Veterinary Economics special report: What students learn about business in veterinary education

Article

How well are new graduates prepared for debt repayment, talking to clients and understanding the business of running a practice? We take a look.“Veterinary students just aren't prepared for the ‘real world.' Students and new graduates don't know how to manage their debt or practice finances. And it's the fault of veterinary schools. They aren't teaching students to manage debt or practice medicine in the real world.”

How well are new graduates prepared for debt repayment, talking to clients and understanding the business of running a practice? We take a look.

“Veterinary students just aren't prepared for the ‘real world.' Students and new graduates don't know how to manage their debt or practice finances. And it's the fault of veterinary schools. They aren't teaching students to manage debt or practice medicine in the real world.”

This phrase, or some version of this phrase has been repeated to folks at Veterinary Economics by contributing authors and industry experts for years. So, we thought we'd do a little legwork and find out exactly what veterinary colleges as well as college chapters of the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) are doing. Our special look at business curriculum surveyed a number of veterinary school programs to find out what they offer-required or extracurricular-and whether students take advantage of this non-clinical education.

Click through the pages below to see how each school approaches business matters. This list will be updated as more information becomes available.

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

Additional information included from:

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

The following schools chose not to participate:

> Auburn University

> Iowa State University

> Kansas State University

> Louisiana State University

> Michigan State University

> North Carolina State University

> Oklahoma State University

> Oregon State University

> Purdue University

> Ross University

> St. George's University

> Texas A&M University

> Tuskegee University

> University of Pennsylvania

> University of Tennessee

> Virginia Tech University

> Virginia-Maryland Regional College

 

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, Colorado

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 141

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Students learn about resume, CV and cover letter preparation; networking and job searches; career options and goal-setting; compensation packages and job negotiation; basics of practice management, including finance, business cycles and internal processes to ensure excellence in patient care; marketing and client relationship management; jurisprudence and the basics of contract law; and personal finance.

Are these courses required?

A 3-credit professional development and practice management course is required. An optional business certificate program is available, in which students earn the certificate after completing 18 hours of undergraduate business courses. Five students are selected annually for CSU's combined MBA/DVM program. The students in the MBA/DVM program complete 36 hours in the MBA courses in addition to the DVM content.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$154,143

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

In addition to the required courses, an additional two hours on personal finance is covered during freshman orientation. The college is currently hiring a dedicated financial educator for the students. The goal of this position will be to offer individual debt counseling to all students beginning the first year and continuing throughout the four years.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

The business certificate program is available and the college has an active VBMA chapter. CSU has hired a full-time career services manager. The college works closely with student financial services at CSU to be sure students get the information they need to make informed decisions about their financial aid.

Number of students in VBMA:

74

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“While we may offer more services and education than some schools, I believe we can do [an even] better job. We recognize [that] the debt issue and the changing job market are two of the most critical issues facing new graduates-thus our commitment to hire dedicated full time employees for career development and financial education. We hope to help students improve their financial acumen, have better access to scholarship resources and make better financial decisions to reduce their debt through financial education. Simultaneously we are trying to improve the income portion of the debt-to-income ratio by helping our students to be more successful in the job market by improving our career services. Future plans include developing online educational modules to benefit both veterinary students and alumni,” says Dr. Christine Hardy, MBA, MPH, senior director of student services for the Colorado State University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program.

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

 

Cornell University

Ithaca, New York

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 89

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

At Cornell non-clinical topics include communication skills, practice management, dairy business management and health economics and professional development, which includes additional topics related to professional conduct, career planning and regulatory medicine.

Are these courses required?

Communication skills and professional development are required, but most students also take the practice management course.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

No response.

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

The practice management course includes some personal finance content. Both dairy business management and health economics and practice management include content related to practice finance.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

The college offers workshops, presentations, web and print resources, guest speakers and individual consults with students about minimizing borrowing (and debt), budgeting, loan consolidation and loan repayment plans. Many of these are coordinated by our Office of Student and Academic Services and the Director of Student Financial Planning. Some of these topics are also included in the practice management course. Student members of the VBMA also invite guest speakers who address these topics.

Number of students in VBMA:

274

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State, Mississippi

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 76

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

A year 3 or 4 elective covers a wide array of veterinary business and management topics. Topics include: resume and cover letter assistance, writing and interview skills, personal financial management, negotiation and contract review, balancing personal and professional time, ethics and law, calculating value of your time, charging for your services (capturing charges) and bringing value to a clinic. During the Community Veterinary Services rotation, we require students to complete the Zoetis VetVance online tutorials on communication skills, managing personal debt and decision-making about student loans.

Are these courses required?

The Professional Development courses in years 1 and 2 offer lectures and discussion on personal finance management and more with Dr. Jim Wilson.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$150,296

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

We stress the need to only borrow what is needed and to assess the terms of such loans. Several strategies are discussed throughout the curriculum on payment methods, especially those revolving around income-based repayment.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

The Zoetis VetVance online course mentioned above is one example. Others include an active and strong VBMA student club that brings in speakers throughout the school year in support of their certificate programs. They are promoted well, well-received by the students and well-attended. In required rotations at our Veterinary Specialty Services, students get in-depth education in neurology, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, imaging and cancer treatment while also learning about managing a business.

Number of students in VBMA:

135

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“Our students are prepared, and those who take advantage of such things as the business elective and VBMA certificates are very well prepared. Early intervention is the key to successfully managing student debt and, unfortunately, many come to us with four or more years of debt [from Bachelor's degrees] that may not be managed. I think efforts should be focused on early identification (undergraduate) and assistance,” says Karen Templeton, director of outreach, College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University.

Photo courtesy: Mississippi State University

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

Tufts University

North Grafton, Massachusetts

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 85

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Non-clinical subjects such as human-animal relationships, international veterinary medicine, law and ethics, epidemiology and biostatistics, Accelerated Clinical Excellence (ACE), and economics/practice management. Our students also participate in modules on effective communications developed by the Institute of Healthcare Communication and Bayer.

Are these courses required?

Students are required to take one economics/practice management course.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$156,128

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

We offer 12 sessions on how to finance a Cummings School education. We also hold a mandatory information session for all new borrowers at the beginning of the academic year. We hold one to two information sessions each academic year that are open to all, and we have one session geared to the third- and fourth-year students each year.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

We work with American Student Assistance's SALT financial literacy program and bring a SALT professional to campus twice each academic year (one of these sessions is specifically for our fourth-year students just prior to graduation). Finally, we offer one-on-one sessions to each of our fourth-year students so we can review their loan portfolio and discuss repayment options/strategies. All of these sessions include information on loans and budgeting. Just prior to graduation, there is a one-week mandatory session that fourth-year students take called “Take Charge of Your Professional Life.”

Number of students in VBMA:

100

How well does the school feel students are prepared?

“Our students receive a solid grounding in the financial practicalities of becoming a veterinarian. We start this conversation early during the admission process so students and their families have a full understanding of their career choice, and we continue the discussion throughout the program until graduation. The key to preparing our students for financial success is integrating these topics into the curriculum and extracurricular activities so students are continuously being exposed to the message that the business side of being a veterinarian is as important as the clinical,” says Dr. Angeline Warner, associate dean of academic affairs at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University.

Photo courtesy: Tufts University

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

University of California, Davis

Davis, California

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 134

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Third-year students complete a personal business plan while fourth-year students take an introductory course in business management.

Are these courses required?

Yes.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$136,894

Tuition has been stabilized for past three years.

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

Counseling is available regarding financial aid and scholarships.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

Almost 90 percent of UC Davis students receive a scholarship grant or fellowship. A total $2.3 million in scholarships were given out last year.

Number of students in VBMA:

118

How well does the school feel students are prepared?

The school of veterinary medicine hosts a career night where roughly  98 percent of students find a job one year out from graduation.

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 87

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Veterinary business and professional development, Veterinary business management and the college also offers a business certificate that includes entrepreneurship for veterinarians, a veterinary practice clerkship elective, special projects in veterinary business, and an equine-practice-based clerkship.

Are these courses required?

Veterinary business and professional development and veterinary business management are required.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$170,000

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

Six hours on personal finance is covered under professional development. There are another six hours between freshman and junior year to learn about managing finances, including debt management and developing a personal budget.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

The college covers financial and management issues during freshman, junior and senior years, and there are other campus resources. Courses provide a broad overview on loans and repayment strategies, and the campus provides individual support.

Number of students in VBMA:

136

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“I think students are provided many opportunities to learn more about business,” says Dr. Dana Zimmel, DABVP, DACVIM, chief of staff of the University of Florida Veterinary Hospitals.

Photo courtesy: University of Florida

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 102

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Freshman orientation offers sessions on financial counseling while third-year students are required to take a course in veterinary practice management. Senior-year students have the option to spend a rotation with a business consultant.

Are these courses required?

Yes, freshman and third-year courses.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

About $120,000. Roughly 90 percent of students pay in-state tuition. Most are from Georgia and some are on contract so they pay in-state tuition. Tuition is lower so that helps with the debt load. There are also scholarships.

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

Freshman-year sessions. Juniors discuss putting together a personal budget. Finance and management speakers invited to speak.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

The college has developed a rotation for seniors to work with a business consultant and go into a private practice and analyze the business side of the practice and generate a report for the practitioner of how the practice is doing. Involvement in VBMA and attendance at conferences is encouraged.

Number of students in VBMA:

248

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“Because students don't accrue as much debt, it's a manageable debt load. First year out of practice, they are going to make enough to pay off $250K. I do think it's important to have high-quality education and at a reasonable cost. Schools need to keep state support. I do think it's feasible but not for private schools. The ones I worry about are the ones who pay out-of-state tuition or go to a private school,” says Dr. Sheila Allen, MS, DACVS.

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

University of Illinois

Urbana, Illinois

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 119

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Courses include the Basics of business, Fundamentals of management, Applied practice management rotation, Business management and entrepreneurship in veterinary medicine and Contemporary issues in veterinary medicine. Clinical rotations in the first and second years of the program include time in the Clinical Skills Learning Center, which is staffed by experienced veterinarians and veterinary technicians and features required online learning modules and a colloquium that meets for an hour every three mornings a week. In this colloquium faculty lecturers cover non-clinical material: ethics, various private and public practice-related veterinary careers, business, jurisprudence, communication and animal welfare.

Are these courses required?

These courses are optional and available to all interested students.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$130,000

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

Finance topics are covered as part of the stream of business electives and include financial statements, budgeting, debt management, interest rates, personal investment strategies, developing and managing a portfolio of investments, time value of money, financial decision-making and managing financial risk.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

VBMA presentations.

Number of students in VBMA:

254

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“Providing our students with a working knowledge of the time value of money (TMV) is the single-most-valuable tool we can provide them in preparing for their financial success. TMV calculations allow them to accurately determine the impact of debt management options while also being able to ascertain the full significance of the time when you start establishing a well-diversified investment and retirement portfolio. This financial understanding is enhanced during the Business Management and Entrepreneurship in Veterinary Medicine course when students interact with commercial bankers involved in servicing the veterinary profession,” says Dr. Larry Firkins, MS, MBA, of the college.

Photo courtesy: University of Illinois

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

University of Minnesota

St. Paul, Minnesota

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 97

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Courses include Professional development I-IV, Practice management, Law and ethics and Gopher Orientation and Leadership Experience (GOALE) for first-year students, with content on emotional intelligence, leadership, teamwork, communication skills and personality types.

Are these courses required?

All are required courses taken by all students.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$188,000

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

Our Office of Student Finance meets with students at the beginning and end of the program. We also cover this in the required courses. Dr. David Lee has created a great budget simulator that is now used by most veterinary schools http://www.finsim.umn.edu/.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

VBMA chapter brings in speakers two to three times per month. There is also an optional 15-hour business certificate program.

Number of students in VBMA:

275

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“I believe students are much more prepared nowadays. However, the problem is the amount of debt. With cuts in state funding and rising costs of higher education in general (not specific to veterinary school), this is a significant issue that cannot be addressed by education alone,” says Laurie Brickley, director of marketing and communications, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

University of Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 102

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Fundamentals of Veterinary Business Management course.

Are these courses required?

Required for the second-year student.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$115,000 to $120,000. Out-of-state students can qualify for in-state tuition after their first year if they meet the university's in-state residency policies. This makes a big difference in our out-of-state student's final debt load compared to other schools.

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

Fritz Woods gives a four-hour lecture on personal and business financial health. We have a university financial aid officer assigned to the veterinary college who is on site two days a week for students to directly address loan or financial aid questions. This officer provides an exit strategy and planning session addressing how to schedule loan repayment and forgiveness opportunities.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

The VBMA is extremely active on our campus. They are involved with the National VBMA certification program and have a fairly good track record with students successfully completing their certification. We also teach communication skills in the required second-year business course and during the third-year clinical orientation. We have two faculty members who handle the Bayer Communications Program, and their modules are used to teach communications when and where appropriate. We also have an advanced training program for interns and residents for difficult communications.

Number of students in VBMA:

168

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“They are prepared average to above average with what they are exposed to in the curriculum or through course work. Part of the problem we face is that parental guidance is very poor in regards to creating critical thinking in their children in relationship to financial acumen. This is difficult to enhance when teaching to a full scientific curriculum that has little room for additional topics due to time constraints,” says Dr. Ronald Cott, associate dean for student and alumni affairs and director of advancement, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.

Photo courtesy: University of Missouri

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

 

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013:137

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine has a comprehensive Professional Development curriculum that begins with the first semester of veterinary school and continues every semester for the first three years. Instead of one day or half-day workshops, we converted the entire Professional Development curriculum to a series of courses with lectures and labs over the first three years.  In the third year, first semester, students are exposed to a wide variety of business related concepts, taught by Denise Tumblin, CPA; Charlotte Lacroix, DVM, JD; and Karyn Gavzer, MBA. We also offer fourth year small animal students two week practice-based clerkships in a busy, well-managed practice. During the clerkship, students are able to hone their medical knowledge and technical skills, and learn about practice management, efficiency of patient/client flow, financial considerations, communications and other aspects that enable them to observe, model and practice a variety of important nontechnical skills.

Are these courses required?

The Professional Development curriculum is required. There is also an elective practice management course and an optional Graduate Business Minor in Health Sciences program, which is taught by the Fisher College of Business over two summers. Read more at: http://vet.osu.edu/education/alumni-support-students-new-graduate-business-minor and http://fisher.osu.edu/prospective/graduate/business-minor

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

The average debt for an Ohio State veterinary student in 2014 (including those who had no debt) was $171,069. This includes undergraduate and veterinary school debt. Students can apply for Ohio residency after their first year so they become in-state residents and pay in-state tuition starting their second year.

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

The first and last lecture in the Professional Development curriculum is the economics of the veterinary profession taught by Dr. Michelle Harcha and student debt and loan repayment taught by our financial aid advisor. Our financial aid advisor is dedicated to the College of Veterinary Medicine and is on the veterinary campus three days a week. She offers individual financial counseling to all veterinary students and helps students process their loans. In addition, she discusses debt management strategies and loan repayment information.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

> Our Financial Aid advisor is available for individual financial counseling

> Office of Career Management – Director, Amanda Fark, MBA – Amanda has students prepare an Individualized Development Plan and update it every year. She is available for individual career counseling

> The Office of Student Life offers free confidential peer financial coaching

> Four lectures in the core curriculum on personal finance and estate planning

> The Graduate Business Minor in Health Sciences

> The Veterinary Practice Management elective

> The Veterinary Business Management Association, the VBMA business certificate program, and a variety of VBMA invited speakers on financial topics.

Number of students in VBMA:

The number of students in VBMA is 133 (21%).

 

How well does the school feel students are prepared?

"I think our college and curriculum do an excellent job of educating students about the economics of our profession, student loans, loan repayment options, and personal finance. The Office of Career Management also assists veterinary students and alumni in all areas of career management and development. We owe it to our students today to provide them with this information so that they have the tools to be successful immediately following graduation. Because of the debt of today's veterinary student, as well as, the starting salaries of today's graduates, Ohio State provides them with a comprehensive Professional Development curriculum, an Office of Career Management, and a dedicated financial aid advisor to give them the professional competency skillset to be personally, professionally, and financially successful," says Dr. Michelle Harcha, DVM, MA, Director, Professional Development Education College of Veterinary Medicine of the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Madison, Wisconsin

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 76

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Professional Skills in Veterinary Medicine.

Are these courses required?

Yes.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$127,386

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

Discussions during open house for invited applicants, new-student orientation and in year-round consultation with staff members during all four years of the DVM program.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

VBMA lectures and seminars from guest speakers as well as outside speakers in personal finance and debt management sessions offered to all students at the School. There are campus resources in the student financial aid office and students participate in national (AVMA) and state (WVMA) meetings that focus on financial and practice management topics. We offer an elective course “Finance and Accounting for Veterinarians” offered to first- and second-year students.

Number of students in VBMA:

20

How well does the school feel students are prepared?

“Like any veterinary medical school, we tell students [about the seriousness of] debt and coach them along the way using the resources described above. Helping them achieve a good level of business acumen is one piece of this puzzle. We also focus on raising money for scholarships; our school distributed $853,000 in the 2013-14 academic year. As noted above, our students' debt levels at graduation continue to be below the national average. However, no matter what steps we take, a DVM is a highly valuable degree that needs to be paid for. In that process, some students have their education costs paid for them, some are very frugal and manage to escape with smaller debts. Some are not so fortunate, and some, despite our best efforts, run up huge debts,” says Dr. Nigel Cook, of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine curriculum committee.

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

Washington State University

Pullman, Washington

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 96

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Courses include Professional development, Clinical communication, Practice management and Cougar Orientation Leadership Camp, which involves three days of off-site education for incoming veterinary students.

Are these courses required?

All but practice management are required.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$144,000

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

Almost all students participate in sessions held at orientation on surviving veterinary school while minimizing debt. They are exposed to making a budget, debt management, making good choices, understanding the cost of poor financial choices and how to avoid making the debt hole any deeper than it needs to be.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

Students are counseled by Financial Aid staff. Students in VBMA and in the Practice Management course are given an exercise that requires them to build a budget and submit it for review. All students are equipped with budgeting tools and a host of web resources. Financial professionals are regularly brought to the school to meet with students about matters of personal finance.

Number of students in VBMA:

396

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“I regularly hear from [our] students who go to practice that they are being well prepared for practice. We get feedback from other professionals that our students are very knowledgeable about money and finance and are great with clients Students in my business elective project their debt every year in class. They know their indebtedness as of spring of year 3 in the curriculum. Last year, projected debt upon graduation after three years was $110,500. That is considerably below the national average and the school average. Over 90 percent of our VBMA and the business elective students tell us they want to be a practice owner at some point in the future. Eight years ago when I started to survey our students on topics such as ownership, less than 10 percent of students ever saw themselves as practice owners,” says Dr. Richard DeBowes, MS, DACVS, professor of surgery and director of the Professional Life Skills Programs, Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Photo courtesy: Washington State University

Click to see another school:

> Colorado State University

> Cornell University

> Mississippi State University

> Tufts University

> University of California, Davis

> University of Florida

> University of Georgia

> University of Illinois

> University of Minnesota

> University of Missouri

> Ohio State University

> University of Wisconsin, Madison

> Washington State University

> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

 

 

Western University

Pomona, California

Number of veterinary school graduates in 2013: 97

Non-clinical business content included in curriculum:

Financial and practice management.

Are these courses required?

Yes.

Average amount of debt veterinary students leave with:

$260,000

Guidance offered in the areas of debt, budgeting and loans:

In the first three years of the curriculum, students are encouraged to budget their expenses and seriously question how they are spending their discretionary dollars. Students are also exposed to available loan repayment options.

Other financial resources and how they're promoted:

Really none beyond the opportunity that students have to talk with faculty members with business management backgrounds.

Number of students in VBMA:

265

How well does the college feel students are prepared?

“Our students are somewhat prepared. However, we could be doing more and are looking into ways to apply the principles that they were exposed to in their first three years into their fourth-year rotations. As an example, fourth-year students would be asked to compile a weekly Average Client Transaction for the cases they were significantly involved in during their four-week rotations. Their average could then be compared to the actual yearly average of the practice they are in and the student would consider reasons behind any discrepancy and adopt a plan to rectify any shortfall. We hope to start this program for the class of 2016,” says Dr. Wendell Cole, DACT, associate dean for academic affairs, Western University, College of Veterinary Medicine.

Photo courtesy: Western University

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Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

How does the AAVMC feel that the schools and colleges are doing in preparing students in a business sense?

For some time now, the veterinary medical profession has had to face the reality that the costs of medical education are very similar for both veterinarians and physicians yet the salaries for each are very different. To help veterinarians become more financially successful, our colleges offer more instructional opportunities in business and communication skills ... budgeting, finance and marketing ... [a]nd communications training.

What are they doing well? What could they improve on?

About half of our colleges of veterinary medicine have full-time financial aid counselors on staff specifically within the college who provide detailed assistance with respect to loans and financing the cost of their education. More and more of our colleges are providing our students with access to professional financial planning support and debt management counseling. 

What has the AAVMC done to combat the issue? Are there any focused efforts specifically business related?

[Based on recommendations from our study on student debt and financial literacy,] in 2013 the AAVMC developed a tuition map on the AAVMC website that provides visitors with detailed information concerning member institutions. We also created a “Funding your Education” page on the AAVMC website that is under re-development. We are in the final stages of completing a financial literacy survey of applicants to assess their level of awareness regarding the financial issues associated with veterinary medical education. We are also working closely with other health professional associations relating to student debt initiatives.

In March 2014, the “Student Debt/Financial Literacy” project within the AAVMC divided into two separate initiatives of finance education for students: one focuses on curriculum for graduate students, another focuses on high school and undergraduate students.

As information contained within the referenced survey of applicants and admissions directors is considered, we will begin the development of additional tools for admissions personnel, students and applicants.

The AAVMC has met with counterparts in the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to discuss shared resources developed by AAMC (including a debt calculator). In addition, the AAVMC joined the AAMC's Financial Aid Administrator Professional Development Conference Advisory Committee to begin conversations with financial aid administrators with the goal of bridging gaps between admissions and financial aid discussions with pre-veterinary students, applicants and students.

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Veterinary Business Management Association

Information provided by Bridger Smithers, Louisiana State University Class of 2015, and 2014 National VBMA President. Members of the VBMA National Board also contributed.

What do you think is essential (classes, programs, actions) to providing veterinary students with the business knowledge needed to not only manage personal finances, but, for some, to be small business owners?

The Veterinary Business Management Association was established in 2003 in part due to the gap in the educational experience of veterinary students when it comes to concepts such as business and management that are relevant to being a successful practice owner. We believe that there are essential areas such as business finance, business leadership and career and personal development that need to be addressed for veterinary students in order for them to make informed and relevant choices about their careers and our industry.

The business and management part of our organization's name may lead you to believe we are solely focused on the revenue, accounting and financial aspects of practice management, when in truth, we desire to have well-rounded, quality VBMA graduates who can be successfully placed into the workforce and make a difference in our profession.

Our Business Certificate Program is a complete and broad approach to covering core concepts. Whether graduates of our certificate program intend to pursue practice ownership or an associate position, we desire that they have the team-building skills to communicate effectively with their technicians, the emotional intelligence to resolve conflict, and other qualities of effective leaders such as listening, delegating and leading by serving.

How well are veterinary schools preparing students to adequately face those challenges?

I believe there has been a culture shift in recent years bringing business and finance courses to the curricula of many schools throughout the country. On a personal level, the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine has taught a two-week business and finance course to its third-year students for many years now. Other veterinary schools have similar courses in place for the students, and some schools have partnered with their business school affiliate to offer a dual DVM-MBA program.

With student debt remaining the elephant in the room, you most likely will see more schools providing courses to help students cope with the increased financial burden of veterinary school. Because the veterinary schools are late to the table with providing the resources to the students, the VBMA has had the leading share of the market to this point. In some ways, we are working to perfect our curriculum by offering a quality product, thus making the VBMA relevant in a changing environment.

What could veterinary schools do better?

They could offer more courses starting in first year all the way through the fourth-year of the curriculum. I also believe that schools should be more supportive of students wanting to attend state conferences, national conferences, alumni events, state VMA events, etc. Many administrations at schools and professors are not always supportive of students missing classes due to a conflicting conference and the associated travel days. A lot of students are discouraged from attending conferences that create outstanding opportunities to network, practice good communication skills and create their own brands. We want to create a culture shift at schools so that they now support and incentivize attendance and participation in these types of networking events outside of the classroom, allowing the students to grow in so many of the over-looked soft skills of our profession.

What could students do to better prepare themselves?

As a veterinary student nearing the end of a four-year curriculum, I believe that students need to better appreciate the opportunity the VBMA provides at their school. With that being said, every school can vary in the quality of that experience. Because the VBMA gives individual chapter officers the ability to choose what speakers to bring in for lectures and what topics, not every VBMA graduate is exposed to the exact same information. This is an area that on a national level we are choosing to address in the coming year. When students see the value of investing into their future by becoming involved in the VBMA, they will be better prepared to get that first job, become an associate or buy a practice. Students should be attending conferences to better understand the industry, talk to administrators to ensure that their school is supporting their business education, applying for VBMA externships, and seeking out mentors who are VBMA alumni or practitioners/people in industry who value business education.

Why, or why not, is the opportunity to obtain veterinary business and personal finance education any more important today than it was in the past?

This is a great question and one that does not get asked enough. These topics have always been relevant to veterinary students. The big difference that I see in 2014 is that never before have students faced the amount of student loan debt upon graduation. With many projecting the average veterinary student loan debt to exceed $200,000 in just three years, we are facing obstacles and questions that have never been realized before. How are young veterinarians going to pay off increasing student loans when the average starting and associate salaries do not increase at the same rate? The second area that makes our generation of veterinarians different and gives us answers as to why we are just now talking about business and personal finances in school, is the increased number of veterinarians graduating each year without a parallel demand in the marketplace for these new veterinarians. Supply and demand principles play an even bigger role when it comes to looking for a job fresh out of school. We believe you make yourself employable by separating yourself from the competition. Most new graduates will be at similar levels of medical knowledge and clinical skill sets, but the separating factor may lie in a job applicant's knowledge of business finances, social media marketing and website design, team building and negotiation skills. These are dynamic areas of contrast that bring real-world value to the practice.

Photo courtesy: VBMA

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> Western University

> Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

> Veterinary Business Management Association

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