Getting Down to Business

Things, as they say, could be better. The most recent AVMA report on employment, starting salaries and educational indebtedness of 2011 veterinary medical school graduates indicates that job offers are down, salaries have taken a hit and educational debt is up once again. It’s partially a reflection of our economy, for sure, but the data also reinforces the fact that the veterinary medical profession has work to do if we are going to strengthen our business model for both short- and long-term sustainability and success. 

As we’ve recently discussed right here in AVMA@Work, the AVMA is working hard to address all of these issues. We are embarking on a long-term, multimillion-dollar initiative to develop a strategy for reversing a troubling economic decline evident throughout much of the U.S. veterinary profession.

A recent JAVMA article lays out our plan for you, and provides a lot of background as to how we developed our strategy and where we want to go. Please let us know your thoughts about what you see as possible ways to meet this challenge. You can comment right here – through AVMA@Work – by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button above.

8 thoughts on “Getting Down to Business

  1. There is an unfortunate conundrum that face graduates of veterinary colleges in the last 20 or so years. There is and cannot be a relation between tuition debt and salaries.
    Tuition debt is partly determined by a University in relation to it’s costs including building, salaries, equipment, pensions, etc. Government contributions to their costs are by economic necessity, decreasing, due to increased amounts of government debt, economic conditions and in many cases poor planning. Tuition debt is also increasing due to more graduates pursuing internships and residencies.
    Salaries are solely determined by economic forces, consumer demand and consumer education. A practice owner cannot pay more than is available after expenses. The demand for specialists will never keep pace with the increased numbers of specialists being produced and the public’s willingness to pay their fees. Even in our local emergency clinics, it’s not unusual for the clinic to insist on a minimum of a $1500 deposit for hospitalized patients.
    Add to this an economy which is faltering, the fact that veterinary medicine is mostly a cash business and that clients also have other mandatory expenses like mortgages, food, health & child care, clothing, etc., and it’s easy to see that the average client doesn’t list veterinary care as a priority.
    Perhaps students need to be more introspective when deciding to pursue a career in veterinary medicine and Universities need to be more realistic when establishing budgets and setting tuitions. There’s certainly no easy answer.

  2. How about another study like the one done by the AVMA and Merial (I think) just a few years ago on client compliance with veterinary reccommendations that tried to convince us that “PRICE IS NOT AN ISSUE” when it comes to compliance! Now we find out that at the very time that this study was done that veterinary visits had already begun to decline. And, surprise, now we find in the Bayer study that “CLIENTS ARE PUSHING BACK ON PRICE”!
    I will never believe another AVMA study unless it is done by a completely independent entity that has no connections whatsoever to the veterinary community.
    Dr. Rodney Yetter
    Havana, Illinois

  3. @John F. Grote

    John you “hit the nail on the head” with that one.
    Then add in low cost parking lot vaccine clinics and spay neuter clinics, that educate the public that are services should be cheap.

    Peter Miller

  4. The recent disclosure of accreditation granted to a foreign veterinary college (Mexico) and the subsequent future influx of foreign graduates vying for those same positions the AVMA espouses to foster is disheartening at best. The alleged influence of a corporate veterinary concern (Banfield) is disconcerting. What is the AVMA doing to address the recent practice of pharmaceutical gouging of generics? These are the issues impacting the practicing veterinarian. Does the AVMA truly represent the interests of its members?

  5. I have been in veterinary medicine since 1970 and have been frustrated for many years that veterinarians, as well as the AVMA, AAHA, and local veterinary groups, finally realized recently that our profession is in need of help. We have been a secondary wage earner career for a long time now. The average veterinarian cannot support a family, let alone put extra money in the bank, with what he/she is able to garner from an associate salary. We have let the public set our fees, take money out of our pockets, and tell us that we aren’t compassionate enough because we ask them to pay for our services. Why go to school for 9-12 years, work 12-14 hour days and only make $60K per year. Can any of us go to the local pharmacy and buy a flu shot off the counter? How about getting a script for our medications filled at a cut rate on line pharmacy? Why can our clients buy vaccines at the feed store and get veterinary products through the Internet? Why are we not allowed to declaw cats or do ear crops (I’m not advocating these) in some cities when plastic surgeons get thousands of dollars for doing face lifts and other similar procedures at greater risk. Why don’t we stop allowing outsiders to practice veterinary medicine and start charging for what we are worth? Have I gotten cynical or just old or is there any truth to what I’ve written here?

  6. I’ve been practicing now for almost 30 years and I’ve seen some interesting changes in the business of veterinary medicine.The days of big vaccine profits and big heartworm,flea and tick sales are diminishing. I believe us older practioners need to get out of our offices,quit complaining and get in the exam rooms and sell veterinary medicine. Wellness blood testing for the dog and cat in our practice has far exceeded vaccine profits and owners appreciate the phone call the next day to review the results. Most clients want good work ups and good communication and follow up. Forget about the discount practices and online pharmacies. They are not going away. You as a practitioner/owner are responsible for elevating the profession. The problem resides in the mirror.

  7. The profession has been gradually marginalized for years. Back in the 70s livestock owners could buy Combiotic at the feed store. Why call doc. That’s all he does anyhow. Then we had the rise of Pet Catalogs that sell vaccine to lay people. Easy to give a shot. You don’t need an education to do that. Then you had large mall pet stores that offer cheap veterinary services subsidized by the sale of pet products. Then internet pharmacies. Then drug companies began selling proprietary products with large volume discounts, not feasible to the average practitioner, to these sources that the lay public has access to. A small number of veterinarians by working for these companies help to foster the marginalization of the whole profession. So we have to elevate the perception of the general practitioner in the eyes of the public to restore our exclusivity.