Veterinary medicine risks preparing next generation for biothreats

A new report warns that the academic veterinary community risks failing to prepare the next generation of veterinarians for research positions in state diagnostic laboratories, regulatory agencies, and the biologics and pharmaceutical industry.

A potential shortage in professionals with training beyond a doctor of science in Veterinary Medicine could impact the supply of veterinarians overseeing and enforcing food safety and animal health standards, and lead to deficiencies in infectious disease control, biosecurity and agro-terrorism prevention, according to

Although the number of veterinarians is growing, more than half of students seek training in companion or pet medicine, as opposed to teaching and research. In addition, growing debt from veterinary education may be inhibiting graduates from seeking Ph.D. training, which would place them in a better position for an academic or biologics industry related career.

According to the report, published by the National Research Council, cost-cutting measures at universities have adversely affected the ability of veterinary medicine schools to hire faculty in less popular fields and to support graduate research training.

"We must ensure that schools train qualified veterinarians in sync with the diverse and growing array of societal needs," Alan Kelly, a professor of pathology and pathobiology at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the committee that wrote the report, said, reports.

Large U.S. food-animal producers need veterinary services to focus on the health of large herds. Smaller rural producers, who may have difficulty hiring a full-time veterinarian, need primary animal care. Having fewer veterinarians in rural areas raises concerns about a lack of disease surveillance in the field, which could slow the detection of an outbreak or terrorist act.

"The fact that 60 percent of all infectious diseases in humans are of animal origin and 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases in the last decade arose from animals underscores the importance of maintaining expertise in other areas of veterinary medicine," Kelly said, according to