A major study conducted by the Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Consortium has determined that the nation is facing a shortage of food animal veterinarians and that it will likely get worse over the next decade.

The study determined that the supply of food animal practitioners will lag four to five percent behind a demand that is expected to increase by 12-13 percent through the year 2016.

Much of this may be a result of changes in production agriculture and demographic changes in academic veterinary medicine, according to Dr. Grant Turnwald, associate dean for academic affairs. Many veterinary students are more interested in pursuing careers in small animal veterinary medicine in more urban and suburban areas these days.

While traditional ambulatory based large animal veterinary medicine is still practiced in communities across America, the rise of factory farming and the subsequent demise of the family farm have changed the modern practice environment.

But the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine was founded to help foster agriculture and the college offers many programs and incentives to encourage students to seek careers in food animal veterinary medicine. The college's tracking oriented curriculum enables students to concentrate their studies in food animal veterinary medicine, and each year about 10-12 percent of students elect that track.

About $200,000 in scholarship money is earmarked every year to recruit students from under-represented areas, especially food animal veterinary medicine, to pursue academic work and eventually careers in food animal veterinary medicine.

The college operates an active Food Animal Practitioners' Club (FAPC) with strong faculty participation, Turnwald said, and that group fosters career interests in food animal medicine.

The club is growing and now has almost 100 members, according to FAPC Secretary Michaela Fry, who believes that more students might become interested in careers in food animal veterinary medicine if they were exposed to the career track while in veterinary college.

The college has also been discussing the development of a program with the Virginia Food Animal Academy that would provide the DVM’s to make presentations on careers in food animal veterinary medicine in high schools.

Another way the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine is indirectly addressing this issue is by training graduates in the area of food safety and regulatory affairs to work for government agencies such as the Food & Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture.

More Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine graduates work in the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, for example, than graduates from any other veterinary college.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) is a two-state, three-campus professional school operated by the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Maryland at College Park. Its flagship facilities, based at Virginia Tech, include the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which treats more than 40,000 animals annually. Other campuses include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., and the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at College Park, home of the Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. The VMRCVM annually enrolls approximately 500 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and graduate students, is a leading biomedical and clinical research center, and provides professional continuing education services for veterinarians practicing throughout the two states. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.