Veterinary academia has been slow to respond to educational needs in food-animal production medicine. Large producers who dominate the livestock industries expect veterinarians to make decisions aimed at increasing herd health, productivity, and the overall profitability of the farming operation. Those are the services that producers seek and for which they are willing to pay. At the same time, the profession is also expected to increase its role in monitoring food safety, drug residues, animal welfare, nutrient management, and stewardship of the environment.
The most compelling case for creating centers of emphasis is in those disciplines where small numbers of students are involved and it is difficult for each school or college to justify faculty costs. Such is the case for food-animal medicine. There are models of successful centers in which advanced practical training and research is available, such as the Agricultural Research Service Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center, Nebraska; the Swine Center of Excellence at Iowa State University in conjunction with the Audubon-Manning Veterinary Clinic; the University of California at Davis Dairy Center at the Veterinary Medical Teaching and Research Center at Tulare, California; and the recently formed National Center of Excellence in Dairy Production Medicine Education for Veterinarians funded by USDA that is a collaboration among the veterinary schools of the Universities of Georgia, Minnesota, Illinois, and Kansas State University.
Forming centers of emphasis is not a new idea, but it needs to be revisited and nurtured by veterinary leaders and affected stakeholders. In addition to advancing the quality of food-animal education, the committee sees the advantages of a strategically-planned network of cooperating centers for reducing a duplication of effort, faculty salaries, and facilities.
The centers will develop only as entrepreneurial deans and faculty initiate inter-institutional discussion, formulate creative ideas, use distance education, and attract funding from industry, public-health agencies, foundations, international organizations, and federal and international governments. Maintaining flexibility in center programs will be an ongoing challenge. A system of regular review or accreditation should be put in place at the time the centers are created.
Recommendation 4b: The veterinary profession should formulate new ways of delivering cost-effective services to rural America, using veterinary technicians to extend animal-health services to underserved areas.
In rural areas where there are too few farms to support a full-time veterinarian, a system of animal health care that integrates the licensed clinicians with rigorously trained paraprofessionals is needed. For this to be accomplished, AVMA and the professional associations of food-animal practitioners will need to enter a dialogue with officials to modify state practice acts to permit credentialed veterinary technicians to administer livestock health services provided that they are subject to oversight by (and in constant communication with) licensed