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  News from the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association                                                    Winter 2011

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Training Veterinarians for Careers in the Federal Government

by Stephen F. Sundlof, DVM, Ph.D

There are more than 3,000 veterinarians working in the Federal governmenti, not including federal meat inspectors. In 2009 the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the Congress, issued a report stating that government lacks a comprehensive understanding of its veterinarian workforce needed to ensure sufficient capacity for protecting public and animal healthii. One of the primary objectives of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine (CPCVM) is to prepare veterinarians for careers in government, that is, public veterinary practice. Located on the University of Maryland campus in College Park in close proximity to Federal agencies in the Washington, DC area, the CPCVM is uniquely situated to respond to the needs of the federal veterinary workforce. Furthermore, prior to joining the CPCVM each of its faculty held senior positions in the federal government, giving them insight and access to those agencies.

State and federal animal and public health jobs have dramatically changed in scope, scale and complexity over the years and this trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. Existing training and education programs are not keeping up with these rapid changes, and regulatory agencies are often hard pressed to meet their hiring needs for competent professionals. The CPCVM is expanding and revising its teaching and educational efforts to address these needs.

In general, veterinarians enter the federal workforce with little understanding or appreciation of the complex processes agencies rely upon to accomplish their objectives. Even day-to-day decisions are often shaped by a variety of factors including science, law, current policies, economic impact, politics, public opinion, and more. To be productive federal workers need to know how these factors influence decision making and why they are important. This process often takes years in the absence of formal education programs. To address the need greater emphasis in the Public and Corporate curriculum will be devoted to policy development using a problem solving approach. A new course offering for the spring 2011 semester will feature guest lectures by prominent government officials and veterinarians working in the U.S. Congress. By bringing their real life experiences into the classroom students will gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a public servant.

The CPCVM is planning to expand its programs to provide post-doctoral training to veterinarians who wish to redirect their careers and government veterinarians looking to expand their knowledge and advance their careers.

Despite the economic downturn, the need for veterinarians in government agencies is currently unmet and it is expected that employment opportunities in the public sector of the profession will continue to expand. The Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine will continue to build on its educational programs to prepare veterinarians for careers in the federal government.


i Opening statement by U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka at hearing entitled Protecting Animal and Public Health: Homeland Security and the Federal Veterinarian Workforce before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, February 26, 2009

ii Veterinarian Workforce: Actions Are Needed to Ensure Sufficient Capacity for Protecting Public and Animal Health, GAO-09-178 February 4, 2009

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Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine

2011 Maryland Veterinary Medical Association

Annapolis, MD 21403 (410) 931-3332 fax (410) 931-2060