Powerful societal forces are rapidly changing the face of veterinary medicine. Thus, sincere communication among AVMA leaders and members is crucial to mutual trust and collaboration. The President's Column is a fresh approach with potentially substantial benefits if successful. As usual, it is up to us to make it work.

Peter Eyre, DVM&S, BVMS, BSc, PhD

Professor and Dean Emeritus Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Va

1. Cohn TJ. Our role, our promise: to protect, promote, and advance the veterinary profession. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 246: 1150.