6 thoughts on “Got Veterinarians?

  1. In reading the article, I became aware that all the points seemed to focus on a “scarcity” of veterinarians….nothing mentioned the dynamics of an over-supply of veterinarians. I just don’t understand how the AVMA thinks there is a scarcity of veterinarians (except perhaps in some fields, or locales).

    I’ve talked to young veterinarians just starting their careers and many of them are panicked at the state of the job market. They have huge debts and what job prospects there are, pay too little to make ends meet. In my opinion, this is the fault of the educational community worrying more about their kingdoms and not about the profession.

    May I ask a question? How many of the leadership positions in the AVMA, i.e., Executive Board, staff, committee heads, are occupied by members involved in or having been involved in academia and/or industry? And how does that number (or percentage) match up to the demographics of the organization as a whole?

    I have been a member of this organization since I was a student in 1969. Over the last 40+ years I have seen the focus of the AVMA drift from members interests, to the interests of academia and the veterinary industry (drug companies, equipment suppliers, etc.). The only good I have witnessed as been the Washington, D.C., lobby that has worked hard to keep Uncle Sam from completely ruining the small businesses that make up the majority of this organization’s membership.

    • Dr. Jones, thank you for pointing out an important misunderstanding. The prices of products and services are determined based on their “relative scarcity” in the market. This does not mean that for any or all products or services the quantity demanded exceeds the quantity that can be supplied, but rather positions each product or service relative to all others based on their demand and supply. Even when all products are supplied in excess of the quantity demanded, one product will be the most scarce relative to all others.

      I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that the education community is to blame for the new veterinarians unable to make ends meet. The veterinary colleges provide a service at a known price. They have a demand for seats that is roughly twice the number of seats available. In any profit-maximizing business, prices would be increased or more seats added until the quantity demanded equals the quantity supplied at a price that both the supplier and the consumer agreed to. The colleges are following this time-tested economic practice, as veterinarians have done in their own practices by raising prices or hiring more veterinarians.

      The point of the last few articles on the three veterinary markets has been that these markets, while linked through prices, are independent of each other. If, as you suggest, a consumer of the goods in one market is not getting value from a product or services he has paid to receive, the demand should fall until the quantity demanded equals the quantity supplied, the price of the product falls or both.

      • Thanks Dr. Dick for your reply. In re-reading the articles I concluded that you’re trying to help us understand the basic supply and demand dynamics of veterinary medicine when looked upon as strictly a business. As most veterinarians, my formal education in business is lacking; so terminology such as “relative scarcity” is not in my vocabulary.

        I am upset with the educational community because they have failed to educate prospective students as to the reality of the job marketplace that exists. Unfortunately, the demand for a veterinary education is driven more by emotions than by actually stepping back and analyzing post-educational opportunities and remunerations. I feel the universities are capitalizing on that emotion and ignoring the reality of the job marketplace.

        Lastly, my last question about the demographics of our organization versus the backgrounds of leadership was not addressed. This may not be in your job description and if not, who could “field” that question?

        Thanks again for your expertise and desire to help our ailing profession.

        • Sorry I did not answer the last question of your post with my first response but I had to do a little number crunching to get those numbers. Here is a little table that I put together to for you.

          Academia Industry
          EB 7.14% 0.00%
          HOD 4.12% 0.70%
          Vol 13.08% 7.82%
          Membership 4.60% 2.20%

          I did not take the time to distinguish council and committee leaders and just included all volunteers. I also was unable to determine who had any background in industry or academia.

          The EB has only 15 seats so just having one representative from academia or industry would cause them to be over represented and having none would cause it to be underrepresented.

          The HOD seems under-represented with respect to industry. The volunteers seem over-represented in both academia and industry and perhaps we should ask why – these are volunteer positions most of which struggle to find replacements every year.

          As for your indication that you are upset with the educational community because they have failed to educate prospective students as the the reality of the job market, let me give you an added perspective. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides “Occupational Employment Statistics” for over 900 professions including veterinarians. The information they report is obtained from veterinarians through various surveys. The last report still noted that the demand for veterinarians was going to grow 36% over the next five years and that this was one of the best profession to enter. This information is accessed by 90 million times a year by high school students, councilors, parents, etc.

          While we are now working with BLS to insure that they have the best data, we must continue to encourage veterinarians to complete the surveys that AVMA, Census and BLS sends as these surveys are being sent to help us understand the markets – and this will inevitably help the profession.

  2. Interesting post that brings some hard reality to what is happening in the veterinary world of North America. For those of us of some age, adding the additional veterinarian was often a life style issue rather than a sound financial decision. Veterinarians were added to practices so the owner/associates could have a better life style in the days prior to emergency/referral clinics. At the time the demand for pet services, in particular, was expanding so often these new associates could indeed grow to be active participants in net income.
    Today that is seldom the case. Demand (in my opinion) is decreasing for reasons stated in several studies, internet, cost of price delivery in inefficient and ineffective practices, reluctance to consolidate in areas of over population of veterinarians, too many graduates as schools ramp up programs in order to maintain budgets in times of decreasing government support, reluctance of the public to support education for the profession (voters), etc.
    Our professional associations have failed to educate the public about the real life and income of the veterinarian at most levels. Realistic explanations to the public of the cost faced in education and then in supplying the services has led to media coverage that is primarily negative toward our profession. Providing and suggesting that levels of care are promoted even though the majority of the public is unwilling/unable to pay for same, has and is causing standards of care to be elevated to levels not supported by the majority of the pet owners, in particular.
    Desire to be a veterinarian without a realistic evaluation of what that means is keeping application numbers high when the returns on that investment are shrinking.
    Again veterinary associations funded by members of the profession need to bring the reality of the profession today into the public realm, that is what those of us who pay our dues should expect. The continual promotion of the profession without the reality of the marketplace is unwise at best.

    • Dr. MacKay, thank you for taking the time to read Exploring Economics, providing some important insight into changes that have occurred in the market for veterinarians, and your very astute and concise description of several major factors affecting all the veterinary markets.

      The AVMA Economics Division is indeed currently implementing a plan to, as you suggest, “bring the reality of the profession into the public realm.” We have been working with the federal agencies responsible for the dissemination of education and labor information that high school students, their parents and school councilors use to ensure that a more accurate picture of the employment opportunities and costs in veterinary medicine are understood well in advance of college decisions.

      We are also working with the Land Grant colleges to provide similar information.

      In October we will hold the 2014 AVMA Economic Summit. Attendees representing veterinary medicine, the animal health sector industry and the press will receive the new research we have conducted on the various veterinary markets (veterinary education, veterinarians and veterinary services) and will be provided with what we think is the best, unbiased analysis of current conditions.