The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is applauding U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo from Idaho and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan for reintroducing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act. Elements of the bill, if passed, would address regional shortages of food animal and public health veterinarians in rural and agricultural communities.
For 2019, USDA has designated 190 regions in 44 states as suffering from food animal veterinary shortages. This is the largest area in history. According to AVMA, student debt is a key driver in these shortages. Average student debt in 2018 for veterinarians who graduated with loans topped $180,000. With food animal veterinary jobs typically paying less than companion animal veterinary careers, the income disparity can make it financially challenging for graduating students to pursue opportunities in food animal medicine.
The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program helps address the income disparity and incentivizes veterinarians to serve in high-need areas by providing educational loan assistance to those who commit to a food animal or public health practice in veterinary shortage areas for at least three years. While the program has helped close access gaps since its inception in 2010, it consistently receives more applications than available funding.