There is a general view in the veterinary community that the number of veterinary students interested in food animal medicine is declining. To date, many reasons for this trend have been put forward, but little study has been done to determine the reasons and, more important, to put together programs and tools to correct the situation. To remedy this, the Food Animal Summit Task Force has met several times, this past March being the latest, to develop a plan for an evaluative study.
The task force, an informal group, comprises representatives from the AASV, AABP, American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, and Academy of Veterinary Consultants. Representatives from various other stakeholder groups include the AVMA, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues.
"The study is going to involve an evaluation of the current needs, future needs, and, in my opinion, the development and implementation of tools that can be used to correct any deficiencies," said Dr. Rod Sydenham, unofficial coordinator of the task force and owner of a food animal consulting business in Alberta, Canada.
Many veterinarians believe the profession is facing a shortage of food animal veterinarians in the public, private, industrial, and academic sectors. The shortage of new graduates entering the profession is part of the problem; see JAVMA, Jan. 15, 2003.
The task force study has several aims. It will identify and evaluate existing and emerging factors, economic and societal, that affect the applicant pool of students attracted to "food supply veterinary medicine." It will try to determine how to recruit students, maintain and develop their interest in food animal practice, and retain recent graduates. It will examine factors that affect how food animal medicine graduates select employment. And it will analyze issues such as the food industry's needs in terms of ensuring the continuation of a safe and wholesome food from animal sources, Dr. Sydenham said.
At press time, the task force was in the preliminary stages of hiring a consultant to write a request for proposals. A group from the Food Animal Summit Task Force will evaluate the subsequent proposals and select the party to carry out the task. The study is expected to start early this summer, and Dr. Sydenham says the goal is to have some results by early summer 2004.
Funding for the study will come from task force groups and industry.
At the March meeting, task force members also discussed the need to expedite implementation of the mixed-animal module for the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues Web site. No time line has been set for this project.