K-State business researchers work to improve numbers of food supply veterinarians in Kansas and around the country
By Beth Bohn and Michelle Hall
Veterinarians play an important role in ensuring the safety of the nation's food supply through their work with food animals. But according to researchers at Kansas State University's College of Business Administration, the United States and Canada are experiencing a shortage of food supply animal veterinarians -- a trend they say must be reversed.
David Andrus, professor of marketing, Bruce Prince, professor of management, pictured at left, and Kevin Gwinner, associate professor and interim head of the department of marketing, are bringing their recommendations for turning this problem around to the Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition, a group of food supply veterinary interest groups.
The coalition, with Bayer Animal Health, commissioned Andrus, Prince and Gwinner to perform the $300,000 study, "Estimating Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Demand and Maintaining the Availability of Veterinarians in Careers in Food Supply Related Disciplines in the United States and Canada," and make recommendations. The coalition's members include the Academy of Veterinary Consultants, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, American Veterinary Medical Association, the Food Safety Inspection Service and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.
Having adequate veterinary involvement in the production of a continuing abundant supply of safe and wholesome food is vital, Andrus said.
"Food supply veterinary medicine encompasses all aspects of veterinary medicine's involvement in food supply systems, from traditional agricultural production to consumption," Andrus said. "Veterinarians need to be involved throughout the food chain to ensure a safe and healthy food supply."
Andrus, pictured at right, said the 1,700-page study involved multiple phases, including surveys and focus groups of food animal veterinarians in the United States and Canada, looking at the supply and demand of veterinarians, how to attract people to the profession and the job satisfaction and commitment of food supply animal veterinarians to their profession.
Although they found high levels of satisfaction and commitment, researchers also found a capacity problem for veterinary students. With only 28 veterinary schools in the United States, for example, numbers of students are limited by faculty and facility resources. Many students don't end up going into food animal medicine, Andrus said, although they may initially start veterinary school with that intent.
Andrus said the researchers' recommendations for helping in the shortage of food supply animal veterinarians include a debt relief plan for students who work in underserved areas after graduation, such as in rural food animal practices, and establishing a center for food animal medicine and management with a special emphasis in beef practice at K-State.
"This would have a really positive impact on the Kansas economy and also help with rural economic development," Andrus said of the center. "We want to establish this to improve food supply animal veterinary practices." The center would focus on curricular aspects within K-State as well as practice management issues for clinics around the area, he said.
Bringing the center to K-State will be a focus for not only Andrus, Prince and Gwinner, pictured at left, but also Brad White, assistant professor of clinical sciences; Dan Thomson, assistant professor of clinical sciences; and Mike Apley, associate professor of clinical sciences. White, Thomson and Apley are all with K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine and are all experts in food animal medicine.
Andrus, Prince and Gwinner will soon begin sharing their results and recommendations to the various food supply veterinary interest groups.
"This is a huge study with lots of different issues involved," Andrus said. The research team also will work to get legislation passed to better support the food chain by relieving school debt burdens for veterinarians who work in underserved areas, he said.