Auburn to strengthen vet medicine in rural Kentucky

Program aims to support rural veterinarians and recruit future vets into sustainable careers to serve cattle, sheep and goat populations in rural Kentucky.

The Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine is directing a program to strengthen veterinary services to designated underserved rural populations in Kentucky through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Grant Program and in partnership with Kentucky veterinarians.

The $237,233 grant allows the college to create a program to "develop, implement and sustain private veterinary services through education, training, recruitment, placement and retention of veterinarians and students of veterinary medicine," said Dr. Dan Givens, associate dean for academic affairs at Auburn's College of Veterinary Medicine. It is one of 13 grants by USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA).

Objectives of the grant are:

* Connect veterinarians serving in rural geographic areas where additional veterinarians are needed with veterinary students interested in working in those areas;

* Provide quality educational opportunities for veterinary students in business management and sustainability in rural veterinary practice;

* Provide quality continuing education at a reduced cost to veterinarians serving in designated rural areas of unmet needs;

* Provide business management education and practice sustainability consultation to rural veterinary practitioners in underserved areas, and

* Facilitate and create networking opportunities that assist graduating veterinarians with transitioning into sustainable careers in rural underserved areas.

Leading the project are Dr. Misty Edmondson, an associate professor of farm animal medicine in the department of clinical sciences, and Glen Sellers, a clinical lecturer teaching business practice management to veterinary students.

“Their expertise will enhance student and practitioner recruitment and provide mentoring and career enhancement,” Givens said.

The grant provides programs already in existence at Auburn's College of Veterinary Medicine — the college’s practice management rotation and preceptorship program — with the opportunity to have a greater impact. The grant will match senior veterinary students interested in large-animal veterinary medicine with rural Kentucky veterinarians in locations where additional veterinarian help is needed. Veterinarians will mentor senior veterinary students and can have their practice participate in the business practice management program, the announcement said.

“The long-term goals of the program are to assist veterinarians currently serving in rural underserved areas as well as to work with current students to transition into sustainable careers in rural areas,” Givens said. “Adequately supporting current veterinarians and recruiting future veterinarians into sustainable careers will meet the needs to maintain the health and well-being of cattle, sheep and goat populations and ensure the provision of a safe and wholesome food supply.”

This program further solidifies an agreement between Kentucky and the College of Veterinary Medicine that began more than 65 years ago, with Auburn essentially being Kentucky’s veterinary medical program.

Since 1951, Auburn has enrolled Kentucky students through a program managed by the Southern Regional Education Board, by which a set number of seats in each incoming class at the college is reserved for Kentucky students and guarantees that Auburn charges Kentucky students in-state rates, with Kentucky providing the tuition difference. More than 1,900 contract spaces have been made available and filled with Kentucky students. Currently, 38 seats in each 120-member veterinary class are Kentucky students who pay resident tuition and fees.

Veterinarian shortages in Kentucky have been identified within the last two years to include:

* A 50-mile radius around Sandy Hook in Elliott County;

* A 50-mile radius around Georgetown in Scott County;

* A 50-mile radius around Morgantown in Butler County;

* A 50-mile radius around Manchester in Clay County, and

* A 50-mile radius around Columbia in Adair County.

The areas identified are based on high cattle-to-veterinarian ratios, demographics indicating that many of the current food animal veterinarians are older and have limited their practice or are retired and the number of practices that have a significant food animal focus but only one veterinarian despite recruitment attempts.

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