This news announcement was distributed February 23, 2011 by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.
Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, February 15, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed the Veterinary Public Health Amendments Act (H.R. 525), which – if approved by Congress – would allow for the repayment of the student loans for veterinarians who commit to teaching or working in public health. The legislation, authored by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), clarifies the Public Health Services Act (PHSA) by allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use PHSA grants to support institutions that educate future public health veterinarians.
The legislation will help meet the dramatically rising need for more doctors who are trained to identify, diagnose, control, and monitor diseases that could be transmitted from animals to humans. In recent years, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), monkeypox, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, avian flu, and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy ("Mad Cow Disease"), and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), as well as the H1N1 flu, have had a significant impact on public health, and veterinarians have played a vital role in protecting the public from these diseases.
"The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) is excited about this important legislation, which will open opportunities to U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine to more effectively serve the health and welfare of our nation by protecting the food supply, preventing the transmission of zoonotic diseases to people, securing our nation's defense, and promoting the physical and mental well being of households through the health of their pets," said AAVMC Executive Director Marguerite Pappaioanou, DVM, PhD. "We urge the full House of Representatives to pass the bill as soon as possible."
"Public health veterinarians are our frontline of defense against diseases transmitted from animals to humans. Their role was never clearer than during the 2009 H1N1 virus outbreak," Congresswoman Baldwin explained. "Public health veterinarians inspect our slaughterhouses, prevent a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak from devastating our economy and agriculture industry, and protect our citizens against the threat of bio-terrorism. It's vitally important that our veterinary workforce expand to meet rising health threats," Baldwin said.
A February 2009 report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that "there is 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 projected the nation will need an additional 22,000 veterinarians by 2016, a shortage described as a "threat to national security" by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
"The AAVMC is thankful to the House Energy and Commerce Committee – especially Chairman Upton, Ranking Member Waxman, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, and Congressmen Frank Pallone, Kurt Schrader, and Phil Gingrey – for their work on this legislation and for recognizing that veterinarians are critical members of our nation's health team," said Dr. Willie Reed, AAVMC president and dean of Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine.