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Veterinary Workforce Expansion Act Introduced: Significant Step Taken to Protect Nation's Food Supply and Public Health

April 28, 2005

Bennie OsburnWashington, D.C. -- April 28, 2005 -- Most people associate veterinarians with their family pets, but veterinarians also protect your health. From inspecting the food on our table to respondingto a biological attack to discovering the source of infectious diseases like monkeypox and SARS, veterinarians have the special training to deal with these health concerns. A major funding effort to ensure that the nation's veterinary medical colleges can train enough veterinarians to fill these important roles came closer to reality with the introduction of the Veterinary Workforce Expansion Act (VWEA). Yesterday, Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) introduced the bill, which will establish a competitive grants program to provide ongoing support for capital improvements at U.S. veterinary medical colleges.

"Senator Allard's efforts demonstrate his resolve to protect national security," said Dr. Lawrence Heider, Executive Director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). "This funding will allow veterinary medical colleges to train more veterinarians and protect public health."

"There are significant needs for trained individuals in veterinary public practice," said Dr. Bennie Osburn, President of AAVMC, citing the critical shortage of veterinarians working in regulatory medicine, public health, research and academia. The current pool of 2,500 new graduates each year is not enough to meet the demands of a growing population and the changing needs of a society where anthrax and mad cow disease make the evening news. There are only 28 veterinary medical colleges in the U.S., and more than 30 years have lapsed since the U.S. government provided general funding for veterinary medical colleges.

Under VWEA, the Department of Health and Human Services will administer a competitive grants program that allows veterinary medical colleges to expand their numbers by building new classrooms and teaching laboratories as well as research laboratories needed to study the biological agents that pose significant risks to our food supply.

"The veterinary medical colleges are a national resource," added Dr. Osburn. "The introduction of the bill is a significant step forward in addressing issues relating to emerging diseases, diseases transmitted from animals to man and the safety and quality of our nation's food supply."

The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges represents all veterinary medical colleges in the United States and Canada, eight departments of veterinary science, eight departments of comparative medicine, two animal medical centers, and three international colleges of veterinary medicine in its collective dealings with governmental bodies, veterinary medical organizations, the animal and human health industry, educational and scientific organizations and the public.