JAVMA News Express: Study examines veterinary workforce needs

The National Research Council has released its study on the current and future workforce needs in veterinary medicine after nearly six years in the making.

The nearly 300-page report takes a comprehensive look at the profession, analyzing the supply and demand of veterinarians across all disciplines, the demand for veterinary services, the status of veterinary education, and the role economics plays in veterinary education and the practice of veterinary medicine.

JAVMA has released a News Express article that covers the highlights from the study. Read what the report has to say about veterinary schools’ intent to increase class sizes and how the various fields of veterinary medicine are faring.

18 thoughts on “JAVMA News Express: Study examines veterinary workforce needs

  1. As a poultry veterinarian, I am hesitant to engage in this discussion. I last addressed it in a 1996 commentary in JAVMA. In the intervening years student debt and time to entering the workforce has continued to increase to rather incredible levels rapidly outpacing the ability of the market to sustain either. We are reduced to asking Congress to subsidise our recent colleagues’ debt because as a profession we cannot seem to find a way to produce capable veterinarians at a cost acceptable to recent graduates or the public. Many of the problems we face would be diminished with a reduction in the effective cost to produce a veterinarian.

  2. @Eden Myers


    Hopefully we can just agree to disagree, then. I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask the leader of the AVMA what her opinion is. I don’t think by her offering her opinion that it would in any way change the future path of our profession. I feel that we, and future generations of veterinarians, are entitled to an answer.

  3. I will try to respond as if you were not trying to insult me
    And you will succeed- it’s easy to ignore something that isn’t there. What I was trying to say was that I had been ignorant of the changes taking place in the marketplace, and that those who volunteered to be in charge were equally ignorant. I do not find it unprofessional to admit that. Not do I find it unprofessional for the leadership of the AVMA to have admitted it. In fact I am glad to hear it, since it means we are unlikely to suffer this situation again. Should the leadership give in to the political pressure of a portion of it’s constituency by issuing some six word sound bite about oversupply, you know where we would be in ten or fifteen years?

    Right back here.

    Only instead of fighting outdated claims of a shortage, we’d be decrying unfounded claims of an oversupply.

    This profession has once made that mistake. It is not one we can afford to make again.
    So yes, I applaud Rene for insisting on giving us not some simplistic opinion, but the considered judgement of a large group of deeply committed people that we have a complex problem which requires we gather more information to accurately construct an effective action plan.
    THe AABP took the lead on this last year by figuring out that while there were areas that remain underserved by food animal veterinarians, it was due to the economics of those areas; the organization is now working to construct a different practice model for those areas, one that will be sustainable for both the practitioner and client in the face of decreased resources and increased costs. Likewise the AVMA and AAVMC are working together to construct new collaborative educational models that can serve students’ needs to control costs yet accomodate the drastic funding cuts programs have sustained. The research and regulatory communities that serve us as practitioners face the same challenges. Meeting those challenges requires a better definition of the current situation- yes, more studies.

    Link, I don’t find eleven months long at all to wait for the quality data on which the course of an entire profession will be based for the next twenty years.

    No pressure.

    But generating less than the best data- or ignoring relevant, objective, documented but distasteful data- that’s another mistake we cannot afford to make again. The mistakes the AVMA made in past data gathering efforts cannot continue. While Karl has ably addressed some of those objective mistakes, I remain concerned- for example, I am not sure what the definition of historically is in reference to response rates on the senior survey. Surely no one is suggesting history started in 2008, which is when the overall response rate first went from the mid-seventies to the mid-nineties. That was the year the survey went online. Which then makes me wonder what assumptions underlie the finding that a paper format of the Biennial Economic Survey achieves the highest response rate. And I continue to wonder at the assumption that the senior survey can be useful in the context of the whole profession, given that every year it only reaches two thirds of those eligible to enter the US veterinary job market as indicated by the number taking the NAVLE. Those assumptions are not transparent and the process for making the constant changes in methodology seem to remain closed to scrutiny.

    So I am delighted Karl has opened up to us the process of how the effort will be conducted and overseen over that eleven months. I trust the study group and research firm will accomplish their goal of finalizing a plan for sharing study progress with the membership on this week’s conference call. How will that accomplishment be shared with the membership?

  4. Eden:

    As you know, I share many of your concerns about the current and future economic viability of our profession. As chair of the AVMA Workforce Study Advisory Group, I would like to add to Karl’s comments regarding the study. The Workforce Study Advisory Group will be having monthly conference calls with the study organizations and I can assure everyone that the Advisory Group is very focused on insuring that all of the pertinent factors that are influencing our profession are taken into consideration.

    Each of the eleven Advisory Group members will have an opportunity to independently share their perspectives with the IHS Global Insight team. IHS will also be interviewing other thought leaders within veterinary medicine in order to make sure that the study addresses the concerns of the profession.

    I know we were all frustrated with the delays associated with the National Research Council study. I also know that waiting another eleven months for the AVMA Workforce Study is not what anyone wants. Even so, I am confident that it will be worth the wait in that the end result will be an objective credible study with tools that can be utilized for scenario planning such that we can project the outcomes of various paths to the future. This is critical if we hope to influence the long-term welfare of our profession.

    With best regards,


  5. @Eden Myers
    Thanks for writing, Dr. Myers. I appreciate the comments.

    Specific to the AVMA workforce study, the AVMA has hired IHS Global Insight, in collaboration with The Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany, School of Public Health. Both organizations have put together an outstanding research team with substantial expertise and experience in health professions workforce research. The research team will be conducting a comprehensive research study to assess the current and future supply of veterinary medical professionals relative to the demand for veterinary services, including possible geographic imbalances in supply and demand.

    Also, AVMA has named an 11-person Workforce Advisory Group to provide advice on the study and to review interim and final reports of the study. The study, which just started this month, will be conducted in approximately 11 months and will include a comprehensive review of the literature, identification and analysis of factors affecting both the supply of, and demand for, veterinarians, and analysis of the interaction of supply and demand by sector and region.

    An important outcome of the study will be a veterinary workforce model that will be used by AVMA to evaluate future scenarios regarding the veterinary workforce supply and demand, and enable adjustments to the model to refine parameters and projections over time. The Workforce Advisory Group is holding a conference call with the consulting research team later this week and will be finalizing plans on the best ways to provide study progress and information during the course of the study.

    In response to your concerns about the AVMA studies and surveys you mentioned, please let us clarify a few points.

    The Member Needs Assessment included two questions that were identified early in the fielding process that did not allow for multiple responses. They were adjusted immediately to address the situation and to allow for appropriate responses.

    The AVMA senior survey has been conducted since the early 1980s and provides benchmark statistics on a number of topics pertinent to the first job market for graduating seniors. For example, survey results include statistics on type of employment sought, number of job offers received, starting salary and benefits, amount of educational debt, and other variables. It is conducted in cooperation with all 28 U.S. veterinary schools and colleges. The salary question applies to those who have accepted a position and know their starting salary. The study response rate has historically hovered around 90 percent of all graduating seniors each year. Your idea to survey veterinarians after the first year to gather compensation data is one of the goals of the Biennial Economic Survey. Having said that, however, I think the graduating senior survey should be continued as an important survey for the profession.

    As you know, the Biennial Economic Survey is also important as a benchmarking tool for the economics of the profession, and has been for many years. It is a complex survey and yields important statistics on professional compensation and related occupational variables, and private practice financial statistics such as gross revenue, total expenses, return to management, practice financial ratios and other statistics. Our research staff has tested various methodologies on the BES study and other membership surveys, and would agree with you that online surveys produce excellent results in many cases. Regarding the BES, our trials with online and mail surveys have shown that a mail survey produces the best response rate at this time.

    With every study we conduct, we continue to evaluate the best methodology to ensure a strong response rate and the best results to achieve the study’s objectives.

  6. @Eden Myers

    I agree with most of what you have posted. I think that it is safe to say that we all have a great respect for our profession and very much wish to improve its long term viability and success. I think that we, as a profession, often times disagree upon how to accomplish said tasks and this is not a surprise if one considers the independent nature that many of us possess.

    Like you, I have a great admiration for all of my colleagues, Dr. Carlson included, for the time and effort that they put into trying to improve our organization and our profession as a whole. I was fortunate enough to see my colleagues in action this past Chicago and I was and still am humbled by their perseverance and effort. I feel that I can disagree and still respect them at the same time. If I have offended any of my colleagues by what I have said or written on this or any other blog, I sincerely apologize.

    “Greg, you are asking for a simple answer to a complex question. One that is so simple it is meaningless for addressing the problem”.

    I have to disagree with you here, Eden.

    I agree that this issue can be made as complex as you wish, but the bottom line is simple supply and demand economics. It has been explained by several economists in the past, so I will not bore you with the details. I am not asking for the entire synopsis of the veterinary market and every market factor that plays a role. I am asking a question that requires a simple yes or no answer. Based on the amount of information published, does our leadership feel that we have an oversupply of veterinarians in the private sector? I feel that as a dues paying member of the AVMA, I have a right to know what our leadership thinks. Please take note that I am not asking why, for I feel that our colleagues have the intelligence and the information to draw their own conclusions.

    “I applaud Rene for not falling for it”.

    I really don’t follow this. What is it exactly I am trying to get Dr. Carlson to fall for? Telling the truth? Giving me her opinion? I have no motive other than seeking the truth, which I feel that all AVMA members, both current and future, deserve to hear. It is that simple.

    “It’s like when the profoundly ignorant owner of the newly diagnosed diabetic cat wants me to say, “Yes, the problem is too much sugar.”

    I find your inference here both unprofessional and uncalled for. However, I will try to respond as if you were not trying to insult me.
    I disagree with your analogy. I think a more accurate comparison would be that your long-time client is worried about his obese cat and comes to you for advice. His cat has been urinating and drinking excessively, is eating more food than usual, and has lost some weight. You notice a plantigrade stance when you examine said cat.

    He asks if it could be diabetes, and while very suspicious, you say that you can’t tell until you perform the proper diagnostic tests. Notice at this point he isn’t asking for a synopsis on glucose metabolism. He simply wants to know if you, his advisor/spokesperson, think his cat has diabetes.

    The lab work shows a severely elevated serum glucose as well as severe glucosuria. You call him to tell him of your findings and he asks again if his cat has diabetes. Instead of saying yes, you basically in a round about way tell him that his cat has hyperglycemia and glucosuria. You continue to explain this in as many ways as possible without uttering the word “diabetes’.

    Now, the problem is that until you as the advisor state that this cat does in fact have diabetes, it is not likely that appropriate therapy can begin. So, he will just continue to become sicker and sicker.

    This is not about a cat with a “profoundly” ignorant owner. This is about being able to stand up and state the truth, or in the very least, giving your opinion to those you are supposed to represent

  7. “I hope our members are following this dialogue as you ask these tough questions”
    I certainly have been following this dialogue closely, and have found the exchanges very valuable. I appreciate the effort and thought both of you have put into figuring these issues out to everyone’s benefit. Along those lines, I would like to say at this point:
    Greg, you are asking for a simple answer to a complex question. One that is so simple it is meaningless for addressing the problem.

    It’s like when the profoundly ignorant owner of the newly diagnosed diabetic cat wants me to say, “Yes, the problem is too much sugar.”

    See, if I say that, I fear it’ll be the last thing that client hears. And while it may be technically true, it’s an utterly useless answer that closes the door to explaining how it got that way, what it’s going to do to the rest of the body and how we’re going to fix it.

    I applaud Rene for not falling for it.

    Like the owner who didn’t even know cats got diabetes yet has the vague but firm conviction that it’s all about high sugar- so all he has to do is quit feeding his cat ice cream- we are, as practicing professionals, for the most part, profoundly ignorant of how our profession works. We’ve never had to think about so we never have.
    Unlike the owner of the diabetic cat, there are not good resources for our leaders to use to educate us. Certainly the AVMA has spent a lot of effort and money putting together such resources.

    “This very well designed AVMA workforce study over the next 12 months with a highly qualified and reputable vendor will help us plan for our future”
    Unfortunately, my experience with the resources the AVMA has previously produced compels me to reject this statement. The NAS study was years delayed and contained minimal objective data. The Member Needs Assessment conducted in November 2011- conducted by a “highly qualified and reputable vendor”- had multiple questions that were incorrectly coded such that the survey form would not accept multiple answers, despite the fact that the questions requested multiple answers. The annual survey of senior students from which we make starting salary and debt load calculations is so deeply flawed in design as to be worse than useless- it consists of asking students what they think they are going to be making, with no follow up to see how closely those numbers correlate to what happens in the real world. It has other equally serious flaws in design and execution. The Biennial economic survey is so deeply flawed in execution- it is distributed only in paper format, which increases expense and time to results while decreasing the scope, response rate and accuracy- that when I received my questionnaire I deliberately did not participate.

    Objective data is so accessible, and information gathering and distribution technology is so available, the AVMA runs a real risk of losing the relevance race by using the same process as they always have. I’m happy to give everybody credit for effort- but I’m already in the habit of looking elsewhere for answers.

    So unless the AVMA opens up about the actual design of, and real time updates on the execution of, the study I have little reason to believe that this effort “will help us plan for the future” any better than previous efforts.

    I applaud the volunteer leaders I have met for their time and effort, and I am blown away by the diligence and dedication of the paid staff at all the organizations. But it isn’t just effort that counts. It’s results. How is the AVMA making sure all these efforts are yielding results?

  8. @René Carlson, AVMA President
    Dr. Carlson, you have certainly left me with quite some food for thought. It will take me some time to get thru it. In the meantime, could you answer the question with simple yes or not answer?

    In your opinion, do we have an over-supply of veterinarians in the private sector?

  9. I hope our members are following this dialogue as you ask these tough questions, and I, as a spokesperson for AVMA, try to answers them. Don’t think for a minute AVMA is not aware of or has ignored the challenges we face in veterinary medicine. It is the very reason I agreed to run for AVMA President at all. One only has to look at the Strategic Plan priorities, generated completely from member input, and our multitude of ongoing activities to address those goal statements to see we are, in fact, doing a lot.
    1. We have a whole division working on Capitol Hill every day for the benefit of our members, our practitioners, large and small, private and public. (Advocacy)
    2. We have spent countless hours developing (with others) the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare to emphasize and educate the profession and pet owners on the value of prevention and wellness, with major media events at our Convention and throughout the year. (Outreach and Marketing)
    3. We have established MyVeterinarian.com. Many of us do media interviews throughout the year on the value of prevention and this website for finding veterinarians when needed. (Outreach and Marketing)
    4. We have established a productive dialogue with the Deans and AAVMC which will yield productive results in addressing workforce issues, managing educational debt costs, and improving our new graduates’ confidence in their first jobs. (Education and Economics)
    5. We have a Task Force on Governance to see how we can structure AVMA for the best efficacy and representation for members and the profession in this 21st century. (Member Engagement and Service)
    6. We have a Task Force on Foreign School Accreditation to look at the advantages and disadvantages of this activity. (Member Concerns and Education)
    All of these activities, and many others, require great commitments of time and money. I believe AVMA members (and I am an AVMA member too!) get great value for their dues dollars. No one is working harder on these challenges for the present and the future than your current leadership and AVMA staff members. All over the country I get positive feedback on our AVMA initiatives. Our Membership Needs Survey (done every 5 years and just completed) shows overall member satisfaction with over 90% of members expressing support or strong support for our goal statements, however there is always room for improvement in the ultimate achievement of those goals.
    As to helping the educational debt load of future colleagues, that is not just their problem, it is our problem. Educational debt affects the ability to hire associates, have exit strategies, develop future faculty and researchers, and provide attention to underserved populations to name a few. The applicant pool has significantly decreased due to a less than stellar return on investment for the costs of our educational degree. Individual practitioners only provide services to a very limited population geographically and professionally. AVMA has no ability or right to limit numbers of graduates, nor should we. I will say the Council on Education (COE) does assess outcomes based on physical facilities, clinical resources, faculty numbers, and the other standards and schools must inform the COE of any change in class size greater than 10% so they can re-assess conditions to be sure they still provide for appropriate student outcomes. The recently released NRC Workforce Study report states there is no overall shortage of veterinarians, rather a need for veterinarians in certain professional and geographic areas. AVMA had already issued a similar statement last fall.
    As to the common and continuing misunderstanding that the dental profession closed many dental schools in the 70’s, let me put that myth to rest right now. The ADA had nothing to do with the closing of several dental schools. According to a representative of the ADA last August at our AVMA Economic Working Session, the schools were closed totally independent of any such action on the part of the ADA, but rather by their individual Universities due to poor financial performance at a time when the dental profession faced circumstances ominously similar to the ones veterinary medicine faces today.
    As to marketing the profession, one challenge is we don’t have a consistent message to market. That is exactly what the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare is about. It is a three year project (2011-2013), currently funded by 22 collaborating partners (for profit and not-for-profit) to 1) develop a consistent message for prevention (see the approved Guidelines), 2) educate our own profession about this consistent message, and 3) THEN market the value of prevention to the public so they get this consistent message from the profession when they enter a veterinary clinic or hospital. Go to http://www.pethealthpartnership.org to see the latest developments on “Partners for Healthy Pets”. We have spent two of three years doing exactly what you are asking. Now, depending on how widespread and effective our members want the 3rd year public campaign to be, depends on how to fund it. Would AVMA members be willing to be assessed for that cost, perhaps an additional “Marketing Campaign Fee” each year for three years depending on your type of practice (small, mixed, or large), OR should we dig into reserves (again) in addition to the other work we are doing on economics, education, and engagement (AVMA Governance)? Your Executive Board grappled with this very question last month.
    I believe we are getting tremendous work done for the present and the future! It is easy to be frustrated and impatient however persistence and diligent planning will reap rewards.
    Finally, there are a lot of definitions of leadership. My personal one is for having Vision, Influence, and the Enthusiastic Collaboration to achieve the Vision. It involves handling the problems of today while directing and planning for a better tomorrow.
    The Vision for our Strategic Plan is “The American Veterinary Medical Association engages and empowers its members to be the premier authorities and leaders in veterinary medicine.”
    The Vision for the national Economic Strategy is “Veterinary medicine is a personally and financially rewarding profession.”
    Believe me, your AVMA leadership and staff have never worked harder on the present and the future, and your AVMA dues are very much at work for your benefit. For those who feel frustrated or impatient, I urge you to be involved, run for one of the almost 700 positions for volunteer leadership, the House of Delegates, the Executive Board, or even President (!). Continue to contact your representatives in those entities. Being active on this blog is a very good start. I believe members do have good representation in many areas and have good value for their dues. I greatly appreciate your membership and feedback.
    As for my legacy, Greg? I will say to all AVMA members, I believe in planned productive strategies, not hitting someone over the head with a two- by- four, although I admit that is sometimes tempting to get one’s attention. One method has quicker results than the other, yet one is more effective in the long run. I am not working for a legacy; I am working for the long run. I am in a “marathon relay” with reaching the finish line dependent on my whole team. Thank you for your membership.

  10. @René Carlson, AVMA President

    “First of all, I never said things were all rosy at this particular time”. … Thank you for clarifying that for me. I have a hard time understanding the “message” in many of your posts, as I often find them ambiguous and evasive. Many of the messages that come out of the AVMA are quick to point out the bright future that our profession has and even quicker to gloss over the less rosy realities of the present day. How can we be expected to fix things if we can’t even admit to the problems in public?

    “We are at another turning point. We can quietly accept these changes and the consequences, or we can again position ourselves for continued value and success”. “Yet I do firmly believe we have a bright future IF we adapt to and/or plan for these changes”….

    I agree, but would also add that these changes have largely passed us by and we are now forced to play catch up, to react boldly to the crisis we find ourselves in. Sure, the future is extremely important and needs to be planned for, but the ship is sinking today! Does the AVMA have any bold plans to help shore things up today as we continue to plan for the future? I know there are meetings, committees, and task forces, but is there any ACTION coming down the road anytime soon?

    “These changes, such as higher tuition for higher education”…

    Tuition concerns are important and justified, but several issues are more concerning to those of us in private practice (which make up a large portion of the AVMA), such as the direct impact of the continued oversupply of veterinary graduates, the effect of unfair competition from non profits, and the public’s general lack of appreciation/understanding of our services (think lack of effective national marketing). If the AVMA, in collaboration with the AAVMC, finds a way to solve the tuition concerns, what will the long term benefit be to the profession? We will likely continue to graduate more doctors than can be absorbed and this will further erode the value and earning potential of the DVM degree.

    “Are forcing us to be more proactive in marketing our profession”…

    I think that this is extremely valuable and long past due. The American Dental Association has done an extremely effective job with marketing preventive care to the masses. They also reduced the number of graduates and closed several schools in the past. How has the AVMA been marketing veterinary care because I honestly haven’t seen anything in the public about this?

    “We have boxed ourselves into a “perceived and limited” stereotype of being primarily companion animal private practitioners. That career path is undergoing dramatic changes”.

    SO, WHY WON”T YOU SHARE THIS MESSAGE WITH THE PUBLIC AND FUTURE VETERINARIANS? Why do you keep avoiding and evading this? Somebody needs to give future veterinarians an accurate assessment of the profession; the schools have a serious conflict of interest in doing so. Why does the AVMA continue to shy away from making a factual, if not somber statement about the current job market for private practice? We all know that it is the truth. Someone also needs to represent the needs and interests of those of us in private practice, and after all, isn’t that what you are supposed to do as our leader? If I am mistaken, I apologize, but I thought I was paying dues to the AVMA so that my interests might be represented.

    ‘The United States was founded on the philosophy of opportunity for all, not restriction, and that philosophy is enforced”.

    I think there was something in there about taxation without representation. Honestly, I feel that way about the AVMA quite a bit. This statement has nothing to do with what we have been discussing for the last 10 months, as I am only asking for the AVMA to release a concise and true statement about the current state of private practice and the expected growth of this section of veterinary medicine. It is not only the honest and moral thing to do for all those starry eyed prospective students; it is also what is necessary for you to represent all of the dues paying AVMA members engaged in private practice. By saying nothing or by playing coy, the AVMA is complicit with the AAVMC in adding to the problems that plague our profession. On a side note, the last I checked, our nation has a sizeable border patrol and immigration department. If we were to open our borders to all, the likely flood of people would overwhelm our resources and there would not be enough jobs to go around. Would that be good for our country? As an American tax payer, would you be happy with the president if he allowed this? I think not.

    “There are a lot of opportunities, as was stated, but we must develop them”.

    Dr. Carlson, tell me that you had to suppress a laugh when you wrote that. There are opportunities, but they don’t really exist right now? You realize that this sounds absurd, don’t you? An opportunity that must first be developed, without any precedence, is not an opportunity at all but merely a dream. If that is the best hope that we have to offer at this point, I fear we are in much worse trouble than I had originally thought.

    Based on the available information and input from your constituents in private practice, do you feel there is an over-supply of veterinarians entering private practice? Yes or no please.

    Finally, your tenure will soon be over. What will your legacy be? Will you stand up and state the truth, or will you continue to skirt the issue and deflect? Will the AVMA continue to enable colleges to pump out increasing numbers of students by sitting silently by or will you actually take action? Will you be different than your predecessors or will you too pass the buck? What will your legacy be, Dr. Carlson?

  11. First of all, I never said things were all rosy at this particular time. I said I have full confidence that veterinary medicine has a rosy (I prefer the word “bright”) future, and I do believe it does. Most professions go through periods of evolution due to circumstances of the times. The invention of the automobile and the gasoline powered tractor must have seemed like a dire time for veterinary medicine when the care of horses was the primary source of income. Certainly when the hog cholera eradication program went into effect in the 1960’s and restrictions on vaccinations eventually went into effect, there was concern that veterinarians would lose a large part of their business and revenue. Then companion animals became a large part of veterinary medicine and revenue sources for the profession in response to an ever increasing human-animal bond. However, now there are sweeping changes affecting veterinary medicine again.

    We are at another turning point. We can quietly accept these changes and the consequences, or we can again position ourselves for continued value and success. There are certainly challenges due to the circumstances of our time for all the reasons you listed; yet I do firmly believe we have a bright future IF we adapt to and/or plan for these changes. These changes, such as higher tuition for higher education in general and expanding resources for information from the Internet, are forcing us to be more proactive in marketing our profession for the knowledge we possess and the services we provide in a variety of areas.

    We have boxed ourselves into a “perceived and limited” stereotype of being primarily companion animal private practitioners. That career path is undergoing dramatic changes. Most people don’t like change and want to hang onto the status quo. This is the time we need to reposition veterinary medicine for the future. That includes getting the public, and potential employers to see the value we have in a much broader set of career paths, such as food security, policy makers, and public health. Even our own colleagues in private practice don’t see us as “real veterinarians” if we are not in private clinical practice. Just today, a veterinarian who teaches at a veterinary technician program told me that when a person asked her about an illness in her pet, she told her to go see a “real vet”. She IS a “real vet”. It might have been more appropriate to direct her to “a veterinarian currently in private clinical practice”. We are our own worst enemy! We need to have the public and our own colleagues view all areas of practice, public and private, seen as the “traditional role” of a veterinarian.

    The United States was founded on the philosophy of opportunity for all, not restriction, and that philosophy is enforced. This very well designed AVMA workforce study over the next 12 months with a highly qualified and reputable vendor will help us plan for our future. The point is well taken, however, that warning signs have been present for decades, and action was not taken. It seems people have a hard time initiating and achieving change until forced into it. Change is difficult. The AVMA is actively engaged in several initiatives to plan for a successful future. There are a lot of opportunities, as was stated, but we must develop them. We all have to believe in those opportunities ourselves before we can get others to believe in them. I continue to be optimistic.

  12. I am disappointed that the leadership within our profession has not taken a more clear stand regarding the potential over-supply of veterinarians. Most of us small animal veterinarians believe our profession suffers from an over-supply. Please be bold and take a stand. Even if the AVMA holds a different viewpoint, be bold and take a stand and say so.

    I could say much more, however, most of what has been said by Dr. Nutt above I agree with. I am chiming in and letting my opinion be made known.

    Gary Stamps, DVM

  13. Dr. Carlson,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion. While I greatly admire and appreciate your endless enthusiasm, I fear that it is detached from the current reality that many of us are facing when I read statements like this: “veterinary medicine does have a very rosy future by all accounts”.

    Wow! When I first read this, I thought, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME”? Even cherry picking thru the data in this latest report would not conclude a rosy picture. Take into account the past work force studies and the latest Bayer study, and you have stagnant growth, fewer veterinary visits, and downward pressure on salaries brought on by continued over supply of private practitioners. Considering most incoming veterinary students aspire to enter private practice, that is not rosy at all.

    That is not to say that opportunities do not exist. There are opportunities with food animal practice in communities that cannot fully support a veterinarian. There are opportunities in biomedical sciences for those who want to obtain an additional advanced degree. There are opportunities in public health, but apparently the jobs are not that lucrative. There also appears to be opportunities for those who want to enter academia, for as our class sizes continue to grow and the number of new schools increase, there will be a need for someone to teach the students. There are also, apparently, opportunities for veterinarians to create jobs in sectors that are not currently being served by veterinary professionals. What these are and what they will pay remains to be seen. I am not sure that many would feel confident betting a quarter million dollars of school debt on this. What does this say about those of us AVMA members that are in private practice now? Will things just continue to dry up while we add to the numbers of private practitioners? What help will there be for those dues paying avma members that will continue to struggle while their leaders paint a rosy picture to a new generation of veterinarians?

    “Veterinary students still have a passion for this profession as do most of our AVMA members”. I don’t think that anyone can accuse our profession of attracting people that are lacking in passion and I hope that you are not suggesting that I am not passionate about my profession simply because I fail to agree with your assessment of the current situations at hand. My concern is that the passion that our students have will soon be tested and may turn to resentment when they get out of school and struggle to find meaningful employment, since you and others in the AVMA have told them what a rosy future they will have. I don’t think that is completely honest or fair. Where is the harm in stating that, hey, you will likely love what you do but because of things being the way that they are, you will likely struggle financially. That would be valuable information and good leadership.

    “There is no more exciting or noble profession IMHO; however I do tell them they need to be aware of the cost to earn a DVM and manage that debt from the start, using all resources to their advantage”.
    There is something that we can agree on. I have a deep respect and love for my profession and it saddens me to see it in the shape that it is in. The writing has been on the wall for decades, yet our leadership has failed to take the appropriate steps to maintain the value of the DVM degree. I think that it is great that you are discussing finances with prospective veterinarians but would like for you to be upfront with them about the future job market as well.

    These are nothing more than our opinions, though. I would ask that you reach out to your constituents and see how they view this study and what they want from you. It is unfortunate that you get such little feedback here, but that is the reality of it. Perhaps another venue or a mass email effort will help you understand what it is your constituents expect from you.

    As always, thank you for your time.

  14. “they need to be aware of the cost to earn a DVM degree, and manage that debt responsibly from the start, using all resources to their advantage. We are working to compile those resources. ”

    What resources is who working to compile, and to whom, when and how will those resources be made available?

    Can you share some specific points in the action plan for influencing the “applicant pool, educational curriculum, and employers” toward public practice?

  15. Greg,
    The AVMA continues to have collaborative dialogue with the leadership and members of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges on these issues of common interest to our AVMA members about education and workforce. The National Research Council (of the National Academies of Science) Workforce Study further confirms the need to address the understanding of the value of veterinary medicine in public practice and the education to meet these needs. We have had lengthy discussions about this topic not only with AAVMC, but also with federally employed veterinarians in the Washington DC area, and within our own Executive Board strategic sessions.

    As for “continuing to sell a rosy future to graduates”, veterinary medicine does have a very rosy future by all accounts. We are not the only profession with high educational cost at this time. In fact, one of the three priorities we have discussed with AAVMC is immediate assistance to help students manage their educational costs. For example, AAVMC has established a Task Force on Educational Debt with representatives from AVMA, AAVMC, SAVMA, and the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA), a student initiated business group. Veterinary students still have a passion for this profession as do most of our AVMA members.

    As you know, many of us give presentations to veterinary students or those hoping to become veterinarians. I am honest with them. There is no more exciting or noble profession IMHO, however I do tell them they need to be aware of the cost to earn a DVM degree, and manage that debt responsibly from the start, using all resources to their advantage. We are working to compile those resources. The challenge comes in getting the overall applicant pool, potential employers, and members of this very profession to understand the importance and value of veterinarians in food animal and public practice as much as they understand our more common career path in private companion animal practice. We simply have to turn public practice into “a traditional” career path in the eyes of the public and our members as much as private practice is at this time. That will take a lot of education in these three areas – applicant pool, educational curriculum, and employers.

    We all must do our part. Thank you for staying engaged in the conversations.

  16. Considereing this study, past studies on workforce needs, the Bayer usage study, increases in graduate numbers, and the fact that the greater majority of incoming students will choose private practice, how will the AVMA promote/market veterinary medicine?

    Will we come up with honest and realistic statements or will be continue to try and sell a rosy future to those who graduate?

    I would like to know because I give talks to many students and I am at a loss these days what I should tell those who want to joint our great profession?

  17. Does the AVMA have an official statement with regards to the findings of the report? Do we know how this data will be utilized?

    Thank you
    Greg Nutt

    • Thanks for writing, Dr. Nutt. The AVMA issued a statement on Wednesday, May 30, immediately after the NAS report was published. We will incorporate the report’s findings into many of our ongoing strategic discussions and activities that focus on the current and future state of veterinary medicine, veterinary education and veterinary economics.