Gov. Jay Nixon came to Missouri Western State University in the heart of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor today to announce an agreement that he said is the first step to addressing a nationwide demand for more large-animal veterinarians and veterinary technicians. With more than 200 animal health companies, the Animal Health Corridor encompassing the Kansas City-St. Joseph area leads the world in animal health science.
The cooperative agreement between the Missouri Department of Agriculture and USDA Rural Development includes a $500,000 grant to the state to create a business plan and pilot program for training animal health professionals. The Department will bring together many of the top experts in animal health science, both from within the Corridor and from other parts of Missouri and other states, to develop a plan to produce more professionals in large-animal health.
"There's an estimated shortage of 1,500 large-animal veterinarians nationwide - professionals who are vital to a reliable food supply, disease control and animal health in this country," Gov. Nixon said. "This agreement and grant are helping us move forward to address that shortage, in consultation with the best minds in animal health from the academic and business worlds. The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor is the ideal location for launching this landmark approach on an issue of such importance."
The pilot program would include additional training and specialization for animal health professionals who already have gone through primary training programs, including veterinary school or veterinary technician programs, to prepare those professionals to fill the shortage in the food animal industry. The pilot program could lead to the establishment of a national food animal veterinary institute within the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.
"At a time when we are focused on training Missourians for careers that will stay in demand, this program can help us produce professionals who are greatly needed," Gov. Nixon said.
The Governor was joined for the announcement by Missouri Agriculture Director Dr. Jon Hagler; Dr. Michael Strain, Commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry, a partner in the agreement; Cheryl Cook, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development; Anita J. (Janie) Dunning, Missouri State Director for USDA Rural Development; George Heidgerken, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, and chairman of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor; Dr. Neil Olson, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri; Dr. David Hardin, head of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln; and Missouri Western President Dr. Robert Vartabedian.
"Rural America has been facing a food animal veterinarian shortage for far too long," said Commissioner Strain, who developed the concept for the Institute with Director Hagler at a meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in February. "This Institute will begin the process of addressing America's food animal veterinarian needs."
"Offering post-doctoral and veterinary technician education focused on food animals will be a benefit to the workforce in the corridor," Mr. Heidgerken said. "This Institute will be a tremendous step forward in addressing the corridor's existing and future workforce needs."
"I am pleased to be part of the working group for this exciting project," Dr. Olson said. "We are looking forward to formulating comprehensive options for addressing the shortage of food animal veterinarians and veterinary technicians."
"We are proud to be involved in this project to ensure an adequate supply of veterinarians for the future needs of animals and agriculture, " said Dr. Fenton Lipscomb, president of the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association. "Ensuring that agriculture can meet the needs of supplying food and fiber to future generations is a major requirement of our time."
"I congratulate the partnership of the National Food Animal Veterinary Institute and look forward to seeing them develop a business plan, establish a pilot project advisory board, design a training plan and identify opportunities for participation in a veterinary fellowship program," Ms. Cook said. "Your dedication and commitment to this program has great potential to address the shortages of large-animal veterinarians for the future."
"I am truly excited about the NFAVI partnership and optimistic the Rural Development $500,000 Cooperative Agreement investment will reap big dividends in addressing the shortage of large animal veterinarians," Ms. Dunning said. "Missouri Rural Development looks forward in being a key partner during the formation, funding and implementation of this Institute."