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  News from the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association                                                    Winter 2012

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The State of Our "Stake"
by John Brooks, DVM

The definition of the word “stake” can be interpreted in many ways. It may be the wooden sharpened object that you plunge into the heart of the vampire. It can be defined as a claim made toward a piece of property, and, it can be the investment one has made into his or her personal finances and career. This last definition is the one that I would like to take a few moments to address, that is, the “stake” that each one of us as veterinarians has committed to the veterinary profession. Today, more than ever before, each of us finds him- or herself examining our present and future in arguably the best profession in the world.

Within the past 5 years we have experienced the worst economic downturn since the “Great Depression,” and contrary to those that felt that our veterinary profession would be immune to the effects of such a dramatic and prolonged recession, that clearly was not the case. My travel nationally over the past few years in my position as a member of the AVMA Executive Board has provided me a unique and, at times, uncomfortable, opportunity to listen to concerns from members of our veterinary community. Some of the comments and questions that have been posed to me include, from the newly graduated veterinarian, “ I am having a difficult time finding a job, and the starting salary does not begin to cover my $150,000 veterinary education.” From the practice owner, “What are you doing to help bring more clients to my door?” The rural communities ask, “Why is it that we have no veterinary service within many miles to provide health care for our animals?” And Deans of our veterinary colleges ask, “How can we make the cost of a veterinary education more affordable in the face of declining state and federal financial support?” Many members of veterinary associations ask, “Why does the AVMA continue to accredit new veterinary colleges when we already have enough veterinarians?”

There is no easy and quick solution to any of these questions. And, would any of these issues be of significant concern if we still enjoyed the days of economic prosperity? Suffice it to say that each one of the concerns posed above is, in fact, being addressed at the national level in many different arenas. The AVMA is currently conducting a Workforce Study that will address both the “supply side” of the equation as well as a “demand side” of our veterinary profession. A new Economic Division has been established to be more timely and responsive to the changing economic landscape within our profession. An open dialogue is in place with deans of our veterinary colleges to examine how we will educate our future veterinarians in a way that will not diminish the quality of the veterinary education while responding to the escalating costs of that education.

The recently completed Bayer/Brakke Study revealed several factors that have adversely affected the economics of our veterinary practices, including such issues as the clients’ ever increasing use of the internet as a substitute for seeking animal health care advice from a veterinary practice professional, as well as the progressive use of internet pharmacy services. The expanding availability of veterinary products over the counter has also adversely affected the “bottom line”.

The State of Our “Stake” in our profession is still very positive, and the outlook to resolve the current issues before us is a commitment that the AVMA and other national veterinary associations take very seriously. Each one of us, no matter what aspect of the veterinary profession that we have a “stake” in, must be willing to take an active role in being part of the solution. Our veterinary profession has been tested during this current economic downturn, but it is clear that the current issues will serve to provide a “roadmap” to seek solutions that will ultimately benefit each one of us.

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