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Letter to dvm360: Whats the answer to veterinary oversupply? Savvy practice location is a start


Discretionary spending levels have the biggest impact on the demand for veterinary services.

I sold my practice a couple of years ago after 30-plus years of being on call 24/7, 50 weeks per year. I was lucky enough to have a buyer, though the asking price, which was one-third of the annual gross, may have played a part in that. Since I no longer practice I feel I'm finally qualified to comment on the profession.

If you want to make money in this business, or any service profession, you must establish your consumer-oriented practice where wealthy young people are moving to in large numbers, not away from. You should preferably be the first practice, not the fifth, to discover this lucrative niche. Location is truly everything.

I practiced in a small midwestern town that was agriculturally based. Two livestock harvesting plants were the main employers in this blue-collar community, which has managed to maintain its populace during the last 30 years-unlike most of the state. At one time there were six practices and 10 veterinarians within a 20-mile radius of our community. What I found was that when my clients were struggling to pay for housing, groceries, clothing for their kids and medical insurance premiums, my PR and marketing didn't affect their discretionary spending much. The demand for our services is declining despite our best marketing efforts, while the number of indentured veterinary graduates is increasing. This is not a good scenario to grow the profession.

What's the answer? I have no idea. Successfully insuring most of the pets in the United States would definitely be a boost to procedure-based medicine. But despite good intentions, the pet insurance industry has not become commonplace in my area because of that discretionary spending issue. Reduce the annual number of graduates? Possibly, but this will never happen while the AVMA and the veterinary colleges are so closely interwoven. Perhaps we should reduce the undergraduate years required for application/admission. Could we take a serious look at professional curriculum and reduce the years spent in classrooms?

In my rural community, dental hygienists, who complete a two-year professional education, are paid equally if not better than recent veterinary graduates. Perhaps the demand for dental hygienists exceeds the supply.

Kevin McKeown, DVM

Denison, Iowa

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