The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is praising Congress for providing a $1.5-million increase in funding to the veterinary medicine loan repayment program (VMLRP) to offset veterinary shortages, but says more still needs to be done.
“Ranchers and farmers depend on veterinarians to keep their animals healthy,” said AVMA president, John de Jong, DVM.
“Access to veterinary care in rural areas is critical because animal diseases have a direct impact on local economies and public health. VMLRP is one of the best tools available to help address veterinary shortages, and we’re grateful Congress recognized its importance.”
The funding will provide 74 food animal and public health veterinarians with educational loan assistance in exchange for a three-year service commitment to practice in a U.S. Department of Agriculture- (USDA-) designated veterinary shortage area.
“Our local veterinarian owned the only large animal clinic in town and was desperate to retire, but he couldn’t find a younger veterinarian to take his place,” said 2015 VMLRP award recipient Kaki Nicotre, DVM.
“VMLRP made it possible for me to take over his practice and continue caring for the community’s livestock and pets. Now, I’ve settled down in Clifton, Tex., and am looking forward to treating local animals for years to come.”
Still, eight years after the program began, 113 out of 415 federally designated shortage areas across 45 states remain unfilled.To help address the shortage, AVMA is asking Congress to pass the VMLRP Enhancement Act, to lift a 39 percent income withholding tax on the program’s awards and enable expansion of its reach without needing additional funding.