come from rural backgrounds or have had other previous experiences with livestock or poultry farming (Schmitz et al., 2007; Jelinski et al., 2008). This is a diminishing population. Furthermore, as livestock and poultry operations are increasingly housed within biosecure facilities, the opportunity for students even from rural background to gain farm experience is diminishing. In view of this, the profession has to look to urban and peri-urban communities and recognize that students from these backgrounds, including students from minority groups that are underrepresented in veterinary medicine, who may know little about their food supply may be unaware of the significant opportunities that food-animal veterinary medicine has to offer. The digital media provides numerous ways of addressing that issue—social media, on-line programs, webinars, and other forms of communication should be prepared to educate high school and college students and the general public about the importance of food-animal medicine to society with regard to food-animal health and welfare, food safety, and environmental health. Such programs could also be aimed at correcting misconceptions about livestock and poultry farming that currently abound and bias students away from considering careers in agriculture.
Expanding the Role of Veterinary Paraprofessionals
As a goal, the veterinary profession should endeavor to provide health care to the largest possible population of livestock and poultry. For economic and other reasons the profession is presently not meeting this goal. In view of this, the committee supports a proposal to integrate rigorously-trained and credentialed food-animal veterinary paraprofessionals (veterinary technicians or individuals with veterinary training) working in health-care teams with licensed veterinarians who may be at a distant site (Remsberg et al., 2007). This is similar to the expanding system of health care in the medical profession in which nurse practitioners in rural locations are linked digitally to physicians who are located distantly. For food-animal paraprofessionals to become part of a veterinary health-care system, state practice acts will need to be modified to permit paraprofessionals to administer primary care services provided that they are subject to collaborative oversight (and constant communication) with licensed practitioners who may be in a different location. This approach offers the potential for clinicians to provide affordable patient care as well as for providing care for patients in underserved rural areas without reducing quality. The system can also improve animal-disease surveillance and provide surge capacity in rural America should emergencies arise.
The food supply is a matter of national security and public health, but generally taken for granted by the American public. As is discussed in Chapter 6, the job of safeguarding food and overseeing the welfare of food animals is a shared responsibility of the private and public sector. Neglecting that responsibility poses significant risks. Additional considerations for strengthening the veterinary oversight of the food-animal sector and the need for research in food-animal health are explored in the final chapter of the report, Chapter 11.