In biomedical research right now, we are behind the pathologists and people involved in laboratory animal medicine and comparative
medicine, in particular. Huge areas that are demanding veterinarians come to the forefront are not being filled. We're actually
in an era we're moving from reductionism — looking at everything in molecular and nano technology — back to better understanding
host and populations. Actually, a lot of NIH studies and RFP's are actually changing that. And veterinarian medicine is really
the only group that understands population medicine. With global food and fiber systems, veterinarians are needed worldwide,
and I would suggest that there's a huge need right now and pent-up demand for veterinarians to be involved in food systems.
Managing our ecosystem, biodiversity, and a huge new area coming to the fore especially with wildlife, is how we manage that
food safety and trade component. So, I would suggest the next five years is probably the time of the greatest opportunities
in the history of veterinary medicine. It's also the era of the greatest challenges.
As we talk about supply and demand, we actually are going to take advantage of the most remarkable opportunities in our profession's
history and those areas that we've talked about. And in each of those areas we are underperforming. We don't have enough veterinarians
involved, and the future is an opportunity that I'm afraid will be missed. This is a defining moment in veterinarian medicine.
Huge demands are surfacing now or will surface and there has been reluctance by the profession to be involved in producing
the men and women to take on those new responsibilities. Right now less than 20 percent of veterinarians that are active today
are involved in public practice, jobs in government in particular or in strictly food animal practice, and the 80 percent
are actually involved in companion animal practice. Those are the things I want to put on the table right now.
Dr. Walther: I think that Dr. King has just brought up what I consider the No. 1 challenge and concern of our profession. We have a huge
need for veterinarians in almost every discipline. We have an increasing number of veterinary positions that are being filled
by lay personnel because graduate DVM's are not available. The frustrating part of it is that if you look at the potential
for supplying more veterinarians from the veterinary schools in the United States, it doesn't exist.
We are not going to see huge increases from any school, much less every school. What's the answer? Maybe we are headed in
the direction of the medical profession where an increasing number (now approaching one half of physicians), are foreign trained.
Dr. Jack Walther
Whether or not we like that and whether or not we would rather have them trained in the United States may not be an option.
There are tremendous opportunities for foreign-trained veterinarians that come to the United States, if they can get licensed
and find a job that is not comparable any place else in the world.
I'm not sure that there are any great answers, but it will be a dramatic change in the veterinary profession over the next
five to 10 years.
Dr. Lane: First, we're talking about supply and demand here. The question is how much demand do we have? Unfortunately, the supply
that's coming through the veterinary schools is the least diverse that you could possibly imagine. They just happen to be
white females from suburban backgrounds who are going to treat one species area, companion animals. When you start having
that kind of bullet approach to veterinary medicine, we aren't going to get people to go into food hygiene. I've never had
a 7-year-old come up to me and ask about being a meat inspector. We need to diversify.