USDA Announces Loan Repayment Awards for Veterinarians Serving in Underserved Rural Communities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this month announced more than 40 awards to help veterinarians repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for their service in areas of the United States that lack sufficient veterinary resources.

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) made the awards through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP). The VMLRP has been among AVMA’s top appropriations requests since it was authorized and the governmental relations division works persistently to ensure Congress continues to fund this important program.

As a result of AVMA’s and its partners’ efforts to secure funding for the loan repayment program, the USDA will award approximately $4.6 million to veterinarians who serve in 30 states. In exchange for these awards, the veterinarians sign three-year contracts with the USDA to provide much needed services in the agency’s designated veterinarian shortage areas, such as food animal medicine, public health, epidemiology, and food safety.

Veterinarians are critical to America’s food safety and food security, and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans. However, there is a shortage of food animal veterinarians in certain areas of the country, which the USDA listed as “Designated Shortage Areas.”  A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training, which can average more than $150,000, according to the latest AVMA survey of graduating veterinary students.

Since 2010, 558 veterinarians have applied to the VMLRP and 170 of them have received VMLRP awards.

NIFA has illustrated a map on its website that shows all designated veterinarian shortage areas across the United States and the areas that have been filled through the program.

For more information on AVMA’s advocacy efforts on educational debt and veterinary workforce issues, contact Gina Luke at gluke@avma.org.

3 thoughts on “USDA Announces Loan Repayment Awards for Veterinarians Serving in Underserved Rural Communities

  1. This is a great initiative in my opinion! I know that there is a similar program for engineers in the army, and it seems to work well. Why not reward skilled professionals who can make a huge difference, it’s common sense really.

  2. I am excited to hear about this continued opportunity for veterinarians to pay off their student loans while serving in under-served areas. However, I do not think eligibility should be contingent upon attending an AVMA accredited school. I attended St. Matthew’s University of the British West Indies, and not only completed my clinical training at the University of Illinois School of Veterinary Medicine, but was required to take and pass the NAVLE and the PAVE exam as well. Should I choose to work in those states that do not accept the PAVE testing, I will also be subject to taking the ECFVG at an expense of $6000.

    Those of us that graduate from schools other than AVMA accredited schools have proven time and time again that we are not lesser veterinarians. We have demonstrated that we are competent and capable of practicing veterinary medicine both through our equivalency testing and through years of practical experience working in our chosen profession. I see no benefit to the American public in continuing the unnecessarily discriminatory practice of denying qualified and experienced professionals such as myself the same opportunities that are available to locally trained veterinarians.

    • Hi Dr. Eisele and thank you for your comment. AVMA COE accreditation of international veterinary schools provides assurance that those programs of education meet the same standards as other similarly accredited schools. It is for this reason the USDA has chosen graduation from a AVMA accredited institution as a prerequisite to applying to the VMLRP. If/when SMU is granted AVMA COE accreditation then its graduates will be eligible to compete for awards providing they meet the other criteria.