Study to gauge DVM workforce needs

Study to gauge DVM workforce needs

Assessment to help determine roles for future veterinarians
May 01, 2007
By staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Research Council is behind a project to assess current and future workforce needs in veterinary medicine and conclude with a report identifying industry options for continued success.

Directed by a panel of experts, the project, which kicked off in late April, will explore historical changes in the size and characteristics of the veterinary workforce; assess demographics and adequacy of the current veterinary workforce supply in multiple industry areas and economic sectors; and identify incentives, disincentives and other factors that impact DVMs when seeking jobs.

"People are valuing their animals more than ever, and we need to address that," says Robin Schoen, director of NRC's Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, of the study's value. "Also, as agriculture and food production becomes more global, we need to focus on preventing contamination of the animal food supply from imported feed and the other issue is zoonotic diseases — avian influenza, SARS, the things that cut across both human and animal health. If the nation is to be prepared for these issues, we really need to have the right kind of people in the right kind of positions."

The study, estimated to cost $600,000, will examine the kinds of jobs available to veterinarians and assess future demand for DVMs in existing areas and new employment sectors. Current and future university capacity will be analyzed, along with the schools' ability to provide wide-range training and adequate numbers of graduating veterinarians.

An assessment report, slated for release in August 2008, will review the study findings and identify options for meeting society needs and requirements in the veterinary workforce.

After being approached by several veterinary medicine colleges, NRC decided to conduct the study, which builds on previous assessments. In 2005, NRC released a report entitled Critical Needs for Research and Veterinary Sciences, which reviewed industry segments where veterinarian knowledge could be applied, including public health, infectious disease, wildlife, food safety and animal welfare, Schoen says. Another 2005 report — Animal Health at a Crossroad — reviewed how well the nation was prepared to handle foreign-animal disease and what could be done. "This is, in a way, a continuation of our work in this area of veterinary medicine," Schoen says.

Expert committee members are: Drs. Mark Pauly and Alan Kelly, University of Pennsylvania; Drs. Val Beasley and Gay Miller, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Dr. Michael Stoto, Georgetown University; Dr. Sheila Allen, University of Georgia; Dr. Bonnie Buntain, University of Calgary; Dr. Harold Davis, retired from Amgen, Inc.; Dr. James Fox, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. Malcolm Getz, Vanderbilt University; Dr. Tracey McNamara, Gene Logic Laboratories, Inc.; Dr. Bennie Osburn, University of California Davis; Dr. Willie Reed, Purdue University; Dr. John Shadduck, Shadduck Consulting, LLC; and Dr. Stephen Sutherland, Pfizer Animal Health.

The board is considering an additional member to ensure private practitioners are sufficiently represented, but no decision has been made, Schoen says.