Loan repayment program to help veterinarians in underserved areas
Due to a continuing shortage of large animal veterinarians in rural areas, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is seeking nominations for its Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program.
The VMLRP helps qualified veterinarians offset a significant portion of their college debt in exchange for their service in high-priority shortage areas.
To determine which veterinarians are in need of the loan repayment program, the NIFA is seeking nominations for shortage areas in 2017. Each state’s top animal health official has until Feb. 8 to nominate underserved areas for the program.
For 2016, the following Virginia counties were deemed in critical need of large animal vets: Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott and Wise. Counties with a moderate need were Alleghany, Bath, Bland, Highland, Patrick, Smyth and Tazewell.
A growing shortage of large animal veterinarians has been a problem for more than a decade, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and Virginia Farm Bureau Federation have lobbied for a solution.
“We’ve found that in rural areas especially, our livestock farmers have had trouble getting quick access to a vet because there just aren’t enough to go around,” said Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations. “It’s crucial for our farmers to have reputable vet care, and that’s why this loan repayment program is so important. Giving an incentive for vets to practice in these underserved areas should go a long way toward reducing the shortage.”
Qualifying veterinarians who agree to provide services in shortage situations for at least three years are eligible to receive up to $25,000 of their student loan debt per year.