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Arizona’s veterinary grads aid shortfall of vets | Features

On a recent spring weekday at Midwestern University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, veterinarians and students ran around and sat on examination tables while caged dogs and cats awaited treatment or awaited recovery from treatment. Crowded.

Jazmine Kim, who plans to graduate from Midwestern University in 2024, said: me forever ”

Kim, 32, was a veterinarian before working in the Midwest. She planned to work with wildlife, but found that she enjoys dogs and cats. Arizona has also made veterinary schools very affordable through its new loan repayment program, so this Washington State transplant plans to practice veterinary medicine for at least four years in Grand Canyon State.

“It was actually a big motivation to stay in the state,” Kim said. “Having a small loan forgiveness and loan support, I think, was very appealing and motivated me to stay in Arizona. think.

Kim is helping fill a shortage of veterinarians in Arizona and the United States. Animal Defense League of Arizona president Stephanie Nichols-Young said the number of veterinarians and veterinary technicians nationwide has declined recently.

Veterinarian employment is projected to grow 19% from 2021 to 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The main reason is the need for new veterinarians to replace those who are retiring or leaving the profession. The American Association of Animal Hospitals estimates that approximately 2,000 veterinarians retire each year in the United States, and others often leave demanding fields, with only about 2,600 veterinarians graduating each year.

To fill this gap, the Arizona Legislature passed SB 1271 in 2022, creating the Arizona Veterinary Loan Assistance Program. This includes student loan reimbursement of up to $100,000 for veterinarians who have completed their degree after January 1, 2023 and have worked in Arizona for at least four years.

Two of those years must be in a local government, county, or nonprofit shelter, or an agricultural practice designated by the USDA as in short supply of veterinarians.

The Arizona Humane Society, which helped push the bill forward, said in a statement that the program was badly needed. whether in the city or in the countryside. This is hurting pet owners, ranchers, private veterinarians, animal shelters and rescues across the state. ”

For decades, the problem was exacerbated by the fact that Arizona did not have an official veterinary school. According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, there are only about 32 accredited veterinary schools nationwide.

In 2012, the Midwestern University School of Veterinary Medicine began a four-year program in Glendale, west of Deer Valley.

In the Midwest, 125 veterans will graduate this May. And in 2020, with the shortage of veterinarians becoming more pronounced, the University of Arizona established a veterinary school and began a three-year program in Oro Valley, north of Tucson, with 110 veterinarians out of approximately 518 applicants. You have registered your student.

The University of Arizona expects 105 veterans to graduate this August. Combined, the two schools have approximately 230 veterinarians graduating this year and continue to receive more applications than they can handle. Midwestern alone says it receives more than 1,400 applications annually for its veterinary programs.

At Midwestern University, a private university with a main campus in Downers Grove, Illinois, students learned early on how to sterilize animals, and many more, according to Dr. Rachel Kreisler, associate professor of shelter medicine and epidemiology at the school. Covers the basics of surgery.

“Our student is the primary surgeon in our case,” said Kreisler, a veterinarian who has just finished a conversation with a pet owner whose infected limb needs to be amputated. “We are here to help the community.”

The Midwest is working with nonprofits such as St. Vincent de Paul, the Humanitarian Society, and several tribal groups, including the Navajo Nation, Chrysler said. Partners will have patients pets at the university’s mobile surgical clinic, introduced in 2015, or at his pop-up HIS clinic for non-surgical cases, introduced in 2019, so that students can learn and practice their skills. To reserve.

In addition to the university’s mobile and pop-up clinics, there is also a companion animal clinic building that looks like a traditional veterinary clinic and offers pet care.

The University of Arizona has a three-year course year-round, said Dr. Nellie Goetz, associate professor of practice in the university’s veterinary school. The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree usually takes four years, with summer holidays in between.

“The design of the three-year veterinary school is intended to address the veterinary shortage and shorten the duration of the program so more veterinarians graduate over time,” Goetz said. “They’re not spending a lot of time in school because they finished a little early, and … aren’t spending much money on school.”

The University of Arizona veterinary program is decentralized. In other words, there is no teaching hospital for students on campus.

“We’re sending students out to general practice so they can see what they’re going to see every day when they leave veterinary school,” Goetz said, adding that UArizona isn’t a curriculum full of lecture classes. I was. Students engage in active learning and check their knowledge with a team of classmates.

“They stick with these teams throughout their schooling until they reach clinical grade,” Goetz said. “They are like answering knowledge checks together as a team, which really helps with learning.”

The school also seeks to teach students about the holistic challenges of veterinary medicine and clinic operations.

A 2018 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that U.S. veterinarians are at higher risk of suicide. The trends the CDC has discovered span more than 30 years. Factors mentioned in this study included long working hours, overwork, difficult practice management responsibilities, poor work-life balance, and access to euthanasia used for animals.

Goetz said the University of Arizona is not ignoring work-life balance issues.

“I work 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday and I don’t work on the weekends, but I still get calls on the weekends, answer calls on the weekends, and answer cell phone emails. If you do, it’s very difficult to overcome these things, like on weekends, because you don’t have a lot of time for yourself and you don’t get paid enough,” added Goetz.

Both Midwestern and UArizona encourage veterinary students to develop mental health. At UArizona, students have access to mental health breaks, gyms, counselors, learning professionals, and mental health professionals. The Midwest has free counseling and mental health hotlines, and the school works with a chapter of Not One More Vet, a mental health organization for veterinarians.

“Schools are very positive about things like that,” Goetz said.

One of the side effects of Arizona’s lack of veterinarians is the inability to provide adequate basic community services such as feral cats and efforts to reduce feral cat populations. In this practice, free-roaming cats are humanely captured, spayed and ear-plugged before being returned to the colony site to prevent overcrowding.

Maricopa County alone neuters about 15,000 cats annually, according to the Animal Defense League of Arizona, which specializes in TNR. The Humane Society estimates that there are 30 million to 40 million outdoor, or community, cats in the United States.

Kelsey Dickerson, media relations specialist at the Humane Society of Arizona, said that if a microchipped cat is confined, it will contact the owner and ask for permission to have it spayed.

“We also have a working cat program if it was brought in by someone and you’re not sure if it’s a community cat or if it’s not safe to bring back to the area of ​​origin,” Dickerson said. This program is used to recruit free-roaming cats that are unsuitable for indoor living as pest control in warehouses, factories and barns.

As we learn more about TNR, more cats will be neutered and more veterinarians will be needed. According to Kreisler, about 90% of pet owners spay or neuter their pets.

Arizona’s loan repayment program is new, so it’s not yet clear how effective the program will be. Other states, including North Dakota and Minnesota, have veterinary loan repayment programs that encourage local veterinary practice, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a national veterinary loan repayment program.

Dr. Stephen Hansen, president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Humane Society, said veterinarians can apply for Arizona’s loan repayment program after graduating and obtaining their Arizona veterinary license.

Out-of-state graduates can also apply for loan assistance if they obtained their veterinary license in Arizona. Hansen said they would have to practice in the state for four years, after which they would receive the funds to repay the loan.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, veterinary student debt averaged $157,146 in 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for veterinarians in 2021 was $100,370 a year.

Garrett Steinbroner, 39, a student at the University of Arizona who will graduate in 2024, has decided not to apply for Arizona’s loan assistance program because he doesn’t plan to stay in Arizona.

“For someone who wants to give back to the community, is heavily in debt, and plans to live in Arizona long term, this sounds like a great option,” Steinbroner said. A cat being fed by a security guard in a Hawaiian port. He hopes to work for the Humane Society after graduation.

“You can’t feed them. You have to fix them or there will be more and more,” says Steinbroner. “The biggest difference you can make to the life of most animals is providing her TNR to most animals you can reach.

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