Letter to dvm360: Veterinary debt comparison to general population misleading

April 5, 2016
W. Byron Garrity Jr., DVM

If comparison was drawn to doctors or lawyers, numbers would be more shocking.

I think Dr. Michael Dicks' column “Can we quantify the true cost of veterinary student debt?” (March) is very eye-opening as far as it goes. But I think the true comparison to general population debt is not as apparent as, say, comparing veterinary student debt and lifestyle to that of physical therapists, nurses, doctors and lawyers. That type of comparison, provided that same-age recent graduates were compared, would be enlightening. But the deans of the veterinary schools, especially the new ones, do not want that truth to see the light of day.

For 35 years I've endured the comments from the general public, even from doctors and lawyers, about how much money I make-as if it was more than what they make. The general public's perception of how much money veterinarians make is ludicrous and unrealistic. Students exposed to this line of thought begin to believe it before they enroll in or graduate from veterinary school. Hence we have a high suicide and divorce rate in our profession because of this illusion.

When I try to tell people honestly, especially parents of students, they don't believe me and accuse me of lying. Twenty years ago I applied for a loan to buy a truck at a local dealership. Because I was busy, the salesman started the paperwork for me and called me about my income. I told him I made about $100,000. When I reviewed the paperwork before signing it, the salesman had indicated that I made $100,000 per month! That's how ill-informed the general public is about how much money veterinarians make.

I have many more examples of comments made to me about income over the years, but the truck loan will suffice here.

W. Byron Garrity Jr., DVM

Natchez, Mississippi