Senate bill aims to offset veterinary shortages in public health

Grant would increase veterinary school capacity
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Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado on April 27 introduced the Veterinary Workforce Expansion Act of 2005 (S. 914). The legislation would establish a grant program to expand capacity in veterinary schools, and increase the number of veterinarians working in public health practice and biomedical research.

"Veterinarians play a key role in protecting the health of our nation, yet there is a shortage of veterinarians working in public health and biomedical research," said Allard, a veterinarian. "Given the increasing dangers posed by public health threats like SARS, West Nile, and monkeypox, it is critical that we address this shortage."

"In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be more than 28,000 openings for veterinarians by the year 2012, highlighting the need for new graduates. My legislation will help our veterinary medical schools meet the increasing demand for veterinary professionals," Allard added.

"There are significant needs for trained individuals in veterinary public practice," agreed Dr. Bennie Osburn, president of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, citing the critical shortage of veterinarians working in regulatory medicine, public health, research, and academia.

The current pool of 2,500 new graduates each year is not enough to meet the demands of a growing population and the changing needs of a society where anthrax and bovine spongiform encephalopathy make the evening news. There are only 28 veterinary colleges in the country, and more than 30 years have elapsed since the U.S. government provided general funding for them.

The VWEA would amend the Public Health Service Act to create a competitive grants program for schools and institutions to increase their training capacity and their ability to research high-priority diseases.

"Veterinarians are in a position to detect and respond early to emerging infectious diseases and potential bioterror threats," Allard said. "By increasing the number of graduates and improving our research capabilities in veterinary medicine, we can make sure that our country is ready to face the public health challenges of the future."

Keep up-to-date on legislation related to veterinary medicine and AVMA activities in the legislative arena by logging on to the Government Action Center