Report Calls for More Vets in Appalachia

The economy is a big loser because of a shortage of rural vets in the 12-state Appalachian region.

Dr. Lonnie King, former dean of Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, delivers the keynote address at the Center for Animal Health in Appalachia conference. He discussed veterinary medicine’s role in animal and public health in underserved rural areas.

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The Appalachian region, stretching from southern New York to northern Mississippi, could use hundreds of more veterinarians.

A report issued by the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Center for Animal Health in Appalachia (CAHA) found 7,178 practicing veterinarians in West Virginia and portions of 11 other states that make up the region.

However, the researchers discovered that 75 percent of Appalachia’s rural counties could support 1,907 additional veterinarians. The shortage causes an economic loss estimated at $621 million a year and 15,256 jobs—both veterinarians and support staff.

Altogether, veterinary practices provide 57,424 jobs in the Appalachian region, boosting the economy by an estimated $2.3 billion a year. The 205,000-square-mile region is home to 13.8 million pets and 13.7 million large animals, the report stated.

“Veterinarians are indeed important to the economy of Appalachia and rural America,” said Jason Johnson, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, the executive director of CAHA and medical director of Lincoln Memorial’s DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center.

“What we have discovered through this research is that much of Appalachia is underserved by veterinarians, and there is a significant loss of economy due to the lack of veterinarians in the rural counties of Appalachia,” Dr. Johnson said.

The findings, part of the first-ever State of Animal Health in Appalachia report, were presented this month during a conference at DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center, located in Lee County, Va.

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