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Veterinary Educators Urge Congress to Pass Veterinary Public Health Workforce and Education Act

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Editor's note: Dean Bennie Osburn has been involved in promoting eterinary Public Health Workforce and Education Act and participated in the event described in the following news release. 

WASHINGTON, DC – March 11, 2010  Officials from the nation’s 28 colleges of veterinary medicine converged on Capitol Hill today to advocate for HR2999, The Veterinary Public Health Workforce and Education Act, which would provide urgently needed funds to meet societal needs for more veterinarians. The legislation, if enacted, would be the first direct federal infrastructure support for veterinary medicine schools in over 30 years.

An alarming report from the General Accounting Office  warns of a growing shortage of veterinarians nationwide, “particularly of veterinarians who care for animals raised for food, serve in rural communities, and have training in public health. ” The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a need for an additional 22,000 veterinarians by 2016. The leading cause of the shortage is lack of capacity at U.S. veterinary medical colleges, where applicants outnumber seats by over three to one.

“Veterinarians are our frontline of defense against potentially deadly disease outbreaks,” said Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), sponsor of the Act. “As the H1N1 outbreak proved, disease can travel from animal to human rapidly and unpredictably. We must have enough public health veterinarians to help keep our food supply and our families safe.” 

If enacted into law, The Veterinary Public Health Workforce and Education Act would create a competitive grant program to schools of veterinary medicine; programs to support faculty recruitment and retention; a rotating fellowship program within the Department of Health and Human Services; and a Division of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health at the Health Resources and Services Administration.

“The current critical shortages of veterinarians means that public health practice disciplines such as bioterrorism and emergency preparedness, environmental health, food safety and security, food production systems, regulatory medicine, diagnostic laboratory medicine and biomedical research, are underserved,” said Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, the executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). “With only 28 veterinary medical colleges in the country, we do not have enough capacity to meet all of these needs.”

Recent steep state budget cuts have further increased stress on the nations’ veterinary schools and colleges. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges estimates that $45 million to $50 million in public support has been lost by the nation's 28 veterinary schools during the past two years.

"State budget shortfalls are resulting in major cuts for veterinary medical colleges and our message to Congress is that if we are to expand these schools to meet societal needs, we need help," Dr. Pappaioanou said.

About AAVMC

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) is a non-profit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment by generating new knowledge and preparing the high quality veterinary workforce needed to meet continually changing societal demands for veterinary expertise. AAVMC provides leadership for and promotes excellence in academic veterinary medicine to prepare the veterinary workforce with the scientific knowledge and skills required to meet societal needs through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. On the Web: http://www.aavmc.org.