Multiple studies and publications have addressed a nationwide shortage of food animal veterinarians in the United States and the need to prepare veterinarians for the scope of food animal veterinary medicine in the 21st century (see citations at the bottom of this page). A variety of factors may have contributed to a shortage of food animal veterinarians and, likewise, a long-term solution will require inputs from multiple stakeholders and a variety of synergistic approaches. Key stakeholders include the livestock industry, rural development organizations, national and state governments, and the veterinary medical profession. Potential strategies to increase the number of qualified veterinarians who maintain life-long careers in food animal industries include the following:
- enhancing interest in veterinary medicine among middle and secondary school students through agricultural and veterinary science curricula and veterinarian role models and mentoring;
- provision of enhanced mentoring and learning opportunities in food animal veterinary medicine within Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree programs to maintain and enhance student interest in this area;
- scholarships and loan-forgiveness programs to reduce DVM program educational debts for graduates entering food animal practice; active involvement of veterinary medical professionals to eliminate negative stereotypes of life as rural food animal practitioners; and
- alignment of industry needs and expectations with career aspirations of food animal practitioners.
The present proposal, as one part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine’s overall food animal veterinary medicine recruiting effort, seeks specifically to identify first-year undergraduate students (with preference given to Wisconsin residents) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, or the University of Wisconsin-River Falls who are highly academically qualified and motivated to pursue a career in food animal veterinary medicine and to secure their attendance at the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM).
The process of selecting students for the UW-Madison DVM degree program is a holistic one. For each incoming class, we seek to create a community of learners who will enrich the SVM community while meeting the future needs of the profession. We do not use quotas for specific dimensions of the class, but we consciously seek to create diversity of race, ethnicity, cultural heritage, veterinary medical and life experiences, and future professional interests within each class of 80 students. In regards to attracting students toward food animal practice, we have been fortunate to continue to draw a substantial percentage of our matriculating students (47-56%) from rural settings (towns with populations <25,000). Likewise, we continue to see that our students come from families owning a wide range of animals, including food animals; and among matriculating students over the past five years (classes of 2007-2011), 15-25% have listed food animal veterinary medicine as their primary professional interest at the time of admission. However, by the time they choose an area of emphasis for their final year of clinical training, the interests of approximately one-third of these students have evolved into other areas. Through the Food Animal Veterinary Medicine Scholars (FAVeMedS) program we seek to identify and mentor students who are both academically prepared for the rigors of the DVM degree program and also sufficiently experienced in working with food animals to be confident in their desire for life-long careers in food animal veterinary medicine within the framework of today’s food animal industry.
The FAVeMedS Program
The FAVeMedS initiative is a highly selective program to identify and mentor academically gifted first-year undergraduate students who are highly motivated toward a lifelong career in food animal veterinary medicine. Students who are accepted into FAVeMedS are, at that time, simultaneously granted admission to the DVM program after three years of undergraduate studies, provided that they successfully complete the academic, research, and mentored clinical experiences required of program participants.
Student eligibility for application:
- Completion of one year of full-time (at least 12 credits per semester) undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, or the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, with preference given to Wisconsin residents;
- A minimum first-year undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.25 with at least one-half of the credits coming from courses in biological sciences, genetics, chemistry, physics, or mathematics;
- A minimum score of 25 on the college entrance ACT exam (or 1710 on the SAT exam, based on the tri-partite exam’s 2400 point scale);
- A strong and documentable interest in veterinary medicine and specifically in food animal aspects of the profession.
- Submission of UW-Madison SVM-specific DVM program materials by June 30th after an applicant’s first year of undergraduate studies (please contact the Office of Academic Affairs for application)
- In the appropriate areas of personal essays and listings of animal and veterinary medical experiences in the applications, provision of evidence of a strong interest in food animal veterinary medicine and associated experiences with livestock species
- Submission of official undergraduate transcripts showing both fall and spring semester coursework and grades
- Submission of three letters of recommendation, one each from
A high school teacher who knows the applicant well;
A pre-vet advisor or other college faculty member who can attest to the applicant’s academic abilities, maturity, and commitment to veterinary medicine; and
A veterinarian who can attest to the applicant’s interest specifically in becoming a food animal veterinarian and likelihood for success in this venture (letter writers must be unrelated to the applicant).
- Completion of a personal interview with members of the FAVeMedS admissions committee for finalist applicants
Decisions regarding acceptance to the FAVeMedS program are announced by August 31st of the year of application.
Up to four students will be selected for FAVeMedS each year. Selection to FAVeMedS will be based upon
- Academic performance and preparation
- Quality and quantity of food animal veterinary medical and animal care experiences as documented in the VMCAS application
- Commitment to a life-long career as a food animal veterinarian as described in the applicant’s personal statement and letters of recommendation
- Personal attributes and likelihood for success as attested to by those writing letters of recommendation
- Written and verbal communication skills as displayed in the application and interview
- Leadership potential, maturity and activities during high school and college outside of veterinary medicine
- Work experiences
- Awards and honors
- Diversity of background, interests, and experiences
- Special circumstances that may have affected an applicant’s record
Eligibility to remain in the program
Students who successfully complete the following plan of study and mentored experiences will maintain eligibility for admission to the UW-Madison DVM program after three years of undergraduate studies. Students must fulfill the responsibilities outlined below.
- Academic Complete three years of full-time (minimum of 12 semester credits/semester) undergraduate education in a major area of studies of the student’s choosing
- Achieve a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) by the end of the third year
- Successful completion at University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin- Platteville, or the University of Wisconsin-River Falls of all standard prerequisite courses for DVM admissions.
- Successful completion at the applicant’s primary undergraduate institution of the following FAVeMedSspecific coursework:
- REQUIRED: Livestock production/management (e.g., UW-Madison Animal Science/Dairy Science 101; UW-P AGSCI 1000; UW-RF ANSC 111). The ideal student will supplement this course with an intermediate or advanced course in their species of interest (e.g., UW-Madison Animal Science 430, 431, 432, or 511; UW-P AGSCI 4030, 4040, 4050, or 4070; UW-RF ANSC 366, 367, 368, or DASC 306)
- REQUIRED: Production animal nutrition (e.g., UW-Madison Animal Science/Dairy Science/Nutritional Sciences 311; UW-P AGSCI 3000 or 4080; UW-RF ANSC 231 and 232)
- RECOMMENDED: Vertebrate Physiology (e.g., UW-Madison Animal Science/Comparative Biosciences 404 or Animal Sciences/Dairy Sciences 434; UWP AGSCI 4110 or BIOLOGY 2340; UW-RF ANSC 260)
- RECOMMENDED: Economics, ideally with an emphasis on agricultural economics (e.g., UW-Madison Agriculture and Applied Economics 215; UW-P AGINDUS 1500; UW-RF AGEC 230)
- RECOMMENDED: Microbiology, including agricultural and/or food microbiology (e.g., UW-Madison Microbiology 101; UW-P BIOLOGY 3240; UW-RF BIOL 324). The ideal microbiology course will include a laboratory component.
Mentored experiences in food animal veterinary medicine
At the start of the fall semester of a student’s second year of undergraduate studies, a mentoring committee will be identified for each FAVeMedS student. This committee will consist of a food animal-related faculty/staff member at the student’s campus of origin, a practicing food animal veterinarian willing to mentor the student over a two-year period, a food animal faculty/staff member in the UW-Madison SVM, and a current food animal veterinary medicine-oriented DVM student from the UW-Madison SVM. The FAVeMedS student will arrange meetings at least twice yearly with these mentors to guide his/her professional development and to assist in arranging the following mentored experiences:
- By the end of the spring semester of the third year of undergraduate studies, the student will complete a minimum of 300 hours observing clinical practice with a food animal practitioner. Up to 50 hours of this time may be substituted by working on a large production animal farm (i.e., greater than 200 cow dairy; not the student’s family farm).
- At or before the start of the fall semester of the third year of undergraduate studies, the student will develop a research project in a subject of their choosing (but related to food animal veterinary medicine) to be completed over the fall and spring semesters of the third year. The project will be developed in discussion with and approved by the student’s mentoring committee; academic credit will be awarded at the student’s home institution as an independent study with the scope and workload of the project being appropriate for at least three semester credits.
Buss, D.D., B.I. Osburn, N.G. Willis and D.A. Walsh. 2006. Executive summary – Veterinary medical education for modern food systems: setting a vision and creating a strategic plan for veterinary medical education to meet its responsibilities. Published by the Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (http://www.jvmeonline.org/cgi/reprint/33/4/479) as a summary of papers published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, volume 33, number 4 (http://www.jvmeonline.org/content/vol33/issue4/index.dtl).
Prince, J. B., D.M. Andrus and K.P. Gwinner. 2006. Future demand, probably shortages, and strategies for creating a better future in food supply veterinary medicine. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 229(1):57-69. (http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdf/10.2460/javma.229.1.57)
Sterner, K.E. 2006. An invited perspective on the shortage of veterinarians in food supply veterinary medicine. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 229(1):30-32. (http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdf/10.2460/javma.229.1.30)