Legislators Looking at Incentives to Lure Veterinarians to Rural Areas

With fewer veterinarian students choosing to move to rural areas or work with large animals, Oklahoma lawmakers are taking a look at initiatives that could lure graduates in those directions.

Proposals considered by the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee include helping veterinarians who move to rural areas repay student loans and gain low-interest loans to establish large-animal practices.

"These large-animal veterinarians are needed to maintain healthy food-supply animals so all Oklahomans can have safe milk, wheat, and meat to eat," said Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, who is leading a legislative study.

A decline in rural veterinarians and those who work with large animals is due in part to a greater number of women applying and enrolling in vet schools. Women tend to prefer working in small animal practices and live closer to urban areas, officials have found.

Neither men nor women want the long hours, on-call demands and geographic isolation that can make it hard for a spouse to find work, said Michael Lorenz, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, dean of the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Of this year's OSU veterinary medicine graduates, nine of 24 men and four of 43 women accepted jobs working with large animals. That mirrors national trends, Lorenz said.

Student debt also plays a large role in graduates' decisions whether to practice in rural areas, he said. Most students are already carrying $70,000 in debt when they get out of school.

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The Associated Press


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