Two organizations are working together to encourage and support more veterinary students interested in careers in public and corporate practice.
The U.S. Animal Health Association and the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, part of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, signed a memorandum of understanding in January whereby together, they will step up efforts to enhance opportunities for veterinary students in areas where veterinarians are in short supply. These career fields include public health, global veterinary medicine, biomedical research, food animal medicine, and laboratory diagnostics.
The USAHA-CPCVM partnership was prompted by growing concerns over veterinary workforce shortages that could have severe national implications, and the ability of the CPCVM to meet those needs. These shortages, identified by the Government Accountability Office, AVMA, and others, could compromise the integrity of the U.S. food supply as well as efforts to combat new and emerging diseases.
In California, which is home to several large-scale dairy- and egg-producing operations, approximately 12 veterinary positions in the state's Animal Health Branch have been lost over the past decade, largely owing to retention and recruitment challenges, said Dr. Richard E. Breitmeyer, who is the California state veterinarian and current president of the USAHA.
"We're just not able to attract and effectively compete for the limited number of available veterinarians," he explained. "We're typical of a lot of state animal health departments."
Dr. Breitmeyer hopes the partnership with the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine will help turn things around. The CPCVM has for the past two decades trained veterinary students across the nation for careers in public and corporate veterinary medicine.
The center's director, Dr. Valerie E. Ragan, says the CPCVM will leverage the USAHA's extensive network of federal and state animal health officials, national poultry and livestock association representatives, and others to educate, energize, and provide opportunities for veterinary students interested in careers outside companion animal medicine.
"What we want to do with USAHA is to expand the opportunities for students to learn while they're in school and to create networking opportunities," Dr. Ragan said. "The broad range of animal health issues the association deals with will provide a real-world aspect to an area of veterinary medicine to which veterinary students may not otherwise receive much exposure. This partnership should serve to not only increase interest in this aspect of veterinary medicine, but increase the opportunity for valuable experience as well."
As part of the new partnership, the USAHA and CPCVM will establish a mentoring program matching veterinary students interested in public or corporate practice with USAHA members. The USAHA will start a student membership category at a reduced dues rate, and one or two students will be sponsored to attend the association's 2010 meeting. The students will then share their experiences with their colleagues.
In addition, the USAHA and CPCVM will identify opportunities for student involvement with USAHA member organizations and agencies, such as externships and other interactions. Dr. Breitmeyer would like to see the two groups devise a template for instituting and running a successful externship that could be easily adopted by state and federal animal and public health agencies and others.
To learn more about the U.S. Animal Health Association, visit www.usaha.org. For information about the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, go to vetmed.vt.edu/org/md/cpcvm.