Calling For More Veterinarians
Veterinarians recently took to Capitol Hill to help spread the message that our country's ability to protect its food supply -- and its capacity for zoonotic and food-animal disease research -- is insufficient and needs federal support.
Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, executive vice president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, was one of four veterinarians to testify January 23 before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. He highlighted how a national shortage of veterinarians is putting our food supply at risk and could hinder our ability to prevent the spread of disease from animals to humans.
DeHaven said the number of veterinarians available to serve society in these key public health positions does not meet demand. He cited a recent study conducted at Kansas State University that projects this shortage to worsen by 4 percent to 5 percent annually well into the next decade.
"According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary medicine ranked 9th in the list of the 30 fastest-growing occupations," DeHaven said. "It is our collective responsibility to ensure that there are veterinarians to fill those positions."
DeHaven testified in support of the Veterinary Public Health Workforce Expansion Act, which would create a competitive grants program designed to produce more veterinarians and enhance the country's capacity for research on diseases that threaten public health and food safety. If approved, the program would provide federal funding to build more classrooms and laboratory space at the country's 28 veterinary colleges, which are currently at or above capacity and graduate only about 2,500 veterinarians annually.
U.S. Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Mississippi Republican Charles Pickering are chief sponsors of the legislation.
"Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to view health through the lens of public health impact and to understand how human and animal health interact," Baldwin said. "If we don't address the shortage of veterinarians and lack of capacity in veterinary schools soon, we'll find ourselves dangerously under-prepared and ill-equipped to deal with future public health threats."