By Emily N. Lenhard on December 07, 2018
Featuring Ángel Abuelo

In North America, food animal veterinarians are becoming more and more scarce in all sectors: public, private, industrial, and academic. It’s impacting more than animal welfare.

“Of course, without veterinarians close by, it can be difficult for producers to provide some types of care for these animals,” says Dr. Ángel Abuelo, assistant professor of Cattle Health and Wellbeing in the College’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. “But there’s a lot more at risk than that. If quality of care for these animals suffers, so to will public health and food safety and supply.” Based on data from the USDA Veterinary Services Shortage Situations, bovine practice continues to be the area within food animal veterinary medicine with the greatest lack of service to veterinary-underserved regions.

“We’re excited to begin our work to address this problem,” says Abuelo. “Our goal is to improve health and wellbeing for the animals while increasing opportunities in employment and lifestyle for new and early-career veterinarians. This program is just another example of the College’s commitment to the agricultural industries, which contributes to our mission to Learn, Discover, Heal, and Protect.”

Abuelo has been awarded a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) for his research proposal “Improving food-animal veterinary service shortage situations in rural bovine practice through recruitment and continuing education of early-career veterinarians.” The award is for $245,500 throughout 4 years. The MSU academics will be working primarily with a team from Cornell University, led by co-principal investigator Dr. Sabine Mann, assistant professor of Ambulatory Medicine in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences. They also will have the support of collaborators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, and various veterinary private companies.

“This collaborative grant allows us to link veterinarians who are passionate about careers in rural livestock medicine to those who will benefit most from their expertise,” says Dr. Birgit Puschner, dean for the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “This grant identifies and makes accessible career and lifestyle opportunities for those beginning work in veterinary medicine.”

According to NIFA, this grant, which is part of the Veterinary Services Grant Program, is intended to “relieve veterinarian shortage situations and support veterinary services.” During this project, annual events intended to promote rural practice and lifestyle among veterinary students will be organized at MSU and Cornell University including roundtable discussions with early-career veterinarians (within five years of graduation) and support for senior DVM student externships. In addition, a bovine medical distance continuing education program complemented with hands-on workshops at MSU and Cornell will be organized for early-career veterinarians, which will be offered at no cost to 40 veterinarians.

“Veterinary medicine is fundamentally linked to human health, but unfortunately, this crucial role is often undervalued,” says Puschner. “Veterinarians have a responsibility to protect human health by ensuring food safety and providing food animal production and care services. MSU has an obligation to train practice-ready veterinarians, and this grant allows us to make a difference in underserved areas.”

For more information, contact the College at communications@cvm.msu.edu.