UW System Position on Bills Introduced in the Legislature During the 2007-2008 Session
Referred to: Committee on Public Health
UW System Position
SUPPORT: The need for additional rural veterinarians is a national need, with Wisconsin reflecting that need. For example, a published study projecting national need for food animal veterinarians has estimated a 3.8 % shortfall for dairy practitioners alone in the period of 2006-2016. As Wisconsin continues to urbanize, an increasing number of applicants to veterinary medicine do so with no personal experience in agriculture, or of life in a rural community. In addition, documented national shortages of veterinarians in biomedical research, in public health, in academia, in laboratory animal medicine, and in companion animal practice mean that rural practices face stiff competition in attracting and retaining new graduates. In addition to coming from an urban environment, the perceived potential for long term income advantages in other forms of practice, combined with the need to repay substantial student loans, are significant factors for students considering food animal practice as a career option. The student loan program for veterinary medical students provided in this bill would be administered through the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB), as is already the case for nurses and other professions in shortage. These HEAB loans would be forgiven for those veterinarians entering and remaining in food animal practice in Wisconsin. While the HEAB loan program will only pay for a fraction of the average student loans accumulated by veterinary medical graduates, it will represent an important tool to improve the recruitment and retention of veterinarians in food animal practice in Wisconsin.