A combination of factors, from dwindling economic opportunities in rural Texas to the pressure of repaying student loan debts, has left Texas with a looming shorage of large animal veterinarians to serve the state's ranching community, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Dr. Dan Posey, Clinical Professors of Veterinary Medicne and Biomedical Science at Texas A&M, says it is critical for both the state and federal governments to approve proposed legislation designed to deal with this issue.
He says Texas remains the largest beef producing state in the nation, but that industry is at risk due to a shortage of qualified veterinarians in rural areas.
He says this involves more than delivering baby cows, he says large animal veterinarians are the first line of defense against potentially devastating animal diseases.
"Things like veterinary diagnostics, epidemiologists, and food inspection services," Dr. Posey said, adding that veterinarians in rural areas are well placed to detect and handle potentially dangerous diseases like anthrax.
He says the American Veterinary Medical Association is working with Congress to improve the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Act, which is similar to programs available to young medical doctors who are fresh out of medical school. Dr. Posey says the program helps veterinarians pay off their student loans if they agree to practice in rural, underserved areas
."That actually gives $25,000 in loan repayment to a qualified applicant for three years, up to $75,000."
Dr. Posey is urging Congress to increase funding to the program, and to remove a program which taxes the benefit, making it far less attractive to young veterinarians, who can make a lot more money treating pets in cities.
Dr. Posey says without an adequate number of veterinarians to serve ranchers, their industry and lifestyle could be at risk."
The rural areas, the difficulty of attracting people back to their areas are playing a role in this," he said.
In addition, the fact that Texas cities are growing while rural areas are stagnating means that fewer young people are growing up on farms and ranches, and fewer want to help serve those communities as professional veterinarians.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.avma.org/helpruralamerica