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Moonpaw

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I'm sure people who are already interested in LA med know about these issues, but does this article scare anyone out of doing LA?

Plus a random question: What do you guys think is better--distributing vets so that there are at least two vetss practicing together, so that there's someone on call at all time, or just spreading them out equally to make them as close to every farmer as possible, even if they aren't available all the time?
 

KittenKiller

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I'm sure people who are already interested in LA med know about these issues, but does this article scare anyone out of doing LA?
mmmm frostbite.

Plus a random question: What do you guys think is better--distributing vets so that there are at least two vetss practicing together, so that there's someone on call at all time, or just spreading them out equally to make them as close to every farmer as possible, even if they aren't available all the time?

It probably depends on the distribution of the farms. Seems like since there are fewer and fewer farms these days, they tend to be scattered randomly wherever old farms managed to survive. Perhaps the best would be for them to overlap in most of their turf. While I was reading this article I was thinking itd be smart for the vets in places like that to have some sort of co-op, where maybe a few vets over a spread out area each took the night shift a couple nights a week to cover for each other.

It also made me wonder if there was a place for something akin to veterinary technicians in large animal medicine. With dwindling numbers of LA vets, it might make sense for there to be some intermediate certification for certain kinds of veterinary procedures. I don't know if this could ever possibly include a c-section, but it could certainly authorize someone to perform some procedures previously allowed only by vets, the same way physicians assistants and nurses have taken over a lot of the smaller duties at human medical practices.
 
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mochavet

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It also made me wonder if there was a place for something akin to veterinary technicians in large animal medicine. With dwindling numbers of LA vets, it might make sense for there to be some intermediate certification for certain kinds of veterinary procedures. I don't know if this could ever possibly include a c-section, but it could certainly authorize someone to perform some procedures previously allowed only by vets, the same way physicians assistants and nurses have taken over a lot of the smaller duties at human medical practices.

That's not a bad idea. Going along with that, it would be nice to see a vet school open up that just focuses on LA or food animal medicine along with public health. It could include veterinary tech programs along with DVM programs. Most LA vet techs are trained by the veterinarian they work with and don't have any formal training. Creating a program that would train LA vet techs and veterinarians together would be a win, win for all. I think that sometimes students who want to focus on LA or food animal medicine get lost in the current system or they don't even get in to vet schools. A lot of farm kids don't get to spend a lot of their time studying due to the amount of work that is required with farming, therefore their grades may not be "up to snuff" (there are exceptions of course). I know several who wanted to be LA vets but they didn't even bother because they didn't think they could get in. One was even a son of a large animal vet. I can tell you that these kids know their stuff and would make excellent vets. If there was a program or school specifically for them, I think we could start to ease the LA vet shortage.

Of course this is just my "two cents" worth based off my experience growing up in farm country. I could be totally off and look forward to other people's thoughts.:)
 

mom2jnc

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I had always planned on working with horses exclusively but years of team roping and a recent internship in Central America let me know how much fun I had working with cattle so I'm very open to being one of these rural farm vets. However, I would want to go to an area where there is already one vet so that we could cover for one another. It'd be scary to be the only vet available for these farmers but I'd still want to help out as much as I can.

Just my two cents...
 

jeeney

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it wont let me read the article :( i have to sign up or something..can someone post the article here?
 

philomycus

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Here ya go. There were lots of 'pop-ups' when I clicked on it, and have anti-popup software. Persistent little jerks....
----------------------------------------------------
A New Problem for Farmers: Few Veterinarians

By PAM BELLUCK
Published: February 6, 2007

Becki Benson, with some of the 150 cows she and her husband, Eddie, own in Gorham, Me. The Bensons have had to take on more medical care.
Thursday was her doctor’s day off, and there was no one else for miles who could handle a complicated breech birth, not when the mother was a Holstein cow.

“Had the vet been here, we could have done a C-section and she could have lived through it fine,” said Becki Benson, the owner, with her husband, Eddie, of Rainbow and 150 other dairy cows.

Instead, “I worked on her till I was just exhausted,” Mr. Benson said. “But I ended up having to take the cow to a butcher shop, where she got processed for hamburger.”

These days, the Bensons’ veterinarian is pretty much the only cow doctor in a 1,300-square-mile swath of Maine, and one of only about 30 large-animal veterinarians left in the entire state.

And across the country, veterinarians who care for the animals that provide the United States with food are in increasingly short supply.

For one, there is generally more money to be made caring for cats and dogs. And with fewer students from farm backgrounds, fewer gravitate to rural jobs, especially if a spouse needs work, too. Large-animal care can be tough, even dangerous — think of maneuvering in frigid weather around 1,000-pound cows in manure-filled pens. And more veterinarians are women, generally less inclined toward large animals.

Since 1990, the number of veterinarians focusing on large animals has dropped to fewer than 4,500 from nearly 6,000, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, which said those doctors now made up less than 10 percent of private-practice veterinarians. A recent study predicted that by 2016, 4 out of every 100 food-animal veterinary jobs would go unfilled.

“We look at it as a crisis,” said Dr. Roger Mahr, the association’s president, who cited serious consequences not only for the well-being of farmers and animals, but also potentially for food safety and the impact of non-native diseases like bird flu.

“Of all the emerging diseases in people in the last 25 years, 75 percent of those were transmitted from animals,” Dr. Mahr said. “Veterinarians are the ones to identify those diseases in animals first.”

Pressed to address the problem, Congress enacted a law in 2004 offering to repay the student loans of veterinarians working in underserved areas, but it has received little financing.


States are jumping in, with loan repayment or grant programs under way or proposed in Kansas, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Texas and elsewhere.

In Iowa, students at the state’s veterinary school formed Vsmart, which barnstorms county fairs and 4-H meetings to entice teenagers to become rural veterinarians.

And in Oklahoma, State Representative Don Armes, Republican of Faxon, has introduced a bill offering tax breaks to large-animal veterinarians. Mr. Armes, a cattleman, knows the shortage firsthand, especially after one Friday last summer when a heifer struggled to deliver a large calf.

“I called six different veterinarians and could not get any of them,” Mr. Armes said. “We lost the calf. Almost lost the heifer.”

The dearth of food-animal veterinarians (the shortage is not as critical for horses) reflects seismic shifts in farming, veterinary medicine, the economy and American culture.

Money is critical when veterinary students graduate $100,000 in debt. While some say salaries can be the same, no matter the animal size, many say small-animal practices are more profitable, allowing for dozens of clinic appointments daily instead of requiring trips of long distances between farms and ranches. And dog or cat owners more often pay for expensive surgery and treatment.

“For Fifi the family dog, you’ll spend $1,500 or $2,000,” Mr. Armes said. “That old cow — at some point economics kick in and you say if she’s going to cost $1,500, I can buy two cows for that, so I should have shot her.”

Tembra Gatlin, 27, who was reared on an Oklahoma ranch, started veterinary school “large animal all the way,” she said.

She changed her mind after doing “a C-section on a cow and it’s 50 bucks,” Ms. Gatlin said. “Do a C-section on a Chihuahua and you get $300. It’s the money. I hate to say that.”

A study by the American Veterinary Medical Association found the median starting salary of large-animal veterinarians to be $60,500, $11,000 less than that of small-animal veterinarians. For veterinarians practicing 25 years, the gap was even wider: $98,500 for large-animal practitioners, $122, 500 for small.

In Maine, the closing of about 250 dairy farms since 1993 makes it harder to attract new veterinarians and leaves remaining farm doctors overstretched.

“If you can’t get a vet or it’s so expensive because they have to travel such a distance, farmers end up just dealing with it themselves, and in a lot of cases that’s not a good idea,” said Dr. Donald Hoenig, Maine’s state veterinarian.

Timothy Leary, a farmer in Saco, Me., nearly lost a cow with a prolapsed uterus when no veterinarian was available. “You either eat your mistakes or you bury them, if you literally can’t get anyone,” Mr. Leary said. Even the small-animal clinic where Mr. Leary’s wife is a technician could not help him.

Dr. Dennis M. Brewster treated animals of the Bensons’ and other farmers until a few years ago, when he felt forced to switch to dogs and cats because he could not find another large-animal doctor to help cover emergencies.

“I just didn’t want to face all of these dear people and tell them that I could not come to their farm for an emergency, and then when I showed up have them say, ‘You know that prize cow you didn’t come for died,’ ” he said. “Now, some farmers have had to make hard decisions. They’ve had to kill cows for things that we used to fix.”

The Bensons, who raise valuable cows for breeding as well as milking, now shoulder many veterinary responsibilities, giving cows antibiotics for mastitis and intravenous calcium for milk fever.

Their current veterinarian, Dr. Becky Myers, 52, worked for years round the clock.

“Half killed myself,” Dr. Myers said. Back problems developed. A cow broke her hand.

When she had a baby son, farmers with sick animals “would be pushing the stroller around while I was pushing a cow’s uterus back in. I used to call people in the middle of the night to come over and watch him when a farmer called. He gave me the nickname Mommy Moo.”

Three times she managed to hire partners, but they either left Maine or large-animal care. In 2003, Dr. Myers said, she scaled back to four 10-hour days, “which people here consider to be part time.”

Before reducing her hours, Dr. Myers held a training session for farmers, providing a detailed manual with tips on giving cows anesthesia and pumping their stomachs. Her schedule is still packed. One recent day was spent vaccinating calves for brucellosis, helping a sheep give birth, poking into a heifer’s uterus to determine pregnancy, inserting magnets into a sick cow to attract metal fragments it might have swallowed and examining an arthritic goat whose owner had driven 70 miles because no doctor was nearer.

But with so few counterparts — one of the closest is Doc Cooper, 80, an hour’s drive north — “people get stuck and I feel really bad about it,” she said. “It was one of those decisions — is my health and my family life more important or less important than somebody’s cow?”

Dr. Myers once visited the Bensons every 10 days; now it is once a month. They understand her need to cut back. Still, just in the last month, one cow, Darling, had a foot problem the Bensons could not diagnose. Another, Karissa, had mastitis, but the Bensons initially misdiagnosed the strain and gave the wrong antibiotic, delaying her recovery and milk production.

And Alpha, a cow worth thousands of dollars, became weak and feverish after miscarrying twins, unfortunately on a weekend. When the Bensons tried moving her to a comfortable pen, she literally dropped dead.

“The fact that there’s nothing you can do, you accept it as a business expense now,” Mr. Benson said. “You didn’t used to. If you have livestock, sooner or later you’re going to have deadstock.”
 

Emio

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my vote is that those cow farmers in maine don't have any vets cause vets dont want to hike through four feet of snow and freeze their arms off doing repro checks. it doesn't say anything about north carolina having a cow vet shortage. ponder that.
 

jeeney

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thanks, philomykus! that's an interesting read....food animal medicine sounds like an interesting field to pursue even tho i don't have much experience with them, but IF i do get into vet school, it may be an option....
 

CookieBear

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If I'm $200k in the hole, show me what to do with a cow, goat, sheep and pig, forgive some of my loans, and I am THERE!

As long as I don't get old and arthritic first, anyway.

:oops:
 

Capella

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my vote is that those cow farmers in maine don't have any vets cause vets dont want to hike through four feet of snow and freeze their arms off doing repro checks. it doesn't say anything about north carolina having a cow vet shortage. ponder that.

In the Arkansas/Oklahoma area we have a rural vet shortage, and you can't get any better weather than here in my opinion. :) We'll have snow one week, then 70 degrees the next, and I like the variety.

The LA Tech thing is a great idea. Provides some more job opportunities for rural people. Like in the story about Maine, many rural farmers are learning how to do things themselves, which is both good and bad. The last time our local vet was on our property, I was in diapers.
 

Emio

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In the Arkansas/Oklahoma area we have a rural vet shortage, and you can't get any better weather than here in my opinion. :) We'll have snow one week, then 70 degrees the next, and I like the variety.
well there goes that theory.

cows aren't bad. especially in north carolina or arkansas/oklahoma. it's an option for me too :)
 

bclover

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In my area (central IL) alot of livestock folks complain about not having a LA vet for miles and miles, and the ones they do have is mostly retired or not very reputable. Consider this... I know of one couple that had a pretty valuable cow (having newly calved) with problems and instead of getting the vet out and paying for that he took out insurance - for $4000 of coverage - and got the pay off when she died. Now that may be an oversimplification, but you get the jest...

My interest is in LA, but we will treat our own until it gets too dicey. So, I am not sure if exclusively LA practice is the way to go. Of course, we are in an area of intense cropping (and little livestock) with the CVM not too far away, too.
 

wildfocus

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Here ya go. There were lots of 'pop-ups' when I clicked on it, and have anti-popup software. Persistent little jerks....
----------------------------------------------------
A study by the American Veterinary Medical Association found the median starting salary of large-animal veterinarians to be $60,500, $11,000 less than that of small-animal veterinarians. For veterinarians practicing 25 years, the gap was even wider: $98,500 for large-animal practitioners, $122, 500 for small.

i live in a high-priced area and never heard of newbie vets (sa or otherwise) starting at 60K, and certainly not 70K!! is this stat real? if so, gives me some hope i won't be endlessly poor and can eventually payback all the loans...
 

Cheska

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I couldn't even imagine that the stat was correct when I read the article- in Arizona, the new grads I know start at about 50K for SA (typically after 4 years or so, you can be making 70+K though!!!)
Of course here in Colorado with the vet saturation in the front range the only offers for private practice for several of the vets I know(SA and EQ) (some even with 10 years of experience!!) was 48-50K-- sick! Unfortunately the only way to make 55+K seems to be going with Banfield or VCA.
Maybe they are counting vets who are recently boarded? But that number seems awfully high to me... maybe the eastern US pays better???
 

Bill59

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Maybe they are counting vets who are recently boarded?

No, they're referring to new graduates, right out of veterinary school. The JAVMA publishes these surveys every year, the latest is the Oct. 1, 2006 issue.
 

laurafinn

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my vote is that those cow farmers in maine don't have any vets cause vets dont want to hike through four feet of snow and freeze their arms off doing repro checks.

:laugh:

I have to say, when I looked at the states offering some loan payback programs for LA vets, I was like "North Dakota, they'd definitely have to offer me a BIIIG incentive to work there" (And I went to college in Minnesota!)

I'm interested in LA medicine, but my concerns are: too many hours for not enough pay, not enough variety of procedures you can perform due to economic issues, and me getting older and not being able to cope with physical demands of the job. Also, I'm not a huge fan of the feedlot/industrial ag nature of American farming - I like NZ's pasture-based approach a lot better.

The big issue, though, is the money one. If they get a loan payback program in place, that would make my decision a lot easier.
 

Emio

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i'd just like to say i met a cow this week. she was a tough little black and white cow that kept headbutting other cows out of her way so she could get as much area of the mulchy foodstuff on the floor as she could at penn's marshak dairy. i like cows more now. who wouldn't want to work with these buggers? :)
 

Cheska

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I thought you guys might find this article interesting, it is from a recent JAVMA- in a membership only section, so I pasted it here (sorry the format is funky, it is from a PDF file). It is cool to see different peoples' solutions to the LA vet shortage, and I thought this was a very well written article.


Food Supply Veterinary Medicine
JAVMA, Vol 230, No. 3, February 1, 2007 Views: Food Supply Veterinary Medicine 343
The need for a food supply–exclusive college of veterinary medicine
Michael Karg, DVM
From Frederick Cat Vet, 9539 Liberty Rd, Frederick, MD 21701.

Abbreviations
FSVM Food supply veterinary medicine
NAVLE North American Veterinary Licensing Examination

The pressing need for more new graduates who will enter FSVM has been made abundantly clear during the past few years. Food supply veterinarians occupy a greater role than ever in the veterinary profession, and there is a critical shortage of qualified individuals. Many potential solutions have been proposed, and there is a long list of worthy strategies. However, there is a solution that has not received much attention. I believe the time has come to establish a new veterinary medical institution in the United States with the express purpose of graduating veterinarians for careers in FSVM.
The current system in the United States provides all veterinary students with exposure to FSVM. In theory, each graduate has received an education that would enable him or her to pursue a career in this arena. The authors in another report echoed the common sentiment that veterinary education is not doing an adequate job of training for societal needs as it relates to FSVM and proposed a number of reasons that FSVM often has second-class status in veterinary colleges. A system is needed that prioritizes FSVM and trains students to fill the shortage. Veterinary students interested in FSVM careers need to achieve the full depth of experience to immediately seize the reins of a challenging career after graduation. The requirements of companion animal medicine represent an unnecessary burden and hindrance to the goals of those students. The generalized veterinary curriculum is inhibiting the schools from producing a sufficient number of veterinarians to occupy the essential roles in the worldwide food animal supply chain.

Who Are the Students?
The surest way to guarantee an adequate supply of veterinarians for FSVM roles is to specifically train them for this purpose. Veterinary students at an FSVM-dedicated institution would come from three groups. The first group would be veterinary students who plan for a career in FSVM and who do not have a strong interest in companion animal medicine. The second group would be veterinary students who enter a traditional veterinary school with the intent of pursuing a career in FSVM but who change their minds during veterinary school or after graduation. If these students were not exposed to companion animal medicine during veterinary school or did not have that option available to them, they would be unable to alter their career focus. The third group would comprise veterinary students who would otherwise not be accepted at traditional veterinary schools; however, they will be enrolled because there will be additional positions available through this new FSVM veterinary medical school. The rigorous admissions process is currently turning away large numbers of worthy applicants because of the limited number of positions.
During the development of the Veterinary Medical Education Act of 2005, it was revealed that the current number of veterinary students is lagging behind population growth and that the equivalent of nine new veterinary colleges would be needed by 2050 to make up for this shortfall. Instead of continuing to inflate class size and decrease the instructor-to-student ratio, I believe that now is the perfect time to provide students with new specialized veterinary medical schools.

Refining the Veterinary Curriculum
Critics of complete tracking voice the concern that this restriction limits the options of veterinarians who have received no training and have no experience in other species or sectors of the profession. In my opinion, setting up a fail-safe to protect against changing market conditions and potential injuries is not a good reason for educating veterinary students in all species and practice paradigms. An injury that forces a veterinarian out of clinical practice should result in moving that person into a parallel field in academia, government practice, or corporate practice in writing, speaking, or research, rather than a less logical change in species emphasis in clinical practice. A veterinary medical education that provides greater, more specialized depth allows veterinarians to use their existing knowledge to make a smoother, more rapid transition in response to a changing labor market. I believe that adequately prepared pre-veterinary students have the maturity and experience to make focused career decisions. Calls are regularly voiced that material should be added to the already overwhelming veterinary curriculum to reflect the rapid progress and changes in the demands for food supply veterinarians. Epidemiology, public health, food safety, economics, research training, and animal welfare are all essential subjects for food supply veterinarians, but they are not always prioritized in veterinary medical education. Within an institution dedicated to FSVM, these disciplines could become the core curriculum. Coupled with basic sciences and diagnostic production medicine, these efforts would yield a truly well-rounded veterinary education. The lack of lectures on small animal medicine would be a shortcoming to the same degree as the exclusion of lectures on human medicine. A collection of like-minded veterinary students who would otherwise comprise a small minority at traditional veterinary schools would naturally result in a more collaborative educational atmosphere. A unified vision and focus for an institution should also build a more cohesive relationship between lectures, teaching laboratories, and clinical settings. Some creativity will be needed to provide a varied experience in ambulatory care and the veterinary medical teaching hospital with public health training that is lacking in most veterinary medical education settings.
It is important, however, that collaborative efforts between companion and production veterinary medicine, most notably through biopathology, remain strong. The relationship between veterinary medicine and the study of diseases in humans must be strengthened to maintain and increase the relevance of veterinarians in society. Currently, clinical settings for small animal and FSVM are typically physically separated, so complete delineation of the two disciplines would not be a radical departure. I believe it is worth exploring a triad of human, small animal, and FSVM teaching hospitals in close proximity with common ancillary services for comparative educational and research purposes.

A Change in Licensure
Creation of a separate veterinary school dedicated to FSVM would also require the practical step of revision to the national and state veterinary board licensing requirements and, in so doing, the creation of designated or limited licensure. Complete tracking can only take place after amending the nature of the veterinary medical degree. Creation of a DVM-Food Supply (or VMD-Food Supply) degree would require that students take a new, national examination instead of the NAVLE. In its current form, the NAVLE does not adequately test for knowledge gained in FSVM in a broad-based veterinary medical education. A more focused examination should be able to expand on the narrow NAVLE food animal section to better evaluate graduates who have been educated for four years in a specific FSVM veterinary education. The practical implications for changes in licensure are mostly limited to regulations, protocol, and the various initials listed after the names of veterinarians. In reality, the revolution has already begun with regard to how veterinarians select their careers. In the AVMA survey of 2006 veterinary school graduates, it was reported that only 8.7% of those new veterinarians were employed at a mixed animal practice. All veterinarians are licensed to practice with all species, but most restrict themselves to a much narrower group or single species. Restructuring of licensure would acknowledge the current situation and provide more relevance to licensing examinations.

The Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition
commissioned studies to evaluate variables that contribute to a shortage of veterinarians who specialize in food animal medicine. The analysis yielded recommendations to spark interest in FSVM in prospective students through the support and encouragement of mentors, veterinary medical schools, veterinary associations, government, and industry. It is my belief that without a separate FSVM educational institution, alleviation of this shortage will not proceed at an acceptable pace. A new veterinary medical school dedicated solely to FSVM would be able to serve as a model for the basis of other limited veterinary educational systems. We have long since ceased to expect every graduate veterinarian to meet all societal demands. The time has come to accept that not every veterinary medical institution has the same strengths for each of the various educational tracks. Limited resources dictate that not every discipline can be funded to achieve ideal educational frameworks for veterinary students. A greater number of smaller, more nimble institutions could provide a stronger, more flexible collective that will be able to adapt to the needs of tomorrow.

References
1. Chenoweth PJ. Editorial: food animal veterinary futures. J Vet
Med Educ 2004;31:323–327.
2. Marshak RR. Veterinary schools and the profession: a search
for bearings in the new century. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:
1234–1238.
3. Gwinner KP, Prince JB, Andrus DM. Attracting students into
careers in food supply veterinary medicine. J Am Vet Med Assoc
2006;228:1693–1704.
4. Tyler JW, Larson RL. Assessing veterinary medical education
with regard to the attraction, admission, and education of students
interested in food supply veterinary medicine and retention
of student interest in a career in the food supply sector.
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;229:922–927.
5. Osborne B. The future of veterinary medicine. AAVMC Newsletter
2004;Aug 10:1–3.
6. Nielsen NO. Reshaping the veterinary profession for the next
century. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1997;210:1272–1274.
7. Karg M. Designated licensure—the case for speciation within the
veterinary degree. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:1792–1796.
8. Gage ED. The globalization of veterinary medical education.
J Vet Med Educ 2002;29:201–204.
9. Eyre P. Engineering veterinary education. J Vet Med Educ 2002;
29:195–201.
10. Shepherd AJ. Employment of female and male graduates of US
veterinary medical colleges, 2006. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;
229:1256–1258.
 
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