On Tuesday night, I attended the quarterly Corridor Conversations of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, where we welcomed back a former Kansas Citian who was influential in the animal health industry — John Payne, President and CEO of the Banfield Pet Hospital group of small animal veterinary hospitals. Banfield currently has nearly 800 small animal veterinary hospitals in the U.S. and is growing by 50 veterinary hospitals per year.
Payne’s topic was veterinary education and he brought numerous statistics with him about small animal medicine that can also apply directly to food animal medicine and some of the trends we are seeing there.
Trends in veterinary medicine:
Gender and international students
Payne says that from 2006-2011 enrollment in veterinary schools has increased 10.3%. “There are 11,000 students in our 28 U.S. veterinary schools and we graduate about 2,700 students per year,” he says. However, the applicant pool has decreased from 3.29:1 in 1980 to 2.1:1 in 2010.
The gender shift has been an eye opener in veterinary students as well since 77-78% of veterinary school classes are female vs. 22% of males. Payne says this is not just a U.S., but a worldwide trend.
One of the questions was are there too many veterinarians, and are we getting too many from foreign veterinary schools? Payne says the U.S. attracts about 500 veterinary graduates from international schools (even though many of those graduates are Americans). However, he does not see this influx as a major problem. “For instance, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has free tuition, but graduates have to practice community service before practicing medicine, and they are not coming to the U.S. The argument that we have an influx of foreign graduates is not happening.”
Debt load crosses all species
A 2010 AVMA study showed that the average debt load of veterinary students was over $133,000, and that over 89.9% of veterinary students had debt. Thirty-six percent had debt over $150,000, and more than 15% had debt over $200,000. Adding to that debt was the fact that the study found that nearly one-half of the students were not confident in their skill level so they are pursuing internships to gain experience, which then added to their debt. “When a starting salary for a small animal practitioner is $67,000, they are not interested in buying a practice,” says Payne. “They can’t buy a house or a car first.”