|For the week of April 25, 2005|
Reflecting on World Veterinary Day
Of the handful of days deemed worthy of commemoration during April as listed on a typical office calendar, World Veterinary Day (April 30) may be the least-recognized. This recognition closes a month that began with April Fools Day, saw the start of Daylight Savings Time on the 3rd, stressed millions of Americans with tax deadlines on the 15th, and includes Administrative Professionals Day on the 27th.
World Veterinary Day is recognized around the globe. It is sponsored by the World Veterinary Association, which has member organizations in more than 80 countries including a U.S. affiliate, the American Veterinary Medical Association. AVMAs roster of member veterinarians numbers 72,000. Veterinary practitioners expertise can encompass companion animal care, large animal practice, equine practice, food safety, veterinary research and public health.
This year World Veterinary Day organizers are promoting the theme Veterinarians Meeting the Needs of Society. The theme is certainly appropriate, as meeting the needs of one historically underserved segment of society, rural Americans, has actually become a greater concern in recent years.
Rural residents engaged in production agriculture or hobby farming and urban or city residents with beloved companion animals all have at least one thing in common the need for a good veterinarian.
Unfortunately for Americas farmers and ranchers, less than 25 percent of U.S. veterinarians are currently using their skills in large animal or equine practices, which specialize in the health care of beef and dairy cattle, hogs, sheep and horses. The shortage of large animal vets is proving to be a problem for farmers and ranchers, especially those in remote, rural areas who often resort to transporting sick animals hundreds of miles for treatment.
Nineteen years ago, more than 45 percent of AVMA members cared for large animals.
Relatively low compensation, long hours and the physically demanding nature of the work make large animal practice a less attractive option for most vet school graduates. Dr. Roger Mahr, an Illinois veterinarian who is president-elect of AVMA, would like to change that and plans to make addressing specific veterinary shortages a key focus of the organization.
Theres a need not only for practicing veterinarians, according to Mahr, but theres a critical shortage in the areas of food safety and food security, biomedical research, academia, regulatory medicine, and emergency health preparedness.
Mahr is expected to assume the reins of AVMA in July. Undoubtedly it will take some time for his plan of addressing the large animal vet shortage to become a reality. Until then, World Veterinary Day is an excellent opportunity for all of us to take a few minutes to thank the veterinarians in our lives for their dedication to the health and well being of all animals large and small.
Cyndie Sirekis is a director of news services at the American Farm Bureau Federation.