Are male veterinarians no longer the majority?

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Schaumburg, Ill.-Five years ago, the KPMG Mega Study reported the female proportion of veterinarians would reach 50 percent by 2004.

Schaumburg, Ill.-Five years ago, the KPMG Mega Study reported the female proportion of veterinarians would reach 50 percent by 2004. With the year under way, the profession's leaders are working to determine whether the prediction has come true.

At presstime, no one with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) offered more than anecdotal answers.

While all three groups commissioned the 1999 report, only AVMA is poised to lend concrete data to the issue. J. Karl Wise, the AVMA's information management director, says he and the Member Services Committee soon might unearth statistical answers.

"We haven't done the analysis yet, but we're looking into it," Wise says. "We could have something this year. I think it will be interesting to see what we come up with."

Off-hand predictions

Their results might not mirror exactly what the Mega Study expects, Wise says. Although female students dominate veterinary colleges and populate classes at roughly 70 percent, Wise expects the gender ratio hasn't evened yet.

"From a numbers crunching viewpoint, I don't think we've actually reached it, but we're getting there," he says. "The number of women in the profession is over 40 percent now. If not this year, it'll happen next year or the year after that."

Considering 72 percent of those enrolled in U.S. veterinary colleges in 2003 were women, Dr. Larry Heider believes the profession's gender ratio has already tilted away from men.

Dr. Daryl Buss, dean of University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, agrees.

"Not accepting the Mega Study's findings means either the original calculations in the study were wrong or other vets outside the U.S. are practicing here," says Buss, once a member of the report's joint steering committee. "I know women make up most of the students in our classrooms, and I don't foresee any significant shifts in any other directions."

Mega Study's mechanics

Neither did the Mega Study's authors, who built a model and considered a series of variables such as enrollment trends for the forecast, says Howard Rubin, head of AVMA's National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI).

Howard Rubin

KPMG, he says, took current enrollment in veterinary schools and projected those numbers into the future. Based upon survey data, they then calculated the number of veterinarians entering retirement and analyzed the supply, or number of graduates entering the profession, Rubin adds.

"It's a good model, and if things didn't turn out the way they were expected, it's conceivable that the relationship between male and females became skewed in some way," he says.

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