Annette Hacker, manager,
Office: (515) 294-4777
Patrick Halbur, College of Veterinary Medicine Administration,
LeAnn Bouska, V-SMART, (515) 233-5420
Tracy Raef, College of Veterinary Medicine Communications,
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778
Iowa State vet med students reach out to address rural veterinarian shortage
AMES, Iowa -- In the state ranked first in pork and third in beef production, the food animal veterinarian could soon be an endangered species. Iowa, like all livestock-dense states, faces a shortage of large-animal veterinarians.
The state will need at least 120 additional food animal veterinarians by the year 2008, according to a 2003 survey by Iowa State University and the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA).
The impact of such a shortfall reaches far beyond the feedlot, says Dr. Patrick Halbur, interim associate dean of public services and outreach at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
"Food animal veterinarians are a vital link in the food supply chain. They're critical to safe and economical food production," Halbur said.
As fewer students from agricultural backgrounds enter veterinary colleges, the number of those interested in mixed species or food animal practices continues to decline, Halbur said.
Some students in Iowa State's College of Veterinary Medicine want to reverse that trend. Through start-up funding from the IVMA Foundation, they formed VSMART -- Veterinary Student Mixed Animal Recruitment Team. The 75 students reach out across the state to recruit and mentor younger students to pursue a career in food animal medicine.
Serving as ambassadors for their future profession, the VSMART students have given presentations to more than 3,500 Iowans at fairs, community events, animal science and 4-H club meetings.
They explain the educational requirements and describe what happens in each year of the four-year veterinary curriculum. They often partner with local veterinarians, sharing real-life experiences of the rural practitioner, said LeAnn Bouska, a second-year veterinary student from St. Olaf and president of VSMART.
"We hope that we can make this career seem less intimidating by giving younger students a chance to interact with both a veterinarian and a veterinary student. We want them to realize that becoming a veterinarian is an attainable goal and a great career," Bouska said.
"Hopefully, we can convince them of the rewards of careers in mixed-animal veterinary medicine and inspire them to enter the profession," she said
According to the ISU-IVMA survey, veterinarians in food animal or mixed animal practices are very satisfied both professionally and personally.
"They very much enjoy living in the smaller communities, and their income levels are as good or better than those in other types of veterinary practices," Halbur said.
"Times have changed for veterinary colleges. We now need to be heavily engaged in the recruitment process," he said. "Our veterinary students are our best advocates."
"Food animal veterinarians are a vital link in the food supply chain. They're critical to safe and economic food production."
Dr. Patrick Halbur,