Missouri is trying to address an emerging problem: a shortage of veterinarians in rural Missouri. More and more veterinary school graduates set up clinics in the cities, treating pets. Fewer and fewer are on the farm, taking care of livestock.
Acting State Veterinarian, Dr. Taylor Woods, says he’s personally acquainted with the problem. Woods says he needs to replace nine veterinarians who can no longer work at livestock markets. Missouri law requires there be a veterinarian at livestock markets. Woods says, "I just don’t have those veterinarians."
Woods says he needs them today. That might prove difficult, but the legislature approved the Large Animal Veterinary Student Loan Program to address the problem in the future. Governor Blunt pledges to fully fund it next year, making $20,000 a year available to vet students willing to practice in underserved rural areas to a maximum loan of $80,000.
Woods says two trends have created the problem. Fewer students are enrolling in veterinarian school. There also has been a trend away from a farm practice to a city practice. Woods says more money can be made taking care of pets and going out on farm calls, which is also a more physically demanding practice.
Under the loan program, principle and interest will be forgiven if the graduate serves a needy portion of the state. Six students attending the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia will get enough money to pay for more than half their education, which can top $143,000.