Specialized Veterinary Manpower Needs Through 1990
National Research Council
National Academy Press
Washington, D.C., 1982
In April 1980, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) asked the National Academy of Sciences to examine the impact of federal legislation and regulations on the national requirements for veterinary medical scientists. Accordingly, the Committee on Veterinary Medical Sciences of the National Research Council (NRC) Commission on Life Sciences was charged with assessing the effect of current legislation and regulations on the need for veterinary medical scientists with competence in various research and practice specialties. This led the Committee to consider the factors associated with services provided by veterinarians today, so that it could determine the total manpower needs. The Committee performed the following tasks:
Defined functional responsibilities currently met by veterinarians.
Identified organizational settings and biomedical disciplines in which veterinarians currently perform activities related to the defined functional responsibilities.
Identified the number of veterinarians working in the organizational settings.
Reprinted from National Research Council. 1982. Specialized Veterinary Manpower Needs Through 1990. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Analyzed appropriate federa11egis1ation and identified activities mandated or caused by that legislation related to the functional responsibilities and specialty disciplines of veterinarians.
Estimated the future needs for veterinary specialists in major organizational settings.
Projected the number of new veterinarians that will be produced during the next decade and the total population of veterinarians available for service during the same period.
Analysis of functional responsibilities of veterinarians revealed that their activities are usually multifaceted and have impacts of benefit to both animal and human health. The Committee defined 10 functional responsibilities: administration, animal health care, animal welfare, biomedical research, economic productivity of animal-related industries, environmental health protection, food production and protection, health education, mental and emotional health (as related to companion-animal care), and prevention of zoonoses.
The skills and expertise of veterinary medicine were found to be delivered to users through a variety of organizational settings, including private practice, institutional practice, preventive medicine, teaching and research, and industrial and international veterinary medicine.
Major findings of this report are threefold: the current numbers of veterinarians contributing to non-private-practice endeavors have been documented; the deficiencies in the existing data base concerning the activities of such veterinarians have been identified; and the total number of veterinary specialists has been determined to be small, with just over 2,000 board-certified specialists among the 8,760 non-private-practice veterinarians in 1981.
Despite the fact that the percentage of veterinarians not in private practice has decreased over the last decade, the Committee recognizes that veterinarians, by virtue of their expertise and skills, will continue to fulfill important societal needs in teaching, research, and administration. The Committee believes that the use of veterinarians by the non-private-practice sector has been limited by two factors: the economic incentives of private practice have outweighed those of alternative endeavors, thus holding down the supply of veterinarians for nonprivate practice; and some health professionals including veterinarians in decision-making positions, fail to adequately recognize that veterinarians can bring valuable skills and expertise to biomedical problem-solving and administration not associated with primary patient care.
The Committee believes that the use of veterinarians’ biomedical expertise by government agencies should be expanded. We also believe that the use of veterinarians for tasks that can be performed by other trained persons should be decreased. Agency heads should be made aware of the skills,
knowledge, and unique qualifications of veterinarians that could be applied to meet program goals and responsibilities and that federal salaries for veterinarians should be more competitive with those of Ph.D. and M.D. biomedical scientists, particularly if specialty training in addition to the veterinary degree has been obtained.
The analysis of federal legislation revealed many activities with an impact on the functional responsibilities of veterinarians. Some of these, such as laboratory-animal medicine and comparative pathology, are usually identified with the veterinary profession; others, such as toxicology, are not the exclusive domain of veterinarians, but veterinarians with specialty training could make contributions. The federal legislation influencing veterinary medical manpower is described in Appendix B.
The Committee has to estimate the future needs for services in the various organizational settings by analyzing each of the major veterinary-manpower studies completed since the 1961 Humphrey Report, by seeking the opinions of consultants and administrators in federal agencies and industry and by drawing on the knowledge of its own members. It is the opinion of the Committee that the need for veterinarians to deliver private-practice patient care in this decade will be met by the projected supply.
The lack of a suitable existing database makes it difficult, on the basis of historical employment trends, to predict future needs in the non-private-practice sector. Employment of veterinarians by the major U.S. regulatory agencies remained roughly constant during the last decade. Whether this was based on technical needs or on the availability of funds and appropriately trained persons was not determined. The employment of veterinarians by industry increased during the last decade, primarily in pathology and laboratory-animal medicine. Data gathered by the Committee indicate that there will be a demand for additional veterinarians in those disciplines in industrial and contract research laboratories. The Committee believes that such organizations as the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) should expand their data-gathering efforts to collect more information on the veterinary manpower used by the non-private-practice sector. A comprehensive survey of this sector should be conducted in the near future to assist in the development of predictions of employment in areas other than private practice. The Committee predicts that there will be an increased overall need for veterinarians in the non-private-practice sector.
The number of veterinary graduates produced each year for the rest of this decade is expected to increase modestly. The increase will be due primarily to the establishment of three veterinary schools in the latter 1970s; and the 1980s will see another school or two. The Committee does not foresee a need for additional capacity for the production of veterinary graduates. In fact, one may expect some decrease in training capacity in
schools that expanded substantially during the last decade under the stimulus of capitation funding; this decrease will occur as individual states assume more of the total responsibility for instructional costs and as they assess their own state and regional manpower needs. The total population of veterinarians in the United States in 1990 is expected to be as high as 53,000.
In addition to students seeking a veterinary degree, many students (about 20%) enrolled in U.S. schools of veterinary medicine are graduate or postdoctoral students. Of these, the largest group is composed of students with veterinary degrees who are seeking either an M.S. or a Ph.D., and the others are students who are seeking advanced training leading to board certification. Although the number of board- certified veterinary specialists has been increasing steadily over the last decade, the total number of such specialists in the entire profession is still just over 2,000 in 1981. Thus the profession has relatively few specialists overall, and the Committee recommends that veterinary schools place more emphasis on the production of specialty-trained veterinarians of all kinds, especially in those disciplines in which the schools have particular faculty expertise. Such training should be obtained where there are appropriate facilities and personnel with experience.
To predict the specialty disciplines most likely to be in demand through 1990, the Committee looked at several demand indicators, including the increasing numbers of veterinary specialty-board memberships, number and types of employment possibilities as indicated by advertisements in veterinary professional journals, and the types of disciplines needed as a result of legislation and regulations. The fields cited in all three of these categories are clinical medicine, epidemiology, laboratory-animal science, microbiology, pathology, and toxicology. Persons in these fields are predicted to be most in demand and should be strongly recommended for postdoctoral, Ph.D., and other training.
The Committee offers the following specific recommendations:
Recommendation 1: National Reporting System
The Committee recommends that a comprehensive national reporting system be developed to determine accurately the number of veterinarians being used in all fields of employment. This should either be an expansion of the existing AVMA system or be developed in conjunction with the existing system.
Recommendation 2: Stabilization of Number of Veterinary Graduates
The Committee recommends that educational opportunities at the D.V.M. level be stabilized at the current number. The number of veterinary graduates appears to be in balance with manpower and service needs. Schools adversely affected by the cessation of capitation funding should consider decreasing their enrollments, to maintain the quality of professional training and to be able to provide postdoctoral training for veterinarians needed by the non-private-practice sector. Increases to meet regional
needs should be accompanied by decreases in regions that are training veterinarians in excess of their own needs. Other ways to stabilize veterinary manpower include early retirement, retraining in midcareer, and programs specifically designed to deal with regional imbalances in numbers of practitioners.
Recommendation 3: Veterinary Medical School Programs
The Committee recommends that the colleges of veterinary medicine adjust their curricula, admissions criteria, and clerkship programs to meet societal needs in environmental health protection, food production and protection, economic productivity in animal-related industries, biomedical research, and animal welfare, as well as needs for clinical patient care of animals.
The Committee recommends that national guidelines for postdoctoral educational programs at veterinary colleges be established. The AVMA Council on Education should create or sponsor a special group to develop guidelines and evaluate graduate programs according to those guidelines.
Recommendation 4: Support for Postdoctoral Training
The Committee recommends that postdoctoral training for veterinarians be given high priority for support by federal and state government agencies responsible for financing higher education.
Recommendation 5: Increased Recognition of Veterinarians as Biomedical Scientists
The Committee recommends that use of veterinarians’ biomedical expertise by government agencies be increased. Agency heads should be made aware of the skills, knowledge, and unique qualifications of veterinarians, which could contribute the agencies’ program goals and responsibilities. Thorough evaluation of the contributions and productivity of veterinary biomedical scientists in the fields of concern to federal and state agencies is encouraged to inform decisions about future selection of personnel from among the various health professional and paraprofessional manpower resources.
Recommendation 6: Participation of Veterinarians in Economic Modeling and Agribusiness.
The Committee recommends that economic models be developed for the application of animal-health expertise to the livestock industries, possibly through the provision of expanded community or other agribusiness services. Multidisciplinary research involving veterinarians and agricultural economists should be encouraged. Economic modeling is one technique that should be explored in an effort to deliver veterinary services to under-served areas.