Wed Aug 16 12:06:15 PDT 2006
the three commissioning associations -- the AVMA, American Animal Hospital
Association, and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges -
identified six key areas in their preamble that must be addressed to
improve the economic health of the profession. They are:
Veterinarians' Income. The "real" income of individual veterinarians is
stagnant and seriously lags behind that of similar professions, such as
dentists and physicians. The pricing of veterinary services may not be
appropriate relative to the real cost of the service and the value being
delivered. This hinders the ability to repay student loans, to attract the
best and brightest to the profession, and to invest in personal and
Economic Impact of Large Numbers of Women in the Profession. The study
found that the income of women veterinarians is substantially below that of
their male colleagues. There is additional evidence that women work fewer
hours, are less likely to be practice owners, and may price their services
below those of men. There is concern that these factors may be reducing the
income levels of all veterinarians.
The survey itself also found that nearly 70 percent of veterinary students
and 36 percent of practicing veterinarians are women. It is estimated that
in 2015, the number of women in veterinary schools will peak at 78 percent,
and 67 percent of practicing veterinarians will be women.
The income disparity, particularly, was for many the most troubling
revelation of the study. Dr. Margaret Rucker, past president of AAHA,
wasn't surprised by the phenomenon but was "dismayed" to see that women
were actually charging less for their services than men.
"If women continue to enter this profession, as they have in recent years,
then I think that we women, if we're going to have a viable profession, are
going to have to wake up and smell the roses. We're going to have to start
charging appropriately for our services," Dr. Rucker said.
Global Demand for All Categories of Veterinary Services. While consumer and
animal owner spending on veterinary services has been robust, there is
substantial opportunity to further increase demand. There is also evidence
that there is a potentially significant market for veterinarians and
veterinary services, particularly in nontraditional and non-private practice
Inefficiency of the Delivery System. Most animal care is still being
delivered through a highly fragmented and inefficient system. Elaborated in
the summary were issues related to excess capacity, staff utilization, and
use of capital resources.
Supply of Veterinarians. In purely economic terms, there is evidence of an
excess of veterinarians, which is a cause of downward price pressure. This
is projected to result in stagnant veterinary incomes over the next 10
years. More important, the characteristics of the supply may not closely
match the demand. Evidence exists that modifications in the education of
veterinarians will enable the profession to capitalize on emerging markets
and to create new services.
Skills, Knowledge, Aptitude, and Attitude of Veterinarians and Veterinary
Students. While there is ample evidence that the scientific and clinical
skills of the profession remain very high, there is also evidence that
veterinarians lack some of the skills and aptitudes that result in economic
success. Additionally, there is evidence that veterinarians'
self-perception of their abilities and what they can contribute to society
potentially limit the professional and economic growth of the profession.
According to Dr. Paul, the findings are disturbing. "If the industry
doesn't appreciate the importance of this, then we're doomed," he said.
Conducted by the Washington, DC-based KPMG Peat Marwick LLP Economic
Consulting Services at a cost of $690,000, the year-long study is the most
comprehensive assessment of the current US veterinary services industry. Of
the cost, the AVMA paid half and AAHA and AAVMC paid 25 percent each. Their
collaboration on the study marks a turning point in the working
relationship of the three associations, which collectively will represent
the professions' interests.
Hundreds of veterinarians from all sectors of the profession were asked to
take part in focus groups and respond to mail surveys and telephone
interviews. Information from the general public and pet and livestock
owners was gathered to develop an understanding of the influences on the
Economic, demographic, technologic, and sociologic factors were identified
and their effects on the industry analyzed. The data were used to develop
models illustrating the current and future supply and demand for each
sector of the veterinary profession through 2015.
Summarizing the preamble of the study's executive summary prepared by the
Joint Steering Committee, Dr. James E. Nave, chairman the committee, on
Thursday warned the assembly that if the issues are allowed to go
unaddressed, the profession is at risk of losing the "brightest minds" to
the more financially stable careers of dentistry and human medicine.
Some of those attending the informational meeting asked representatives
from the three associations questions regarding issues ranging from the
depth of the research that went into the study and whether the findings
varied according to the various regions of the country.
"We now know more about both the clinical and nonclinical practice of
veterinary medicine than at any time in our history," Dr. James Nave said.
"We now have greater insight into the expectations, wants, needs, and
demands of the consumers of veterinary services."
The study had its beginnings in 1996 while Dr. Sherbyn Ostrich was
president of the AVMA. His call to examine the economic base of veterinary
medicine because of constantly surfacing issues led to the nationwide
symposium "Managing Your Economic Future in Veterinary Medicine." Later
that year, the AVMA Executive Board approved the formation of a focus group
to address the issues raised in the symposium.
In early 1997, another recommendation resulted in the formation of a joint
steering committee that would develop and oversee a comprehensive study of
the veterinary services market. In his presidential address to the House of
Delegates later that year, Dr. John I. Freeman proposed creation of an
economic survey to predict the future activity of animal owners. The joint
steering committee, made up of the executive directors and three leaders
from each of the participating associations, included Dr. Freeman's
proposal in its activities, thus leading to the present study.
Many leaders within the profession see the findings as a cause for change
in what is recognized as a fragmented profession Dr. James Voss, president
of the AAVMC, called the study a "wake-up call" with a potentially dramatic
impact on veterinary curriculum, particularly in the area of business.
Dr. Voss explained that this is a problem institutions have been dealing
with that does not have a simple answer. The teaching institutions, he
said, will be looking at many possibilities, including making business
courses a standard part of the curriculum or making them a prerequisite.
With most of the factors threatening the profession being internal,
according to Dr. Paul, the solution lies in adjusting veterinarians'
"mental approach" to doing business. "The good news is that, because we're
our own worst enemy, we also have an opportunity to fix it," he said.
According to Dr. Freeman, the study provides a "tremendous" amount of
information that the leaders within the AVMA, AAHA, and AAVMC can use to
help create initiatives to change the current economic plight of
"We now have more information about veterinary medicine than we've ever had
in the history of the profession. The question is: how will we use this?"
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