spontaneous tumors in dogs and cats are models of tumors in humans and provide excellent opportunities for studying basic cancer biology and testing cancer therapeutic agents. Spontaneous models of metabolic diseases in pets are also available and uniquely important for gene therapy and stem-cell studies. But these opportunities and resources have been underutilized.
The total NIH funding of the nation’s 28 veterinary schools and colleges in 2010 was about $280 million—less than the NIH funding for any one of the nation’s top medical schools. Veterinary schools must improve their ability to attract funding if they expect to remain in the mainstream of biomedical research, by hiring more DVM-PhD mentors to attract grants and provide graduate training of veterinarians at the doctoral level, both in the biomedical field and in research projects of primary importance to animals.
CONCLUSION 3: The current return on investment for veterinary education is unsustainable and the cost of veterinary education is at a crisis point. The profession may be at risk for lowering the quality of applicants to the profession and the quality of veterinary education. The veterinary profession has been slow to respond to these challenges.
Starting salaries in private practice increased by 148% beyond inflation in the 20 years from 1987 to 2007, but mean debt increased by 285% in the same period. The financial return on investment in veterinary education is below that of other professions for which students might be qualified. For about the same number of years of training, veterinarians make much less than dentists and about the same as pharmacists, who can graduate with the required PharmD in as little as 6 years. Although there is some risk in using current earnings information to approximate expected lifetime earnings of current students, it is clear that the financial reward for a veterinary education is well below the benchmarks of other types of training in health professions. The committee agrees that a foreboding scenario exists: the ratio of student debt-to-average starting salary is more than 2 to 1 (Figure 11-1).
In the absence of additional growth in salaries or reduction in costs of a veterinary education, the return on investment in a veterinary education may continue to decrease. Eventually, more students will recognize the disjunction between tuition and income, and the quality of applicants to veterinary schools will decline. Veterinary medicine needs to make a much better case to the public in regard to its value in state and federal budgets and to be more creative and effective in seeking sources of revenue besides increases in tuition and class sizes.
Recommendation 3a: Professional veterinary organizations, academe, industry, and government should work together with a sense of urgency to stimulate the collective actions needed to ensure economic sustainability of veterinary colleges, practices, and students. A national consortium or committee should be jointly supported to