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Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) Report 2014

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Summary of Challenges Facing the Veterinarian-Scientist Workforce

Challenges faced by the veterinary physician-scientist workforce include:

  • Recruitment
    • Many veterinary students are not oriented toward research careers, and the general public does not associate veterinary training with advances in or contributions to medical science.
  • Training
    • Veterinary students encounter few research-oriented mentors and role models during their years in veterinary school.
    • Veterinary students typically graduate with high levels of student debt (average=$162,113)74 and are rarely eligible/encouraged to participate in NIH loan repayment programs.
    • Public, private, and governmental entities do not consider the versatility of veterinary education and training relative to pressing societal needs such as global food security, animal model utilization for development and testing of novel therapies, emergent diagnostics, genetic disease and therapies, etc. Without raised awareness of veterinary capabilities in this area, it will be difficult to change recruitment priorities or paradigms to result in a research-capable veterinary workforce.
    • NIH funding for pre-doctoral training programs supporting training of veterinarian-scientists has been flat and MSTP-like programs are generally not available to veterinary colleges.
    • Veterinary curriculum does not typically promote the role of the veterinarian-scientist.
  • Retention
    • Colleges of veterinary medicine and/or veterinarians do not always qualify for or capitalize on NIH and other federal research awards.
    • There is no single Institute or Center at NIH focused on veterinary research following the dissolution of the NCRR in 2011.
    • Employment in public health or academic research is a demanding career that often provides less salary support than private sector private practice positions.
    • Though there is the perception that veterinarians are less successful at competing for NIH RPGs than MDs and PhDs, the differences in funding rates for veterinarians are only modestly lower than PhDs. The factors contributing to this discrepancy have not been determined.

74 The mean educational debt among the 90 percent of respondents to the AVMA’s 2013 survey of veterinary school graduates. The figure increased 7 percent from 2012. Sixteen percent of respondents had a debt load of $230,000 or greater; only 1 percent of respondents reported a debt load of less than $10,000; and 10 percent reported having no debt. (source: dvm360, V 45 (2), Feb 2014)