Too few veterinary students are choosing to specialize in basic biomedical science or pathology, as noted in the recently published NRC report National Need and Priorities for Veterinarians in Biomedical Research, which suggests a strategy for recruiting and preparing more veterinarians for careers in laboratory animal medicine, comparative medicine, and comparative pathology (NRC, 2004b). This committee endorses the recommendations of that report.
One strategy for building veterinary capacity is to design and implement training and educational curricula to better address these underserved areas of animal health. The Veterinary Workforce Expansion Act of 2005, which amends the Public Health Service Act, will be a useful first step that establishes a competitive grants program to build capacity in veterinary medical education and expands the workforce of veterinarians engaged in public health practice and biomedical research.
Recommendation 10: The USDA, state animal health agencies, the AVMA, and colleges and schools of veterinary medicine and departments of animal science should develop a national animal health education plan focusing on education and training of individuals from all sectors involved in disease prevention and early detection through day-to-day oversight of animals.
Responsibility for implementing the educational plan would fall on those at the local level. Strong and well-functioning front-line detection is provided by animal handlers and personnel working with animals on a day-to-day basis. This backbone for effectively preventing animal disease outbreaks requires education and training to include awareness and recognition of clinical signs, as well as an elementary understanding of disease transmission and prevention. In addition, those with day-to-day oversight of animals need to understand the methods and responsibilities for reporting the signs of foreign and exotic animal diseases. Basic multilingual education and training are necessary for those with such direct oversight of animals, whereas more in-depth education to promote a greater depth and breadth of understanding of transmission and prevention is required for managers and owners.
Recommendation 11: The government, private sector, and professional and industry associations should collectively educate and raise the level of awareness of the general public about the importance of public and private investment to strengthen the animal health framework.