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<Date>

 

The Honorable Ann M. Veneman

Secretary of Agriculture

U. S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20250

 

Dear Secretary Veneman:

 

I am writing to ask you to provide funding for the National Veterinary Medical Services Act in your budget for FY06. Funding at a level of $20 million per year for a total of $60 million would allow the implementation of this important Act over FY’s 06, 07 and 08.  I also request that you support the inclusion of veterinarians working on wildlife health issues that are important to livestock and public health, and to our nations biosecurity in this program.

 

H.R. 1367, the National Veterinary Medical Services Act (NVMSA) was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate this past fall. It was signed into law (P.L. 108-161) on December 6, 2003. NVMSA authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a loan repayment program for veterinarians in exchange for the provision of veterinary services in shortage and emergency situations. 

 

NVMSA will help correct the serious veterinary shortage situations that exist in many areas of government service and private practice due to the debt burden facing many veterinary graduates.

Educational debt is a problem for nearly all veterinary students. 87.6% graduate with debt.  Moreover, the disparity between available salaries and school-related debt is worsening for new graduates.  In 2003, the mean starting salary for veterinary graduates was $41,602 with the mean loan debt of $76,588.  In comparison to other health professionals, veterinarians must spend a considerably higher percentage of their monthly income on student loan payments.  These high loan repayment obligations currently run $800-$900 per month—nearly one-third of their monthly salaries.  Between 2002 and 2003, the new veterinary graduate’s debt load rose by 5.3% while their average starting salary rose only 3.1% 

 

This disparity between salary and debt precludes recent veterinary graduates from accepting lower-paying positions in rural agricultural, wildlife conservation and management, inner-city, and governmental areas—areas where they are needed for biosecurity, food safety, disease control, and animal health management. I want to stress that wildlife veterinarians are involved in all of these professional  activities and urge you to assure that wildlife veterinarians are included in NVSA.  Members of our profession provide necessary disease surveillance and are trained to identify and contain potential outbreaks of both human and animal infections.  As you know, the list of possible diseases that bioterrorists could employ against our nation such as anthrax, plague, tularemia and botulism are wild animal diseases,.  Also, many of the most troublesome emerging and USDA program diseases like virulent avian influenza, Newcastle disease, TB, brucellosis and West Nile virus have a nexus at the wildlife/livestock/human  health interface.  This new law is a win-win solution for new veterinary graduates, areas in need of veterinary health care, and our nation’s biosecurity as a whole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Name                                                                          Page 2

 

 

<At this point you could place a FEW sentences to personalize the letter, perhaps about why NVMSA is important to you, why wildlife veterinary medicine is important to the nations public health, agriculture and biosecurity >

 

As practitioners of this science/art, when we take the Veterinary Oath, we solemnly swear to use our scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society.  Funding of NVMSA will allow us to enter those areas of both government and public practice, such as wildlife medicine, which are now facing serious shortages of veterinarians.  In the entire country presently there are only approximately 100 veterinarians serving in State agencies, Federal agencies and at Universities whose full time focus is the health of wildlife.  Students are the future of veterinary medicine, but the burden of debt will continue to constrain them from contributing to improving the health of livestock, wildlife and human beings unless some relief is forthcoming.    

 

Thank you for your time and consideration of this important issue.

 

Respectfully,

 

 

 

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