AVMA task force to tackle specialist shortage in academia

The AVMA Board of Directors has greenlit a plan to form a task force addressing the shortage of veterinary specialists working in academic positions at veterinary colleges.

The plan was proposed by the AVMA Veterinary Specialty Organizations Committee (VSOC) and approved by the Board during its April 5 meeting in Schaumburg, Illinois. It establishes an entity tasked with identifying—and proposing solutions for—issues limiting the number of veterinary specialists seeking careers in veterinary academia.

A veterinarian performs an ultrasound on a dog
The AVMA Veterinary Specialty Organizations Committee (VSOC) anticipates that the need for veterinary specialists as educators will increase as more veterinary colleges are being built.

The VSOC suggests that the group be tasked with producing a report with recommendations to the AVMA, American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and its member institutions, and AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizations to achieve the following goals:

  • Facilitate the development of veterinary specialist educators to meet the growing needs for education of veterinary students in both classic and distributive models of education.
  • Identify alternative means for veterinary specialists not in academia to participate in veterinary education.
  • Enhance exposure of professional veterinary students to careers as veterinary specialists and educators.
  • Cultivate mechanisms to enhance veterinary specialist recruitment into the workforce, training, and career development.
  • Develop best practices and models to attract and retain veterinary specialists at training institutions to increase the number of educators.
  • Provide information regarding components of compensation that may attract veterinarians to careers in academic veterinary specialty medicine.
  • Explore and foster opportunities and strategies for advocacy within state and federal governments to support veterinary medical educators.

As the VSOC explained in the recommendation background, committee members have had ongoing discussions about the shortage of veterinary specialists generally. Specifically, veterinary colleges have had difficulties attracting and retaining specialists. Contributing factors may include lower compensation in academic positions for veterinary specialists compared with other higher paying career paths and a lack of awareness of careers in academia.

Then there’s the growing demand for veterinary faculty. “Given the planned expansion of more than a dozen new colleges/schools of veterinary medicine and the growth of class sizes at existing institutions in coming years, the VSOC anticipates that the need for veterinary specialists as educators is going to increase dramatically and requires serious consideration and planning to accommodate those future needs,” the committee wrote.

Additionally, the “VSOC believes the AVMA is best positioned to convene a task force of stakeholders to confront some of the issues limiting the number of veterinary specialists pursuing careers in academia, as well as identifying alternate models for veterinary students to receive education from specialists,” particularly for veterinary colleges with distributive models.”

Under a distributive model, students receive all or a substantial part of their clinical education at off-campus sites such as private practices, federal and state agencies, and other entities, rather than at a traditional, on-site veterinary teaching hospital.

The task force will include more than a dozen members, including from the AAVMC, AVMA Council on Education, American Association of Veterinary Clinicians, and AVMA Early Career Development Committee as well as industry partners, among others.