You may have seen a mention in last month’s AVMA@Work about an economic summit meeting we held with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. The summit, held at the North American Veterinary Conference, was the first of what will be many meetings designed to address the ongoing economic challenges facing veterinary medical education.
We’re happy to report that momentum continues to build after we held our second economic summit earlier this month during the AAVMC’s annual conference. It’s important to note that more than 70 leaders from veterinary medical colleges, the AAVMC and the AVMA have participated in these summits, with each attendee expressing a long-term commitment to helping us tackle the challenges we face.
Many important economic issues were identified, and four – workforce concerns, educational debt, demand for clinical veterinary services and public support for veterinary medical education – were considered of the highest priority. Summit attendees focused on three areas during their most recent meeting: the veterinary workforce, educational debt and employer expectations of new graduates.
There are differing opinions among members of the profession as to whether workforce shortages exist in certain practice disciplines and geographic areas. While workforce studies have been conducted in the past, summit attendees agreed that a new study – with up-to-date workforce supply-and-demand data – is needed. The AVMA’s newly established Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee will consider workforce study proposals at its meeting in early April, possibly setting the stage for a study to be conducted in the near future.
As we all know, veterinary educational debt continues to climb, with mean educational debt hovering at about $142,000 in 2011. In an effort to help ease the burden of student debt, summit members agreed to create a multi-organizational education debt task force that will identify solutions and prepare a plan for improving financial counseling for veterinary students and recent graduates.
In the area of employer expectations, summit attendees agreed that it’s critical for the profession to have a common understanding of the needs of employers who hire new graduates and of the expectations that both employers and veterinary colleges have for new graduates. It was recommended that a workshop be held at the AVMA annual convention to discuss how to improve salaries of new veterinary graduates, and to enhance their value and productivity to their employers.
These meetings are providing us with the much-needed opportunity to gain a common understanding of the economic issues, and the pressures and stresses felt by the profession. We are seeking solutions, and the summit members will gather next at the AVMA Annual Convention in San Diego, which is being held Aug. 3-7.