MINNEAPOLIS — In the coming months, researchers plan to unveil national statistics designed to map supply and demand of DVMs within
the food animal sector.
Insiders predict the data's significance will rival that of the more broad-based 1999 KPMG Mega Study, which is credited for
confirming the profession's lacking business prowess. Information gleaned from the $300,000 project, financed by the Food
Supply Veterinary Medical Coalition (FSVMC), is slated for release in a series of the upcoming articles published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. While details are under wraps, study author David Andrus, PhD, insists that research resulting in 1,500-plus pages of trend
analysis will amount to an unprecedented look at economics within the food animal veterinary profession. The data spans two
years worth of Internet studies and focus groups designed to forecast labor market demands as well as career attraction and
retention, says Andrus, a Kansas State University marketing head.
"This is going to change the veterinary profession and make huge improvements in it," he says. "We've been real objective
and found some interesting results. This will shake things up for the better."
Identifying a need
Despite lacking concrete information regarding dwindling food supply practitioner numbers, the profession's migration from
rural practice isn't lost on veterinary leaders. Although allied professional memberships hold steady, college administrators
reveal the majority of veterinary students track toward small animal practice with upwards of 80 percent reporting interests
outside of livestock health. Federal officials, recognizing veterinary medicine's role in thwarting bioterrorism and emerging
disease threats, now champion efforts to reverse the trend. In December, President Bush allocated $500,000 for the National
Veterinary Medical Services Act, which provides educational reimbursement incentives for DVMs practicing in underserved areas.
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges leaders (AAVMC) long
pushed the measure.
The groups, both FSVMC members, suggest Andrus' study "Estimating FSVM Demand and Maintaining the Availability of Veterinarians
for Careers in Food Supply Related Disciplines in the United States and Canada" will lend credence to their efforts. At presstime,
media strategies were being outlined to spread what supporters tout as "critical information."
"We hope this study will objectively identify those shortages and provide recommendations for the veterinary colleges to recruit
and retain students who are interested in food systems veterinary medicine," says Dr. Larry Heider, AAVMC executive director.
Dr. Lyle Vogel, director of AVMA Scientific Activities, adds that he's eager to disseminate the report.
"This study will have a profound effect on veterinary medicine," he says.
The upshot from the study remains to be seen. While FSVMC also involves the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and
American Association of Swine Veterinarians, among others, AVMA is keeping a tight lid on study projections.
Yet preliminary numbers released in 2005 shed light on some early findings. According to the study's long-term estimates,
the nation will endure a .6-percent DVM shortage in poultry medicine between 2010 and 2016. Concurrently, an 11-percent shortage
will be felt in federal food safety while the beef sector ranks the most deficient at 6 percent (see DVM Newsmagazine's October 2005 article "Study maps demand directed at food animal DVMs.)
The study also reveals that while supply dwindles, demand is increased by zoonotic disease and bioterrorism concerns. Tight
government budgets, lack of business skills and rising veterinary costs actually decrease demand, the study says.
Reeling in students
To counter the movement away from food animal practice, the study maps employment selection factors, revealing that the top
five issues limiting DVM entry into food animal practice start with less emphasis within veterinary medical programs and little
student exposure to food supply career options at the college level.