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State of the Veterinary Profession from cofounder of VIN

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by StartingoverVet, 01.14.12.

  1. StartingoverVet

    StartingoverVet Flight Instructor for hire Gold Donor

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    Vin users received this letter by e-mail from the co-founder of VIN. I found it to be extremely thorough and well-written, and addresses a number of points that consistently get discussed on this forum. Just really an FYI to pre-vets who aren't yet allowed on VIN!

    Dear xxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Three years ago, I sent my first VIN community New Year's message. Thanks to all who have written or called with comments, accolades and criticisms in response to the previous letters (2011, 2010, 2009). I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this year's message by phone, email, FAX, carrier pigeon or in this message board discussion. As we enter 2012 and I reflect upon the past few years, the state of the veterinary profession and the challenges facing colleagues, a professional dilemma increasingly consumes my thoughts and time. I hope you can help resolve my inner turmoil.
    2011 was the VIN Community's 20th anniversary year. This year the VIN community turns 21. It seems like just yesterday that little VIN was born. Where did the time go?
    In that time our (your and all VINners') community has grown from a few dozen to over 47,000 colleagues. On an average weekday, more than 12,000 login. If the sun is up in the Western Hemisphere it is rare for there to be fewer than 800 or 900 colleagues logged in. And the number rarely drops below 100-200 logged in when the sun is shining bright over the Eastern Hemisphere. VIN is truly a global community of colleagues.
    Yes, our little baby is growing up. She still has a lot to learn and is far from refined, but there is no denying that we should be proud and feel personal satisfaction when we stand back and gaze upon VIN and the VIN community. I am also happy to report that the commitment to keep VIN and the VIN community independent - never to be sold to anyone who might commercialize it or betray the trust of colleagues - alluded to in my last New Year's letter has, after much ethical and legal discussion, been codified in updated VIN corporate by-laws and shareholder agreements. Barring any last minute concerns, I expect these to be signed and in place before the end of January. I'm not planning on dying anytime soon, but I feel good knowing that if I do, VIN and the VIN Community will not be at risk of being sold as a result of lack of succession and estate planning.
    So, you ask, what's the problem, Paul? Why aren't you satisfied? Why do you feel restless and consumed by inner turmoil?
    Here is my dilemma. More than any other time in my 32 years in veterinary medicine, I am deeply concerned about the future we are paving for our profession. During the late 1990's and early 2000's it felt like veterinary medicine stood on the cusp of a Golden Age. Specialty medicine and cutting edge technologies were becoming available in most communities. Practice management philosophy promised an era in which veterinarians could practice the highest levels of medicine and raise revenues as never before. Large animal veterinarians were in increasing demand.
    Yet, in retrospect it is becoming clear that we ignored the warning signs and misjudged the consequences of our profession's rapid evolution. Our profession has experienced many changes stemming from external and internal forces:

    • A global economic rollercoaster
    • Consolidation and corporatization of veterinary practice ownership
    • Consolidation and vertical integration of veterinary product and service suppliers
    • Over-dependence upon, and subsequent loss of pharmacy income
    • Reduced client visits
    • Gender shift (I'm not saying that's a bad thing :))
    • Changes to work-life balance expectations
    • Increased numbers of specialists and specialty practices
    • Mismatch between demand for veterinary services and supply of veterinary graduates
    • Reduced state and federal funding for higher education
    • Rising cost of education resulting in an unprecedented debt to salary ratio for our young colleagues
    The changes listed above are not likely to reverse any time soon. Times change and we must adapt with them.
    As I've pointed out in past New Year messages, we have a choice -- choose our future or let others choose it for us.
    Until recently, I hadn't seen much evidence of colleagues coming together to shape our collective future.
    That is not a criticism. I understand the overwhelming demands of veterinary practice - for owners and associates. When you factor in personal and family pressures, the concept of doing anything for the profession beyond maintaining your own practice seems daunting. I understand.
    I also understand that if we don't do something now, we will have chosen to let others choose our future and especially the future of those who come after us.
    In the best of times, some will not fare well. In the worst of times, some will do very well. But at no time should we sit idly by and accept what I am increasingly seeing and hearing from colleagues:

    • Personal and practice bankruptcies
    • A shortage of jobs to the extent that:
      • Recent graduates are concerned about finding jobs with more choosing to pursue internships because they are afraid regular practice jobs will be in such short supply
      • Practice owners reporting experienced colleagues frequently showing up and asking for jobs at clinics that are not advertising positions
      • Practice owners reporting 50 or more respondents to a single job posting
    • Schools increasing class size and new schools opening despite clear evidence of an oversupply of veterinarians
    • Widespread concern about nonprofit clinics competing with the surrounding veterinary community
    • Practices closing rather than being transferred to colleagues
    These are trying times within and outside our profession. And if we, as a profession, do not work together to find common ground, the forces outside our profession are likely to overrun it. Don't get me wrong, I realize that ours is not a homogenous group. Tensions have always existed between:

    • New grads and not so new grads
    • Academia (the ivory tower) and private practice (the trenches)
    • Associates and owners
    • Colleagues competing within the same market
    • Veterinarians and product/service suppliers
    We have always accepted these natural tensions between segments of our profession. They aren't going away any more than the tension between generations will fade.
    I love this profession, and I assume that if you are reading this you likely feel the same way. But we must be honest about the situation we face - as well as how the choices we make today will impact all colleagues, including those who will enter our profession in the future.
    Individual colleagues, practices, veterinary schools and organizations have understandably responded to these trying times by doing what it takes to ensure their survival. Unfortunately, I don't think much consideration has gone into contemplating the long-term impact of these actions upon the profession, individual practices, or colleagues. I believe we have largely stood back and hoped for the best rather than uniting to develop a rational strategy within our profession. I believe this comes at great cost to all, but especially to the most vulnerable amongst us: our newest colleagues.
    However, now, as never before, we have not only the need, but the opportunity, to unite for the good of the profession. I recently attended the AVMA Leadership Conference and Winter Session of the House of Delegates in Chicago, IL where, for the first time, it was clear that AVMA no longer believes there is an overall shortage of veterinarians. I even heard a presenter state with no disagreement from AVMA leadership that, "Another issue that we're going to have to deal with going on is that we definitely have more veterinarians out in the workforce than we have a need for."
    This shift in position, combined with the naming of the members of the newly formed AVMA Veterinary Economics Strategy Committee to investigate, study, and make recommendations to address the economic challenges facing the profession, is something I believe we should all support.
    I know some will be thinking, "another committee to make another report to gather dust on the shelf." I honestly feared this when I heard about the committee. And, although I recognize that there are no quick fixes for our current situation, after hearing the remarks at the AVMA leadership conference and learning the composition of the committee, chaired by Link Welborn, DVM, DABVP, I have great optimism and urge all colleagues to do whatever they can to assist. No pressure, Link. :)

    "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
    - Benjamin Franklin speaking to the Continental Congress just before signing the Declaration of Independence, 1776.
    Ours is a wonderful profession - some describe it as a calling. As much as each of us desires to believe that our choice to be a veterinarian was driven by logic, I believe the choice to pursue a veterinary career is often driven more by passion. This passion is reinforced in students by trust in veterinary mentors, trust that those who pave the way for them to join the profession will act in their best interest.
    Although those who make the choice to pursue veterinary education are chronologically adults, I hope none of us are insensitive to the burden of debt current students shoulder in order to pursue a veterinary career. We need to attract the best and the brightest to join our profession. But we also must commit to doing all we can to maintain the value of the degree they choose to pursue.
    I'm no longer in academia. My livelihood does not depend upon a flow of patients into a private practice. So, why do I care? Why are these issues my problem? And why are they your problem?
    If the recent world-wide economic collapse has taught us nothing else, it has illustrated the interdependence of a system. In her remarks at the Plenary Session of the AVMA House of Delegates, AVMA President, Dr. Rene Carlson discussed the meaning of leadership particularly within the AVMA and the profession. She talked about making decisions based on what is best for the profession, "despite individual agendas." I agree.
    We can no longer afford to view ourselves as individual veterinarians with no connection to any area of the profession beyond our own sphere. Veterinary medicine is a system. The success or failure of any of us relates directly to one thing: the value of the veterinary degree. And if that degree is devalued for any of us, it is devalued for all.
    New graduates in 2010 left school with an average debt of $142,000. More than 41% of these veterinarians owed more than $150,000. Only 10% of new veterinarians graduated with no educational debt. Many attending the more expensive schools are amassing debts approaching $300,000. (JAVMA 239(7):953-7, 2011)
    Since 1990, we have added about 1,900 net veterinarians/year. With recent accreditation and class size changes, that figure is expected to increase. In the small animal market alone, we have added about 1200 colleagues/year since 1990. However, in 1991 dollars, the net production by each small animal practitioner has decreased over 35% -- from $325K to $191K.
    This crisis was predicted. We knew this was coming, and, as a profession, we did nothing.
    In 1985 - Karl Wise and John Kushman published in JAVMA a Synopsis of US Veterinary Medical Manpower Study: Demand and Supply from 1980 to 2000. JAVMA, Vol I87, No. 4, August 15, 1985. This study concluded:

    • The base-line projection of the balance of veterinary manpower demand and supply indicates a continuing surplus of private practitioners on a national level to the year 2000.
    • Private practice veterinary service demands that are moderately higher than the baseline would have little impact on the surplus.
    • Projected non-private practice demands above the baseline would have moderate impact on the surplus.
    • Moderate decreases in numbers of US veterinary medical college graduates would have little impact on the surplus by the year 2000.
    The authors' analysis and prognostications were distressingly accurate. They even came up with an unlikely set of conditions whereby these projections could be averted:

    • Increases in Veterinary Livestock Units (VLU) and visits per veterinarian that are 5% higher than the base line in 1990 and 10% higher than the base line in 2000 are combined with:
    • high non-private practice employment growth, and
    • 20% decrease in the number of US veterinary medical college graduates.
    As we have seen, none of these mitigating conditions has come to pass. Our profession ignored this warning, and many of the predicted negative outcomes have become realities.
    In 1997, Malcolm Getz, an economist at Vanderbilt University stumbled upon the veterinary profession as a case study for his research. He published a book entitled: Veterinary Medicine in Economic Transition. The final sentence on page 178 of his in-depth analysis of the economic state of the profession states:
    "As long as the excess supply continues, however, a number of persons trained to be veterinarians seem likely to be disappointed in their economic circumstance."
    In 1999, the KPMG Mega Study, The Current and Future Market for Veterinarians and Veterinary Medical Services in the United States. Executive Summary, May, 1999, John P. Brown, PhD, and Jon D. Silverman, PhD, KPMG LLP Economic Consulting Services --- JAVMA, Vol 215, No. 2, July 15, 1999, was published. According to Getz (who currently serves on the National Academy of Science veterinary workforce commission), the KPMG Mega Study was commissioned to prove his book wrong. However, the study confirmed Getz' conclusions.
    Quoting from the executive summary of the KPMG Mega Study regarding the supply of veterinarians:
    There is evidence that in purely economic terms, there is an excess of veterinarians, which is a cause of downward price pressure and is projected to result in stagnant veterinary incomes over the next 10 years. More important, the characteristics of the supply may not closely match the demand, and there is evidence that modifications in the education of veterinarians will enable the profession to capitalize on emerging markets and to create new services.
    We are in a difficult state of affairs. We might delay facing reality for a time, believing it is someone else's problem. But unless something unforeseen interrupts the current cascade and reverses what I view to be an unsustainable course, denying reality isn't going to make the situation better. Nor will the situation be resolved if each of us passes the buck, blaming the crisis on some other branch of the profession, organization, or group.
    We have seen this crisis coming for over two decades, yet no action has been taken to curb the disaster. Instead, most of the actions taken have had the dual and catastrophic effects of drastically inflating the cost of a veterinary degree while simultaneously devaluing that same degree through a continuing increase in the supply of veterinarians in the face of diminishing consumer demand.
    Now, however, as a profession, we have the opportunity to come together, and to do something. With the AVMA's recent actions in appointing the Economic Task Force and in scheduling a meeting with the veterinary school deans at the upcoming North American Veterinary Conference to address how choices the schools make impact the profession overall, the doors are opening for the profession to work together to manage these challenges.
    So, what can we do? How do we fix our profession? How do we restore the value of the veterinary degree? How do we restore the faith of a public who increasingly view veterinarians as profit-oriented or opportunistic? How do we help our schools focus on accepting and training the best and brightest students rather than continue to increase class sizes and dilute the pool of qualified candidates when they need the added tuition revenue to make up for their lost state funding? How do we bridge the chasm between student debt and veterinary salaries and help to ensure that the future of our profession is economically healthy?
    I don't know. I have spent the past few years researching these problems, talking with leaders of universities and of our professional organizations, and listening - listening to students, to practitioners, listening to YOU. I have studied. I have talked. I have listened. And I still don't have an answer. But, I'm not willing to give up. I can't. WE can't.
    I've never been one to shy away from tilting at windmills. And maybe this is an insoluble problem. I've already admitted that I don't have an answer. And maybe you don't have an answer either. But, maybe that IS the answer.
    The VIN community is comprised of colleagues from many countries, cultures, backgrounds, and disciplines, but we have one thing that unites us - the veterinary degree. The VIN community shows daily how bringing together tens of thousands of colleagues can facilitate solutions to clinical, practice and life issues through sharing of knowledge and experience.
    There is no denying that the challenges facing our profession are more complex than the day to day issues VINners routinely help each other overcome. It is likely that no individual or organization can resolve this crisis alone. Any solution to the problems confronting veterinary medicine will have to come from and impact multiple areas of the profession: schools, private practices, industry, and professional associations. And, so, here are my questions and how you can help me resolve my inner turmoil.
    I want...I need to know:

    • Do you think we have a problem?
    • What do you view as the greatest challenge you or your clinic faces within the profession?
    • What do you view as the greatest challenge facing the profession as a whole?
    • Do you have solutions to suggest for these challenges?
    • Do you believe colleagues can effectively work to address these issues?
    • Do you want to work with colleagues on solutions?
    • Do you think the VIN Community should work with the universities and the AVMA to address these issues?
    I'd love to hear your response by email, phone, FAX or on the boards. I strongly encourage those who don't usually weigh in on these issues on the boards to take a moment to share your valuable thoughts on these important issues - with me, with other VINners, with the dean of your local veterinary school or your alma mater, and with the leadership of the AVMA. Only veterinarians can save the veterinary profession, and I believe it will take all of us.
    At this point, you might be asking yourself what can I do?
    I think the first step is becoming aware of the issues on a broad scale while contributing your personal and local observations and insights to the conversation - on and off VIN.
    I also ask you to consider how you are affected by these issues and how your actions impact these issues.
    Perhaps most important is that we all pause to consider how these issues and our actions impact all colleagues within our profession - those with careers similar to ours and those on different paths.
    I recognize that this letter has largely focused upon data and discussions from the U.S./North America. That is not a reflection of my lack of concern for our profession in other regions. I speak to colleagues in other regions about these issues often. We are all in this together. We need to share insights and solutions and learn from each other's successes and mistakes.
    I have started a message board discussion for your feedback to this letter.
    Other recent discussions that I encourage you to read and add comments to:
    Also, in the next few weeks you will be receiving a link to a short survey on these issues. I would very much appreciate your taking a moment to respond to it.
    And finally, I and all your VIN family wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.
    Thanks!
    >>>Paul<<<
    Paul D. Pion, DVM, DipACVIM (Cardiology)
    co-founder, VIN
    Paul@vin.com
    530-757-6881 (anywhere/anytime)
    FAX: 530-504-6450
  2. New Foundland

    New Foundland be seeing you

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    Wow, he used so many words to say so little..
  3. katryn

    katryn UTCVM c/o 2014!!!!

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    I got this too. Are you planning on responding? I'm not usually very active on vin because it's so durned hard to navigate.

    Also, I had an interesting thought. If the entire vet profession was going to band together, what if all veterinary practices in the state (or region of a state if there is more than one school in it) donated 1% (or some other %) of the clinic's profit margin to the vet school to ameliorate some of the lack of state funding. With as many vet clinics as are out there, I could see this potentially adding up to a big chunk. 1% of profits wouldn't be too stressful on smaller, less profitable clinics, and maybe larger, more profitable clinics could donate more than 1% with a tax break incentive or something for everything over the base (or a tax break for everybody that increases the more you donate....). And something could be figured out to add in the states that don't have vet schools, maybe to help states with multiple schools or smaller states that don't have as many clinics.

    Just a thought. If you were a clinic owner, would you do it, or get mad at the loss? Anybody else?
  4. sunshinevet

    sunshinevet

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    :thumbup: +1.

    When I read that email, I was like, dear god, you could have said it all in 2 paragraphs...
  5. bunnity

    bunnity Penn 2014

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    I don't think we're allowed to put stuff from VIN on other sites.
  6. vetme

    vetme KSU CVM c/o 2015

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    Technically, it was an email to SOV, I got one too. Just because he is talking about posting on VIN doesn't make it a VIN post.

    ANYwho, I also thought it was well written, but said basically the same stuff we always hear.
  7. Wubbles

    Wubbles

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    Thank you for posting this. I think any reminder to starry-eyed pre-vets is a good thing. The 'state of the profession' is something that has been weighing on me more and more everyday as I get closer to applying.
  8. katsmiaow

    katsmiaow

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    Thanks, SOV. I think it's important for any of us considering entering the veterinary profession to think carefully about some of the points made. Of particular concern is the discrepancy between the perceived shortage of veterinarians and the actual competition for jobs among graduates. Does anyone know how representative the "50 applicants per job" statistic is? Is this common, or the high end of the curve?
  9. August West

    August West solar powered

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    "we have a choice -- choose our future or let others choose it for us.
    Until recently, I hadn't seen much evidence of colleagues coming together to shape our collective future."

    This is my essential take-away form the long-winded e-mail. The changes and challenges laid out are hardly exclusive to the field of veterinary medicine. We are indeed part of a rapidly changing profession. No sense pining over the way things were 30 years ago. But we must educate ourselves on the challenges we face in this transforming landscape. Without creativity, foresight and organized efforts to combat some of the trends illustrated by the author, we will be increasingly vulnerable to falling victim to such troubling dynamics. I, however, am much more optimistic. For example, in regards to small animal practice, there are over 160 million cats and dogs in this country living in homes requiring health care. These numbers will surely grow along with our population. How do we tap into this demand? How do we increase office visits and make treatment and preventative medicine affordable to more owners? How do use the tools we are afforded to educate and proper responsible ownership of animals? I am confident that our profession can work together to answer such questions and thrive together. Much more so than I feel towards so many other industries and professions in America. Veterinarians comprise of some of the brightest, most passionate individuals I have come across. Maybe we need to look at new pet insurance models for one potential answer. Pet insurance is a virtually untapped market in the US, as opposed to Europe where I believe almost 50% of domestic pets have coverage. Lets discuss how social networking and information technology can assist us within our daily routines. And so forth. The opportunities are rich and abundant. I fully support this call to arms, but tire quickly of the hand-wringing and despair. In the words of Bob Dylan, "Get out the way if you can't lend a hand..."

    Let your inspiration flow. :rolleyes:
  10. bunnity

    bunnity Penn 2014

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    Right with you.:thumbup:
  11. SilverSpyderGT

    SilverSpyderGT Veterinarian/Engineer

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    Paul Pion, the founder of VIN, is hardly a hand-wringer who sits idle while the veterinary profession sinks into despair. The fact that he spent so much time and effort talking about these issues demonstrates how committed he is to getting to the root of the problem and making sure veterinary medicine hasn't become a second-rate profession by the time all of today's students are veterinarians. Anyone who reads VIN regularly already knows this.

    VIN has spearheaded several initiatives to help students become more competitive and maintain their sanity as they enter a shaky job market, such as the VIN Foundation and several new-grad-oriented CE courses.

    While these issues may seem like old news to many of the students and long-timers here on SDN (us), as a whole, they are underdiscussed in the veterinary profession. That was the reason Paul sent this message out to the VIN members - to tell the people who don't happen to read specific internet fora that we are potentially in for some deep doodoo if things don't change soon.
  12. SilverSpyderGT

    SilverSpyderGT Veterinarian/Engineer

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    This email is also posted on VIN - although since it was also sent out in an email, I am not sure if the copyright issue applies or not.

    Otherwise, posting private content (including message board posts) from VIN on a public forum is a copyright violation and is not permitted.
  13. bunnity

    bunnity Penn 2014

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    Yeah I wasn't sure if it was OK since it was an email, but it was also an identical VIN post. I just didn't want SOV to get in trouble with VIN.

    I wasn't in any way trying to criticize Dr. Pion by agreeing with August West. I appreciate so much that he has founded VIN and I'm sure I will appreciate it that much more when I'm an overwhelmed new grad.

    I just think we need to focus on solutions as much as possible, and be able to change with the times or to push new changes on our own terms. I think there is a tendency in the profession (which is reflected in VIN discussions sometimes) to freak out when something changes - like the rise of internet pharmacies. I think it is more productive to figure out our next step: raise exam fee and script everything out? improve our customer service by doing things like giving the first dose or having things compounded in tasty flavors? offer a discount plan for lifelong refill meds? recommend pet insurance to each client?

    I get that I may see this totally differently as a vet than I do as a student :)
  14. August West

    August West solar powered

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    Thats fine. My comments were not personal in nature. I know nothing of Paul Pion. I would never question his character or motivation. I was merely reacting to the message that was posted. Perhaps my worldview of the profession is too limited to state such assertions. I will not even begin vet school until the fall. I have, however, been fortunate to work and volunteer at several clinics and other veterinary facilities. I do not see veterinary medicine as a profession in "despair" or "deep doodoo". I think the profession is actually on much firmer ground than so many other fields in this country. I would be naive to disregard the pressures and challenges that we face and I think a call to arms for veterinary professionals to grab a shovel and put on their thinking caps in the name of helping to shape the future of the profession is completely appropriate. As I stated previously, these are rapidly changing times that require our intellect and imagination to ensure veterinary medicine's livelihood. Just my two cents. No offense to Mr. Pion intended at all. :)
  15. StartingoverVet

    StartingoverVet Flight Instructor for hire Gold Donor

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    2 things..

    1) An unsolicited, non-secured e-mail can't possible be considered private communication - unless perhaps if it states so in the e-mail ( I've received such disclaimers from law firms, but even then, doubt it would hold up). If they have a problem I can always have the thread deleted, but really, the point of the e-mail was to disseminate the info widely, I can't imagine he would object to the posting.

    2) I have a solution, which I won't suggest, to the oversupply problem. It just would be hugely unpopular (even I wouldn't appreciate it). Do what other licensing boards do, and restrict the supply by making the NAVLE much harder. Increasing the failure rate will lower the # vets in the short term, and ultimately, as some schools will probably have lower success rates in comparison (or not), some schools will get decreased enrollment and ultimately shut. It seems hugely unfair to people who go through school with a high debt to not make it into the profession, even if they seem qualified to do so, but sometimes some must suffer for the rest to succeed.

    The schools are just not going to change. I just don't seem them cutting facilities or faculty or enrollment, so the only way to restrict supply is through licensing.

    It is a drastic policy, which is why it will never happen. People just don't seem to have the stomach to make these kinds of decisions until they are left with no choice.
  16. katryn

    katryn UTCVM c/o 2014!!!!

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    You're right, this wouldn't make anyone happy, but I can also see it being a good solution. And ultimately, is not passing boards and having to find a different job path any different than not being able to find a job for a year and having to find a different job path? I think it would also have the potential to encourage more people to pursue jobs in which a veterinary degree is useful but licensure is not required (I know of a few people who failed boards and still landed amazing jobs in research and development jobs). This is a norm in other professions as well (I'm thinking lawyers, specifically, if you don't pass the BAR there are still plenty of jobs out there that utilize the degree).
  17. justavet

    justavet

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    Here's a solution that would really be unpopular: make licensed vets take an exam every so many years-5? 10?- to retain their license. Like driving. Wonder how many jobs that would open up?
  18. cminamiji

    cminamiji

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    Please, if you, Katryn, or anyone here has any ideas that were sparked by this letter, I would encourage you to respond. It wasn't sent out as empty speechmaking. There is a very real effort underway through VIN and the VIN Foundation to make areas of transition in the profession better for everyone.

    Paul is particularly interested in student and new grad issues, and even though it just seems like something a company president would just "say", when he says to contact him at *any* time, he seriously means it.

    Also, I agree that navigating VIN requires a whole lot of patience; if you have any suggestions on making it easier, please, send a note to feedback@vin.com.
  19. justavet

    justavet

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    I have to second cminimiji on the contact him thing. Ive called him. He sounded genuinely pleased that somebody had called him and liatened to what I had to say. *shrug*. Maybe it's just good customer service, maybe it's my scintillating personality and finely honed conversational skills (hah!).
    I've also emailed him and from his responses actually read and thought about what I wrote.
  20. justavet

    justavet

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    Oh, I forgot to say in the last post- I figured out later it was like 5am where he was when I called!
  21. katryn

    katryn UTCVM c/o 2014!!!!

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    I did respond. I also hope I didn't over step the boundaries, but I forwarded the email to all four of the classes at UTCVM. As far as I know from talking to people, less that a 1/4 of our class (and probably the other classes too) are on VIN, so I thought I'd try to spread the word. Especially since our school is considering intentionally increasing next years class size....again...
  22. flyhi

    flyhi

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    Paul wants the message heard, as this seems very near and dear to his heart. I imagine he would want the email in as many hands as possible.

    @SOV - something close to your unpopular solution would be to have board exams throughout the education, just as med school (and other med programs) do.
  23. August West

    August West solar powered

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    I hope this discussion eventually bears some actionable items to help shape the future of the profession for future graduates like myself. I also hope that the focus is not only on the supply side of the equation. Getting an education in veterinary medicine is already one of the most difficult, competitive endeavors out there. I know no other field where hopeful applicants spend thousands of hours volunteering in clinical settings, studying obsessively to keep gpa's at ridiculously high levels, joining clubs and literally making their preparatory activities their livelihood just to be considered for seats in academic programs. I have no doubt that many competent, extremely intelligent and passionate individuals are excluded from the profession due to the already high level of standards and requirements to be deemed competitive.

    As I mentioned earlier, I have worked in two industries that, for the most part, fell victim to poor foresight and imagination on the part of its leaders. I do not see many of the same pressures and challenges that they faced in our profession. Nor do I think that veterinary medicine is in a state of despair nor at any risk of becoming obsolete. Almost 63 percent of all households in the United States have a pet. There are over 100 million stray cats and dogs according to estimates. Billions of food animals produced every year. Millions of horses. And many millions of animals used each year in biomedical research in the US alone. Veterinarians are also an indispensable component of the nation's public health system and serve in many other capacities than just protecting the welfare of domesticated animals. There just over 80,000 veterinarians to meet these needs. Many of which are closing in on retirement age. All while the population in America is continuously growing and the number of animals in the country will grow with them.

    I still don't see this as a supply side problem and would hate to see all of the focus and efforts placed on that side of the equation, resulting in the turning away even more qualified and potentially amazing veterinarians from the field. I hope to get more involved with this discussion as I progress through my studies. I look forward to working with others to help shape the future of the profession and have a few ideas on how we might approach the challenges we face. Cheers... :D
  24. vetme

    vetme KSU CVM c/o 2015

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    WOW and WOW....Brilliantly written...you must be the cream of the crop. What school are you going to again?
  25. katryn

    katryn UTCVM c/o 2014!!!!

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    I agree, and disagree. Veterinarians certainly are indispensable to animal health, and public health. But I'm not sure that it's safe or wise to look at the current number of people and animals and use it to say that the small animal practice market should be set for life and growing. Companion animal care is based on disposable income in the same way that food animal care is based on profit margins. If the disposable income drastically decreases for the population as a whole, it doesn't matter how many millions of animals are out there, we're still not going to get paid to care for them. That being said, I do agree with you that the profession as a whole is not doomed. I don't even think that the small animal sector is doomed. But I do see a future in which the need for small animal veterinarians drastically decreases before it increases again. Any time there is a recession that lasts long enough to truly be impactful on peoples' spending habits, it can take up to two generations for people to "unlearn" the mind set of frugality. My parents struggled to make ends meet sometimes...they taught me to NEVER spend money I don't have....if things continue the way they are going now, my kids will grow up not knowing what it's like to buy all of the latest gizmos and gadgets...which means it may very well be my grand childrens' generation before anyone in my family spends money that isn't in the bank. Even being a vet student, for me this means that if the money isn't there, my pets get less food, or go without preventative care. It sucks, but it's life.
  26. david594

    david594 The-OSU CVM c/o 2013

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    I'm pretty sure most of the med students will disagree with you here.


    Veterinary medicine is more than just animals and vets. Veterinary medicine only exists because there are people who are willing (and able!) to pay for veterinary services. And with the current economy, many US households don't have enough discretionary income to spend on their animals. If every client agreed to and paid for every service that were medically indicated and recommended to them by their vet, then we wouldn't be having this discussion.


    It's a supply and demand issue. Their is not enough demand for the given supply of vets. And speaking very generally, we might just be teetering the line where there barely enough "qualified applicants" to fill the current number of veterinary school seats.

    See this article:
    http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/feb11/110201a_pf.asp
  27. lostbunny

    lostbunny

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    Agree. :thumbup:
  28. August West

    August West solar powered

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    Hmmmm... sarcasm? Not sure how that was warranted. Just stating my opinion.
  29. August West

    August West solar powered

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    What about pet insurance? Why is it that 9 percent of Canadian owners have their animal's health insured? 20 percent of pet owners have insurance in England and 49 percent have insurance in Sweden. Yet in America, the market is less than 1%? If we were to make health care for pets a more manageable and budgetable expense like car and home insurance, I imagine the revenue side of the equation would increase rapidly. If the current pet insurance models are not attractive enough to bring in clients, we need to change them or come up with our own. Maybe multi-practice co-op preventative health packages. Not sure. But the money and need is there. And we have the intelligence and technology to tap into it, in my opinion. Maybe I am being naive. Time will tell I suppose.
  30. August West

    August West solar powered

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    I have two siblings finishing up their residencies right now. They did not need thousands of hours working in a human clinical setting to get into med school. They did not join pre-med clubs nor dedicate dozens of hours volunteering on a farm. They were not out clipping cat nails at the shelter nor shadowing pediatricians. And I am sure that many of the rejections from DVM programs this cycle would have little trouble getting into a medical program with their stats. Again, I am not trying to disparage any other profession. I've watched my brother and sister work their ass off to get where they are. Which is often rushing around the trauma ward at 3 in the morning amidst a 14 hour residency shift. Just pointing out one of the reasons why I do not feel we should be focused on making it even more difficult to become a vet in order to beef up the job market. I firmly believe there are far too many other initiatives to exhaust before considering such an approach. The problem is hardly that getting into vet school is too easy these day.



    We are in a deep global recession. As opposed to being overly reactionary, I think we need to be creative about marketing our services and find ways to get more animals to our exam rooms.




    Thanks for the link. Definitely some merit to what the author is saying. But aren't low attrition rates and extremely high percentages of students passing their boards, even as the number of seats increased over the year, indicative of something meaningful as well. While we must be cognizant of such trends as those mentioned in the article, I do not feel that they tell a complete story nor warrant any type of despair or panic. Could just be organic growth we are seeing. Physician supply has been growing during this period. Take a look at human medicine. In 1990, there were 615,000 physicians in the U.S. and by 2007 this figure had increased by 53% to 941,000. This came during a period when the total U.S. population increased approximately 25%. Did the demand for doctors go up enough in those years to warrant such a surge? Is their profession threatened to become second rate because of this growth? I realize that human and pet medicine differ profoundly. I just don't think that the growth chart spells doom for veterinary medicine. Thanks again for the link and for the reply.
  31. vetme

    vetme KSU CVM c/o 2015

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    Nope.
  32. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    There hasn't been much talk about making it harder to get INTO vet school. On this thread at least. But rather what to do during and after vet school.



  33. dyachei

    dyachei vet pirate zombie Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    I wouldn't put too much stock into pet insurance, at least the way it is now. Nor do I want veterinary medicine to go the way of human medicine in terms of insurance.

    Pet insurance today requires the owner to pay out of pocket (often times this is the major barrier) and be reimbursed up to 80%. Unless it is a pre-existing condition (which they have lists of what counts and what doesn't) or flat out will not be covered (again, read the fine print in their documents). a lot of times, I have seen clients come in with pet insurance and be denied for very flimsy reasons by some of the more well-known pet insurance companies. For instance, a kitten with a corneal ulcer was denied without a specific reason. And the owner couldn't afford the treatment without the insurance. That owner worked for 2 months to get reimbursed for medications for that medical issue and as far as I know, still has no resolution.
  34. katryn

    katryn UTCVM c/o 2014!!!!

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    I have seen this happen as well. People don't bother with pet insurance because it requires sifting through dozens of companies that don't present their information in a straight forward manner. Then if you do sign up for pet insurance, they find a way to screw you with fine print. I'm not sure how it is in other countries, but US pet insurance has no regulatory body, so there is practically no way to fight the system if they decide to deny you coverage for something. In my experience, the only safe almost guaranteed coverage is for the yearly wellness exam packages. And in general the coverage for that comes out to as much or more than the visit cost.

    If it could be changed, that would be great, but that's another one of those things that I don't see happening without a serious backing by the AVMA or some other government type organization.
  35. david594

    david594 The-OSU CVM c/o 2013

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    I can think of one accredited vet school with an attrition rate nearing 50%... but thats a whole different story.

    You really need to go talk to some 4th year veterinary students who have the $150-200k in student loan debt that is becoming the norm and are currently staring down the barrel that is the current job market for veterinarians.

    Personally, I think the despair and panic is quite justified. When I was applying to veterinary school everyone was saying the job market was great. And since then, the market has taken a full 180.
  36. david594

    david594 The-OSU CVM c/o 2013

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    Auto insurance is required by law, and you can't get a loan to buy a house without homeowners insurance. So not really a valid comparison there.

    A better idea would be if someone were to start selling veterinary student debt insurance, that pays if you can't get a job sufficient to pay back your loans.

    Veterinary services are a discretionary income item for most people(whether you disagree with it or not) and so isn't pet insurance. So unfortunately most individuals that have pet insurance are the ones who can pay for the pet care to begin with.

    You mean like the banfield health packages?

    The money isn't there. Thats the problem.
  37. Zusie

    Zusie OSU - 2013

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    Truth.

    Back when I was applying, I only had one vet tell me back then that they would not want to be starting out in vet med in the current climate (although she did seem to think veterinary med was recession-proof). Now I've had multiple vets I visit with over break say they feel sorry for current grads. That's encouraging! :eek:
  38. Tco87

    Tco87 Illinois 2016

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    I'm curious, how many vets and vet students on here would have chosen to NOT pursue a career in veterinary medicine if you knew what you know now before you applied to vet school? The future is obviously uncertain for a lot of you, but I'm wondering if how many of you feel like this was a mistake given the high student debt and slim job prospects.
  39. Zusie

    Zusie OSU - 2013

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    I'm a lot gloomier on here than in real life, if you knew me. Truth is, I do like vet school. When I hang out with vets now, I can't believe how much I've learned. I can actually have intelligent conversations with them about cases. I love being in the clinic and can't wait to work there in a few years. It's not that I don't want this career. Like you say, it's the worrying about if there are enough jobs at the end of the tunnel for us that bothers me. I mean, of COURSE I think that I'LL get a job. Just like when I was applying to vet school I had to think well enough of myself to think a school would accept me, or I wouldn't have bothered.

    But I like to go on here and VIN because like my dose of "real world reality" every once in awhile. When you're at school you're so insulated. Life is just lecture, lab, study, test.

    I think you're going to have to ask me after I officially graduate to get the best answer as to whether I'd do it all over again. However, I will say I came into this program with no undergrad debt and enough savings for about 2 semesters of vet school. My parents still help me with my insurance and living expenses so I don't hurt myself too badly with my loans. I don't have a spouse/fiance or child to plan my life around, and can move anywhere after school if necessary.

    Caribbean school was never an option in my mind (personal choice) - I guess I made kind of a deal with myself about how far I would go trying to get in. I figured if the institutions here said no I'd accept no (I gave myself a few tries). I also had a cap for what I would pay for out-of-state tuition that first year (keep in mind it WILL go up a good bit every year thereafter). I am out of state, though, which I wouldn't recommend. But my state didn't have many contract seats and I am a bit too stubborn for my own good. But you'd better believe there was a strategy to where I applied.

    In summary, I've had a lot of help along the way and can move to work if I need to. We are all unique. Anyone you ask will give you a different answer. Honestly, I think I would NOT do it again if I'd already had undergrad debt AND had to go out of state, but that's just me.
    Last edited: 01.16.12
  40. katryn

    katryn UTCVM c/o 2014!!!!

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    Same here. I applied to my instate only, because I already live in the city with it. If I hadn't gotten married before being accepted, I would have lived at home with my parents, now I mooch off my spouse's income...so either way I was never worried about taking out excess loans for living. I full ride scholarshipped my way through undergrad, so I came to vet school with no previous debt (except a mortgage, but I don't count that). If it weren't for the combination of these factors, the state of the market would have scared me out of applying, and I would have settled for something less.
  41. August West

    August West solar powered

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    "The schools are just not going to change. I just don't seem them cutting facilities or faculty or enrollment, so the only way to restrict supply is through licensing."

    Some people want enrollment to be cut. Others want to just make it harder to become a veterinarian. I am not sure I agree with either approach. At least not until we exhaust other ideas.
  42. August West

    August West solar powered

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    The concept of pet insurance is what I find appealing, not the existing state of the industry. That is why I am interested in exploring models that circumvent private insurers and their corporate underwriters. Something more in line with the packages offered by conglomerates like Banfield and VCA, but with private practices partnering together to offer such budgetable plans. I still think risk pool insurance models work extremely well. We just need to find new vehicles to offer that people would be be attracted to purchasing. I think it can be done.
  43. breenie

    breenie Weenie 2015

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    Why not cut enrollment? I get that applicants are mad that it's getting harder and harder to get into veterinary school... but a career is a privilege, not a right. I found your earlier argument weak. I'm going to be pretty pissed that I busted so much tail to get into school if I graduate and the market is so saturated that I can't get a job and pay my bills.

    That hard work means nothing if you get paid nothing. The struggle doesn't end when you get that acceptance letter.
  44. david594

    david594 The-OSU CVM c/o 2013

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    What other options are you suggesting?

    Personally I think the first thing we need to do is protect the US market from foreign vets and not issue any Visa's for veterinary work since there is no longer a shortage of vets in this country. That will at least limit some of the concerns over UNAM accreditation.
  45. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    Good thing I already got my Greencard... :p
  46. August West

    August West solar powered

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    I understand that differences exist between the aforementioned types of insurance. And I realize that the money spent on veterinary care is discretionary. Just like the rest of the 50 billion dollars expended on the pet care products every year in the US, including food, treats, toys and grooming. The money is there. Insurance makes medical care for pets a manageable and budgetable expense. That is the key. You don't think people would pay 20 bucks a month to insure their pets? I personally believe that they would.
  47. August West

    August West solar powered

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    I guess you can go join an occupy movement somewhere. Being pissed off will not help the future of veterinary medicine. I think the author of the article was hoping for something a bit more substantive. Veterinary medicine is a business. We can't just sit back and expect animals to file through our doors to be presented to us.
  48. david594

    david594 The-OSU CVM c/o 2013

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    If only the general population was very good at managing and budgeting money, but based on the US events of the last 5 years, its pretty obvious that isn't the case.

    I think people would pay the $20 a month if they could, but most people can't. There are plenty of people out there who don't pay for their car insurance that is required by law. The money simply isn't there for pet insurance to be the cure-all that you seem to think it is.
  49. david594

    david594 The-OSU CVM c/o 2013

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    Who said it is getting harder and harder? There are more seats each year, and the number of applicants is not increasing in proportion. The numbers would suggest its getting easier and easier to get into vet med, since it's becoming such a financially undesirably field to get into.
  50. RadRadTerp

    RadRadTerp VMRCVM c/o 2014

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    When I think about the oversupply of veterinarians and competing against other new graduates for jobs across the country in 2 years, I just remind myself:
    [​IMG]

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