Friday, February 12, 2010

Veterinarian shortage spreads, and rural areas bear burden; farmers sometimes play vet

A shortage of veterinarians, especially those who treat large animals, is spreading across the country but particularly in rural areas. "As a result, more people are depending on their rudimentary knowledge of veterinary procedures to get the jobs done," Michelle Rupe Eubanks of the Times Daily in Florence, Ala., reports. Large amounts of debt also push recent vet-school graduates to metropolitan areas, where pay is better.

Dr. Donna Anagarano, associate dean for academic affairs at the Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine, told Eubanks the shortages in rural areas will worsen. An area of specialization is up to each graduate, but most of Auburn's 97 graduates last year plan to focus on small animals. "That's the largest [number of graduates] we've had, but there is still a shortage, and we do plan to grow the numbers," Anagarano told Eubanks. Nationally, 80 to 85 percent of vet-school applicants are women, who are less likely to want to work with large animals.

Rural areas bear more of the burden. "In a really small area, it's difficult to make a practice work," she told Eubanks. "Vets want to have outside interests, and many of them are married to other professionals. You want your spouse to be able to find a job, too. Small communities also often don't offer enough support to pay down that debt and make the practice feasible." (Read more)

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