Blog: A peek at veterinary education and a political update

Blog: A peek at veterinary education and a political update

Cushing visits five veterinary schools and notes a current quiet on the legislative front.
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May 04, 2015

Apologies for this blogger’s recent absence, but a delightful speaking tour of U.S. veterinary colleges has distracted me from my usual posts. Seems an opportune time to comment on recent doings.

The state of American veterinary education is in good shape, despite catcalls from critics. After visiting five schools (Purdue, Tufts, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Mississippi State), I found graduating students have multiple job offers, practice ownership is returning as a career path of interest, awareness grows of strategies to tackle student debt, schools and students are pursuing expanded opportunities for rural mixed animal practices, communication training is picking up speed, school after school is increasing the number of spay/neuter surgeries performed before hitting the job market (some provide up to as many as 70 soft tissue surgeries pre-graduation), and faculty and students alike are pushing the envelope for more public health opportunities for veterinarians and turning One Health from a grand concept to a strategic, practical career path. It was a diverse and inspiring trip.

The pet medications bill, introduced to the 113th Congress as The Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2014, remains stalled, and that’s encouraging. American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Zoetis and Banfield have carried the laboring oar on Capitol Hill and so far, so good. But state veterinary medical association’s and other organizations need to be ready if the pace of the battle picks up as efforts continue by opponents to recruit new sponsors.

State legislatures have been relatively quiet on the veterinary and animal health fronts. This trend goes back a few years, but activity increases in the antibiotics arena. Despite the progress with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) advisory letter on judicious use of antimicrobials (commented upon many times in dvm360), and the cooperation of each affected company, a number of states are being urged to push further on their own to restrict the use of antibiotics even though the FDA’s actions have stopped usage for growth promotion.

That being said, it may surprise observers to know that Oregon’s very liberal legislature is likely not to pass such a bill. What happened was classic, and a reminder that this profession can make a difference. The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, Animal Health Institute and others teamed up to present a highly persuasive case about how much federal progress has been made, that veterinary oversight is working and there would be more harm than good accomplished by a patchwork of state-by-state legislative ‘fixes.’ Good old-fashioned education and one-on-one lobbying still work.

It’s been a productive 2015 so far, with eight months left to go. Stay tuned.

Mark Cushing, JD, is founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, providing government relations and strategic services for various animal health, veterinary and educational interests. He maintains offices in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., and is a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences.