Volume 24 · Number 2 · Winter 2007
An Educational Bottleneck
Food-animal medicine is not the only area where there are shortages of veterinarians. Nationwide, there are growing needs for veterinarians in research, education and public health as well.
And California needs more veterinarians of all kinds.
The root of the problem—according to many analysts in the profession, higher education, government and the National Research Council—is that the nation’s 28 veterinary schools are at capacity and can’t meet growing demands for veterinary doctors.
Bennie Osburn, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said that over the past two decades the country has added only one new veterinary college “and the population and the demand for veterinary services have continued to grow.”
As past president of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, Osburn has been a leading advocate for legislation now before Congress to create a competitive grant program to add facilities and expand the capacity of veterinary schools.
At the same time, a UC task force has recommended increasing the UC Davis veterinary class size from its current 131 to 160 per year and the number of specialty residents, including some in public and food-animal health, from 90 to 150 by 2008.
Another task force recommendation, which went before a UC regents committee in November, calls for exploring the feasibility of creating a second comprehensive veterinary school within the UC system, possibly expanding the UC Veterinary Medical Center–San Diego that is jointly run by UC San Diego and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
There are about 86,000 veterinarians in the U.S., with another 2,500 graduating from veterinary schools each year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. The association says a current shortfall of at least 1,500 veterinarians could grow to 15,000 or more over the next 20 years—risking both animal and human health—unless the country steps up efforts to train new veterinarians.
The shortage is especially dire in California, where there are about 17 veterinarians for every 100,000 people, far below the national average of 27 veterinarians for 100,000 people, according to a November 2004 report by a UC subcommittee on veterinary medical education. In some parts of the state, the shortfall is even worse: Los Angeles County has about 10 veterinarians per 100,000 people.
California needs from 700 to 750 new veterinarians every year to serve a growing population and replace colleagues who retire, said Kent Lloyd, associate dean of research and graduate education at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
UC Davis expanded its veterinary class size from 122 to 131 students this year after opening Gladys Valley Hall, a $27 million teaching complex financed with a combination of public and private funds. With the increase in first-year students, the school’s enrollment totals 497 students.