Wyoming faces a shortage of large animal and food animal veterinarians, as does the rest of the nation. As veterinarians age or change their focus to more lucrative areas such as exclusively small animal practice, our ranching and farming communities find food animal veterinary services increasingly hard to obtain. Many states now address this shortage by providing incentives for food animal veterinarians to come to their state to practice. With average debt loads for a new graduate of $120,000-$170,000, there has to be a mechanism to ease the burden of loan repayment. The starting annual salary for many new veterinary graduates in Wyoming is $30,000-$40,000. This does not allow a decent standard of living for people who just spent a minimum of 7 years in college. Nor does it allow newly graduated veterinarians to repay loans at an annual rate of $12,000-$15.000.
In 2008, the Wyoming legislature provided a means of recruiting new food animal veterinarians and for keeping existing food animal veterinarians in the state.
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer sponsored a bill (HB 74) that provides $270,000 for 2 years to aid in the repayment of educational loans by veterinarians who practice food animal medicine in underserved areas of Wyoming. The law states that the Wyoming Livestock Board, in consultation with the Wyoming Veterinary Medical Associations and Wyoming Veterinary Licensing Board, has oversight of the fund for educational loan repayment. Click here for details of repayment.
The statute provides loan repayment to Wyoming-licensed veterinarians who practiced food animal medicine in the State for 6 months. These veterinarians who apply and are selected by the Wyoming Livestock Board are eligible for up to $30,000 per year for 3 years. “Food animals” are defined as cattle, swine, sheep or goats. The veterinarians must be U.S. citizens and have graduated from an AVMA-accredited veterinary college.
No state money shall be expended for repayment of any loan unless 25% of the money is matched with other funds in any combination from any county, city, veterinary clinic, animal care facility, state agency, university, laboratory or veterinary clinic.
The Board will select recipients based on the following: the area in the state being served; percentage of food animal practice; the amount of educational expense; and whether the recipient has a committed sponsor who will provide 25% of the grant's matching funds.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has guidelines for percentages of food animal practice in Wyoming, as well as defining underserved areas in the State. This AVMA map may be accessed here.
The loans will probably be granted on a 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% of food animal medicine. For example; if a veterinarian spends 50% of her time in food animal medicine, she is eligible for a loan repayment grant of $15,000 per year. This annual amount would be $11,250 from the state and $3750 from the sponsor. The amount could change through the life of a 3 year contract, if other factors intervene, such as the percent of food animal practice involved or if a new sponsor is identified.
Since state funding is $270,000 and sponsor matching fund is $90,000, the maximum available for the biennium is $360,000.00. To assure that the program will be adequately funded for the biennium, probably $120,000 will be spent the first year, with the remainder spent in the second year to cover existing grants and hopefully a second crop of new veterinarians in 2010. With this formula, it is expected that the board and sponsors will fund 4-6 positions a year for 2 years. A request for funding has been included in the exception biennial budget for 2011-2012.
The grant amount would be paid to the selected recipient as a yearly one time payment. The selected recipient may be asked to provide proof that the payment was made to the institution listed on the loan application.
This program is new for Wyoming. The Wyoming Livestock Board and staff are working diligently to make this a program that will attract new food animal veterinarians and keep existing food animal veterinarians in the state. To ensure the program is continued, it is important that the first two years are a success: good food animals hired in underserved parts of the state. If the Board can place or retain 4-6 veterinarians a year for the next 2 years, there is hope that the shortage of food animal veterinarians will be addressed in Wyoming.