Ames, Iowa-With the country facing a shortage of food animal practitioners, aspiring veterinarians at Iowa State University (ISU) are arming themselves with a program designed to reign students into the profession.
AMES, IOWA—With the country facing a shortage of food animal practitioners, aspiring veterinarians at Iowa State University (ISU) are arming themselves with a program designed to reign students into the profession.
The program is V-SMART, or Veterinary Student Mixed Animal Recruitment Team, and its the brainchild of Mike Peugh and Beau Bosma, two ISU veterinary students on a mission to gain more public interest in food animal medicine.
"This program is meant to attract kids to the profession," says Peugh, in his third year and focusing on bovine medicine. "When I'm ready to hire in 5 or 10 years, where will I go? Food animal practitioners are dwindling in this state."
While Peugh's assessment isn't a revelation, ISU professor Pat Halbur explains Iowa's needs are dire. V-SMART, he says, was born after the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association unveiled its Food Animal Veterinarian Needs Assessment survey. The numbers were bleak, he says.
"It showed our state needs a minimum 120 to 200 food animal veterinarians in the next five years," Halbur says. "Of course, we aren't coming close to meeting those needs."
Of the nation's 28 veterinary institutions, ISU leads the country in production of food animal veterinarians, officials say. That amounts to approximately 20 students each year—a far cry from numbers necessary to quench veterinary medical needs in the Iowa's rural sector.
V-SMART is a chance to correct the inequity, Halbur says. The idea is to get veterinary students and local veterinarians talking to 4-H Club members and other interested groups. So far, volunteers have reached out to 3,500 candidates.
"Our students seem to connect with kids," Halbur says. "They encourage and mentor youngsters considering a career in veterinary medicine, and we have to hope that most will come back and practice in the state."