WASHINGTON — Becoming a DVM is more expensive than ever. The average debt incurred by a student graduating from veterinarian school in
2000 was $63,046. By 2009, that amount swelled to $130,552, according to data from the American Veterinary Medical Association
(AVMA). Fortunately, the federal Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is being phased in throughout 2010, which should
help some practicing veterinarians offset a healthy portion of their student loans.
The loan repayment program, authorized in 2003 with the passage of the National Veterinary Medical Services Act, is designed
to help address shortages of veterinarians in critical areas of practice, with a strong emphasis on food-supply medicine.
Gary Sherman, national program leader for veterinary science at the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA,
formerly CSREES), which is heading up the repayment program, tells DVM Newsmagazine that the agency is in the process of determining which geographic areas are facing critical shortages of food-animal veterinarians.
A 90-day request for applications will be issued after the shortage areas are determined, and it is likely that the first
batch of awards will be made this year.
"The program is meant to incentivize people to serve in hard-to-fill service areas ... which are often remote and rural areas
with a significant food-animal population," Sherman says. "It will be a competitive process, where we'll be looking to match
the needs of the shortage areas with the skills and experience of the applicants."
An interim final rule of the program indicates that award recipients can expect to receive as much as $25,000 per year in
loan reimbursements for three or four years. The interim rule — based on funds appropriated through fiscal year 2009 that
totaled approximately $4.5 million — says about 40 practicing veterinarians will be selected for the program in its first
year. However, Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the AVMA's Governmental Relations Division, points out that Congress appropriated
an additional $4.8 million for the program in fiscal 2010.
"Over the past three or four years, we've gotten close to $10 million in appropriations from Congress for this program," Lutschaunig
says. "So, if you can make 40 awards out of $4.5 million, that number should double (to 80 awards) with the additional money
While the program only will be open to practicing and licensed DVMs, the hope is that it can attract current students toward
large-animal medicine and veterinary medicine in general.
Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, notes that the
number of applicants to veterinary schools last year dropped 1 percent from 2008. The rising cost of education, coupled with
a diminishing applicant pool and modest incomes for graduating students, could further exacerbate the shortage of food-supply
Readers interested in a chance at shedding up to $100,000 in student loan debt should keep their eyes on the program's Web
site for regular updates, which can be found at
http://www.nifa.usda.gov/. Lutschaunig also recommends that applicants stay in contact with their state veterinary medical associations, adding that
the AVMA will be providing details on the application process as they become available.
Chris Sweeney is a freelance writer based in Chicago.
Where's Your DVM Career?
Editor's Note: Our focus hasn't changed, but our name has. Student 360 (formerly Your DVM Career) better reflects the mission of our multi-media offerings – in print and online. We hope this publication serves as an introduction
to the professional issues facing veterinarians and offers useful advice about topics you face during school and after you
enter the workforce. Just as important, it offers a gateway to a robust collection of useful, practical and insightful information
http://www.dvm360.com/. This award-winning Web portal simply offers the best resource in the market for veterinary news, medicine and business.
And it's produced by the editors from the top publications serving the veterinary profession, including DVM Newsmagazine,
Veterinary Economics and Veterinary Medicine. Log on. Offer suggestions. View medical videos from the experts or listen to advice from veterinarians in private practice.
Communicate with your classmates or practitioners on
http://dvm360.com/'s Community section. Sign up for our free e-newsletters. Look for jobs. There is something for you, and it was all created
to help you achieve success in your career, in your life and as a healer. Check us out, and enjoy the ride.
— Daniel R. Verdon, editor