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Filling an industry shortage

By Staff | Dec 17, 2010

“When students are willing to spend their very limited free time to inform and recruit others, it illustrates the strength of these students’ convictions.” —Dr. Locke Karriker ISU veterinarian associate professor


Farm News staff writer

AMES – Since 2003, the number of Iowa State University veterinary medicine students choosing a career path to treat both small animals and food animals has increased by 25 percent, leading to more students landing jobs in rural areas throughout Iowa and the Midwest.

60 percent of the 148 third-year veterinary medicine students at ISU this year are interested in either a food animal practice or a mixed animal practice, compared to only about 35 percent in 2003, said Locke Karriker, an associate professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine and a student advisor.

“That’s fairly unprecedented even here at Iowa State,” he said, referring to the 60 percent threshold. He noted that ISU is usually among the leaders nationally for the percentage of veterinary students it produces who work with food animals.

While some of the factors leading to the dramatic increase in working with food animals are unknown, one of the catalysts of change was a collaborative recruiting effort among ISU students and faculty known as VSMART – Veterinary Student Mixed Animal Recruitment Team.

The team was established in 2004 to recruit high school, college students and fellow veterinary students to rural mixed animal practice. Since it began, VSMART members have promoted the advantages of being a veterinarian treating both small animals and food animals in rural areas to over 10,000 students at community events, schools and county fairs.

VSMART members also volunteer for “vet camp” at county fairs in Iowa to promote veterinary medicine.

“When students are willing to spend their very limited free time to inform and recruit others, it illustrates the strength of these students’ convictions about the value and purpose of rural practice,” Karriker said, in an ISU release.

Peter Schneider, of Waterloo, vice president of VSMART, said when he speaks to FFA and 4-H groups, he talks about the positive impact a veterinarian can make in a rural community.

“Being able to send leaders back into rural communities is a big thing that VSMART is doing. They can go back and have a great life and have an impact on their communities. They don’t have to leave the small towns,”

In the past couple of years those early recruits have graduated and are now mixed animal veterinarians in rural areas of Iowa and the Midwest. Jennifer Hosch, is a 2009 graduate of ISU’s veterinary medicine program. She joined Tri-Vet Associates in Farley, shortly after graduation.

As a student, Hosch was a member of VSMART helping to recruit students into mixed animal practice. Now that she’s a practitioner, she’s still sharing her love of the profession and mixed animal practice with clients and the public.

“Rural practice has been the perfect fit for me,” Hosch said,” because it is both personally and professionally fulfilling.

“I feel as though I am an important contributor to animal agriculture in our area and fill a central role as the guardian of the family pet’s health.

“I went to veterinary school, because I wanted to be what our veterinarian was to my family – well-respected, compassionate, intelligent and much-needed.

“I feel as though rural practice has given me the opportunity to be those things.”

Contact Dave DeValois at dwdevalois@yahoo.com.

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