DVMs, veterinary student converge at NAVC to examine ways to ease debt


DVMs, veterinary student converge at NAVC to examine ways to ease debt

Salary, assessing students' business acumen and life balance highlighted during session
Mar 01, 2009
By dvm360.com staff

ORLANDO — Veterinarians and students came together to consider ways to ease staggering veterinary student indebtedness.

More than 250 veterinarians and students attended the second "Elephant in the Room" meeting at the North American Veterinary Confernce. Sponsored by VetPartners, an association of veterinary practice consultants, multiple presentations offered a glimpse at the issues facing veterinary students — from escalating costs of education to career options in veterinary medicine. More than 130 students particpated in the workshop, which included breakout sessions to identify key trends and solutions to some of the problems faced by graduates.

Dr. David Bristol
"The students, for the first time, feel like they have some power over their own future," says Dr. James F. Wilson, of Priority Veterinary Consultants and architect of the original paper and last year's NAVC meeting. "And these same students are being asked to participate in the changes that are needed for our entire profession."

Here are some key messages presented. Next month, we will look at some of the outcomes and recommendations.

Salary expectations by gender

Over time, men have higher salary expectations than women.

And the differences are notable when future ownership is factored into the equation, says Dr. David Bristol, senior assistant dean and director of academic affairs at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

While men and women have similar starting salary expectations initially, the demand curve changes after the first year of employment. Simply: Men want more.

Bristol started surveying first-year veterinary students in 2000 and compiled the data he has gathered through 2008. "If they make what they expect to make over their careers, there is a $398,384 (gender-based) difference," Bristol says.

Part of the problem is that, while starting salaries are well publicized, salaries for veterinarians with 10 years' experience aren't. If they were, it is more likely men and women would earn more equal salaries.

"What we need to try to do with students is take away some of that ambiguity," he says.

According to survey results, a higher percentage of men expect to enter into a practice-owner situation.

"The interesting thing is that when we look at salary expectations vs. ownership expectations, women who don't expect to own expect to earn less than those who do and men who don't expect to own expect to earn less as well," Bristol says. "So, there is a correlation between ownership and salary expectations."

Many factors need to be taken into account when looking at the gender gap, but getting the information out to students is key.

"If they are negotiating from ignorance, they have a weaker negotiating position," he says.


Assessing students' business acumen

Veterinary students are pulling a C-minus average in business, according to a national survey.

The survey results, according to organizer Dani McVety (Class of 2009) from the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine, underscore the need for better business education for veterinary students.

"I think (the results represent) where we are when it comes to running a business or especially managing our student debt. That's not to say we can't learn, though. It simply means we have to put some extra effort into it."

McVety led the online survey with the guidance of adviser Dr. Colin Burrows and received 994 responses from students at nearly all the veterinary schools in the United States. The goal simply was to evaluate their business knowledge. "I know that if I am going to be successful in life, I am going to have to know some basic business concepts," McVety says. "That's why I thought this would be an interesting project. I also think that business should be the fun part of practice, to have a clear idea of where your hard work is going."