Report: Appalachia’s rural counties have veterinary shortage

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A new report has found that most of Appa­lachia’s rural counties have an apparent veterinary shortage.

In late 2014, Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee, formed the Center for Animal Health in Appalachia at the DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center in Lee County, Virginia. CAHA released the 2015 State of Animal Health in Appalachia report during its first conference, Oct. 14-15 at the teaching center.

According to the report, 7,178 veterinarians practice within the footprint of the Appalachian Regional Commission, providing care for an estimated 13.8 million small animals and 13.7 million large animals—with the latter worth about $42 billion. These veterinarians provide employment for an estimated eight people per practice, and their practices provide about $2.3 billion to the economy within the Appalachian footprint.

In the analysis, it first appeared that Appalachia is well-served with veterinarians. Nevertheless, 75 percent of the rural counties within the footprint have an apparent veterinary shortage, estimated to be a total shortage of 1,907 veterinarians.

“Veterinarians are indeed important to the economy of Appalachia and rural America,” said Dr. Jason Johnson, CAHA executive director and medical director of the DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center, in a summary of the report and conference. “What we have discovered through this research is that much of Appalachia is underserved by veterinarians, and there is a significant loss of economy due to the lack of veterinarians in the rural counties of Appalachia.”

Related JAVMA content:

Center for Animal Health in Appalachia created (Jan. 15, 2015)