DVM Newsmakers' Summit: Supply in demand?

Veterinarian shortage looms as demands change, experts say
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Oct 01, 2006
By dvm360.com staff


Figure 1 Veterinary medicine's opportunity horizon
Editor's Note: DVM Newsmagazine asked six thought-leaders at CVC East in Baltimore to talk about five of the most pressing issues facing the veterinary profession. During the succeeding months, each of the issues introduced at the DVM Newsmaker's Summit will be presented for publication. This month, the panel takes on the supply of veterinarians and future professional opportunities. Dr. Lonnie King introduces the issue.

Coming next month: A changing business model

About the panelists:

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, Texas A&M University, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Gary I. Block, Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in East Greenwich, R.I.; former president of the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Joan Hendricks, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Lonnie King, director of strategic innovation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; former dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. David Lane, practitioner and consultant in Cardondale, Ill.

Moderator Kerry M. Richard, attorney with Tobin, O'Connor, Ewing and Richard in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Jack O. Walther, practitioner in Lamoille, Nev., and former AVMA president.

Dr. King: On the issue of supply and demand, I'm going to focus on public veterinary practice. We're going to have more time to talk about companion animal practice.

When we have commencement ceremonies at Michigan State, about 105 students stand up and pledge the veterinarian's oath. Unfortunately, that's probably the first time some have seen it. The veterinarian oath talks about the protection of animal health, relief of animal suffering, promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge.

As veterinarians, everybody in this room has made that pledge. One of the things I want to talk about today is looking at the circles of what we've promised to do and the responsibility and obligation of veterinary medicine. It really has to do with supply and demand.


Dr. Lonnie King
So, these circles (Figure 1) represent what we're obliged to do as protectors of public health, like managing our ecosystems, improving animal health and even food systems. Underpinning these four circles is biomedical and animal research. I will suggest to you that veterinary medicine is not meeting these challenges, opportunities and responsibilities in part because of supply and demand issues.

Between 1 percent and 2 percent of the veterinary profession is actually involved in public health in terms of position description. I think we're all involved in public health. At a time when 75 percent of the new emerging infectious diseases in people actually come from or through animals, 80 percent of bioterrorist agents that we know of are zoonotic agents.

So we're at this time in our lives, at this remarkable 21st century melting pot, where last year 21 billion animals were produced worldwide for 6.5 billion people. By the year 2020 we anticipate a 50-percent increase in the need for animal proteins worldwide.

The issues of public health, the dimensions and factors that bring new and emerging diseases are actually in place and will accelerate. Veterinary medicine has a huge role to play.