AVMA to lobby for biomedical training access

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AVMA leaders have heard reports that veterinarians have been excluded from participating in some federal physician-scientist training programs, and they want to ensure veterinarians are considered to be eligible.

The AVMA will lobby the National Institutes of Health in support of veterinarians’ inclusion in all the institutes’ postgraduate physician-scientist research fellowships.

Dr. Harry Dickerson, chair of the AVMA Council on Research and a professor and associate dean at the University of Georgia, expects the advocacy will include conversations with NIH staff members and with members of Congress and their staffs about veterinarians’ roles, the benefits veterinarians could receive from postdoctoral biomedical training and research, and the benefits those trainees can provide.

The AVMA Board of Directors approved the effort in a policy passed in April.

A year ago, the NIH published a report that recommended inclusion of veterinarian-scientists in review of, and participation in, research involving vertebrate animals. Other recommendations in the NIH report included promoting the availability of awards for postdoctoral veterinarian-scientist training and creating programs to encourage combined clinical and scientific work by women in veterinary schools and in veterinary medicine.

The Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) Report 2014 is available at report.nih.gov/workforce.aspx.

Dr. Michael Kotlikoff, a research council member and dean of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, said veterinarians have had difficulty receiving funding for training beyond that provided through comparative medicine programs, even though veterinarians and veterinary colleges are considered to be eligible for funding under a broader range of NIH divisions. That problem relates at least in part to a lack of understanding of veterinarians’ roles in biomedical research, he said.

The AVMA needs to apply institutional pressure toward a uniform policy across the NIH for these programs, Dr. Kotlikoff said.

“Veterinarians are critical members of the biomedical research infrastructure, and we just have a very difficult time accessing the funding for training programs for these individuals,” he said.