The Pennsylvania VMA has launched an initiative to combat shortages of veterinarians in certain practice areas and geographic regions, including a scarcity of large animal practitioners in parts of the state.
Project Pennsylvania aims to increase the number of veterinary students who enter and remain in underserved areas through efforts to establish a state loan forgiveness program, recruit students, and offer on-the-job mentoring for new graduates.
Dr. Robert D. Fetterman, PVMA president and a large animal practitioner, noted that Pennsylvania has veterinarian shortages not only in large animal medicine but also in biomedical research, public health, regulatory medicine, and academia.
He added that veterinary students who graduate from the University of Pennsylvania have a debt load of about $160,000, compared with $120,000 for the typical veterinary student. A loan forgiveness program could retire a portion of that debt for each year that a graduate works in an underserved area. Several states have established such programs for food animal or rural practice.
The Project Pennsylvania initiative includes the creation of a coalition to educate the public and policymakers. The coalition also will develop industry partnerships and advocate for legislative initiatives to help alleviate veterinarian shortages.
Organizations that plan to participate include the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, PennAg Industries, Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania State Grange, and the Pennsylvania Dairy Stakeholders Group.