Outside of private practice and corporate animal health care, the majority of private sector jobs for veterinarians are in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostics, contract research services, animal feeds, and agrochemical industries. Those industries offer a diversity of job opportunities to veterinarians and provide the highest salaries of any category of veterinarian employment, with an average salary of around $167,415 (AVMA, 2011a)1. Along with the public sector, industry offers the most generous plans for life insurance, pension plan, and medical coverage (AVMA, 2009a).
In 2010, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) counted 3,218 veterinarians (AVMA members and non-members) in the United States who identified themselves as working in private industry jobs. That number is probably an undercount of veterinarians working in industry. However, the total number of veterinarians in industry is not likely a large number. Despite the attractiveness of industry employment, and the primary significance of salary and benefits to graduates of veterinary schools, only 0.1% of recent DVM graduates who responded to a 2010 survey had selected a job in industry, reflecting a similar fraction of surveyed graduates in prior years (Shepherd, 2010).
As discussed in this chapter, a defining feature of veterinarians in industry is the number with advanced training in pathology, toxicology, laboratory animal medicine or other basic sciences, so it might be expected that fewer students take industry jobs immediately after graduation. However, in recent years, the number of diplomates certified in specialties that are most associated with positions in private industry has been less than 50 per year.
1 Salary data are drawn from the biennial AVMA Compensation Survey, which is based on a randomized, stratified sample of employed U.S. veterinarians (including AVMA members and nonmembers). The response rate of the survey is about 25%. If DVMs who are more successful are more likely to respond, the reported rate of earnings may exceed actual averages.
Because there are few sources of information on the jobs of veterinarians in industry, the committee endeavored to take a closer look by using the committee members’ knowledge about the kinds of companies in private industry that hire veterinarians. The committee developed a set of questions and contacted companies across the spectrum of the private industrial sector. Because the companies chosen for the questionnaire were selected on the basis of their familiarity to the committee members, and not through a statistical sampling procedure, the information from responses to the questionnaires cannot be taken as broadly representative of all companies that employ veterinarians. However, it does provide a “first look” into the kinds of positions that veterinarians fill in companies in private industry and the expertise that those companies find useful. In addition to information from the exploratory questionnaires, the chapter discusses data from other sources on job postings, salaries in industry, and the numbers of new board-certified diplomates in specialties of importance to private industry. Together they are presented as partial indicators of both demand and supply.
Human Health Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Companies
There are over 200 companies worldwide that discover and develop new drugs to improve human health. In the past, many novel drugs came to light serendipitously, but today drug discovery is a methodical process that begins by exploring the metabolic pathways of a disease or disease agent to identify potential targets upon which a novel compound, or drug, can be designed. The metabolic targets are detected at the molecular level using methods such as x-ray crystallography, and computer simulations are used to predict the chemical interactions between a particular drug and its targets. Once a promising drug compound has been designed, it must go through a development phase to evaluate its formulation, dose and safety. Both animal (pre-clinical) and several formal phases of human (clinical) studies are involved in these evaluations, which in the United States is a highly-regulated process. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees drug discovery as well as the manufacturing and marketing of approved drugs.
In the past, biotechnology companies were defined by their emphasis on drug discovery, while pharmaceutical companies were better equipped to take candidate drugs through clinical trials, manufacturing, sales and marketing. However, this trend is changing, as biotechnology firms are evolving into integrated companies, retaining ownership of their developmental compounds and continuing to build in-house sales and marketing functions (Business Insights, 2005). Regardless of their origins, of the large number of new compounds investigated for human use, only a small number of novel drugs—about 25 each year—receive approval. The time from discovery to marketing a drug is 10-15 years and the costs are significant. The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development estimated that the total costs of bringing one drug to market was $1.2
billion in 2006 (TCSDD, 2008). However, novel drugs can be very profitable. In 2005, sixteen (16) new blockbuster drugs generated sales of $18.1 billion. The value of the global pharmaceutical market in 2009 was $837 billion, and is forecasted to grow to $1.0 trillion by 2014 (Urch Publishing, 2010).
Animal Health Companies
Animal health companies represent three main business areas: veterinary pharmaceuticals and biologicals, veterinary biotechnology, and veterinary diagnostics. Like their counterparts in human drug discovery and development, their activities are highly regulated and must meet the same rigid specifications for safety and efficacy as those for human consumption. According to the Animal Health Institute (AHI)—which represents 20 animal health companies with a presence in the United States in 2008—the industry spent $670 million for research and development and had U.S. sales of $6.7 billion. On average a new animal drug takes between 7 and 10 years to reach the marketplace and may cost $80-100 million to develop (AHI, 2008). The AHI asserts that the largest factor influencing the recruitment of veterinarians in this industry is the continuing demand for new drugs for companion animals, being driven in part by consumers. Animal health companies have followed the trend in direct advertising to patients, established by human pharmaceutical companies, which resulted in many more patients requesting brand named drugs from their physicians. Animal health companies have begun similar advertising on a smaller scale and pet owners are more aware of brand named drugs than they were in the past (AHI, 2008).
Animal Feed Companies
Animal feed companies manufacture feed for animals, from fish to livestock. Dominated by the pet food industry, these companies engage in clinical testing in the target species to better define the nutritional requirements for animals of different species, different ages, and different disease conditions. Feed companies have also begun to diversify into veterinary diagnostics, biotechnology, crop protection and even the manufacture and sales of human food. As a result the roles available for veterinarians are as diverse as those for animal health companies. The top 8 U.S.-based companies supplying pet food had domestic sales in 2000 of $11.6 billion (Petfood Industry, 2001).
Animal Supply Companies
Animal supply companies provide specialized, genetically- and microbiologically-defined laboratory animals, and other services to meet the needs of the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, food, and contract research industries, as well as universities, medical centers and government agencies engaged in biomedical research. Some companies have also diversified their operations to include re-
search and development of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals, human diagnostics, contract management of research animal facilities, and contract research involving toxicology and pathology.
Commercial laboratories that provide veterinary diagnostic services for companion-animal medicine and laboratory animal medicine comprise a relatively immature and small industry that is likely to grow in the future. More than 70 such companies were operating worldwide in 2006 (Animal Pharm, 2006). Reports by the National Research Council identified veterinary diagnostics as a necessary, but underdeveloped, part of the U.S. national animal health infrastructure that would be important in overcoming a major epidemic, the introduction of an exotic disease in food animals, or an act of agricultural bioterrorism (NRC, 2003, 2005). Since 2002, the USDA, in collaboration with state and university diagnostic laboratories, has developed the National Animal Health Laboratory Network to directly address this critical need (USDA-APHIS, 2010a).
Contract Research/Testing Laboratories
Contract research organizations (CROs) provide services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies by performing pre-clinical and clinical trials on new drug candidates. They must abide with the regulations of the FDA and are supplied with animals for testing by animal suppliers. The top 20 CROs worldwide had revenues in 2000 of $7.5 billion with many showing increases from 5-40% over their 1999 revenues. Some CROs have developed businesses in laboratory animal breeding and sales and employ veterinarians in pre-clinical research, safety testing in toxicology and pathology, research animal support and senior management.
Agrochemical companies manufacture herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other pesticides to protect both crops and animals. Worldwide sales of the top 10 agrochemical companies in 2008 was $42 billion with four of the ten companies reporting increases of more than 20% over 2007 (Henderson Communications, LLC, 2009).
The committee members identified companies familiar to them from across industry sectors that are known to employ veterinarians and developed a questionnaire (Appendix D) that would help determine the current veterinary positions in those companies and the companies’ future needs for veterinarians. Of
the 118 companies contacted, 59 responded to the committee’s questionnaire. Those that responded to the inquiry included both industry giants (which employed the largest number of veterinarians) and smaller companies. The companies were divided into the following groups: animal feed, animal health, animal supply, biotechnology, chemicals, CROs, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals and biologicals (Table 5-1). These groups closely mimic the categories for employment types used by the AVMA under its sub-group industry/commercial.
The companies that responded to the committee’s questionnaire (from here on referred to as respondents) collectively employed a total of 1,527 veterinarians in 2007, about 49% of the 3,125 industry veterinarians that AVMA counted that year (members and nonmembers which, as noted earlier, is likely to be an undercount). Figure 5-1 shows the average number of veterinarians employed by the respondents according to industrial sector. Because the respondents are not a statistically-representative sample of the industry, the results should only be viewed as exploratory. However, the numbers suggest that animal health, CROs, and pharmaceutical companies may be the primary employers of veterinarians in private industry.
|Industry Sector||Number of Respondents/Number Contacted|
|Pharmaceuticals and biologicals||17 /25|
Of the 1,527 veterinarians employed by all of the respondents, 65% had an additional graduate degree and/or a board certification beyond the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Some of the respondents carry out research on animals to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of new products. Those products may be human drugs, veterinary drugs and biologicals, animal feeds, diagnostic tools, or pesticides. In the case of animal supply companies, the products are themselves animals. Animal research is carried out by clinical veterinarians and diagnosticians, often with board certification in laboratory animal medicine. Veterinarians with board certification in pathology or toxicology conduct safety testing and toxicology studies, the kinds of activities carried out in CROs. Table 5-2 illustrates the preponderance of veterinarians with advanced degrees in positions related to safety research and laboratory animal medicine, based on CRO responses to the committee’s questionnaire. In contrast, Table 5-3 displays the responses of animal health companies, in which positions held by veterinarians are more concentrated in clinical and pre-clinical research, as well as in technical and customer service. Not surprisingly, DVMs hold positions in the senior management of both CROs and animal health companies.
|DVM only||DVM, Boards||DVM, PhD||DVM, Boards, PhD||DVM, MBA||Total|
|Research Support-Lab Animal Medicine||58||23||5||4||2||92|
1Other includes production, project management, business development/alliances, research and post-docs, research in cell therapy, diagnostic and anatomic pathology services.
|DVM only||DVM, Boards||DVM, PhD||DVM, Boards, PhD||DVM, MBA||Total|
|Research Support-Lab Animal Medicine||8||10||7||0||0||25|
1Other includes production, project management, business development/alliances, research and post-docs, research in cell therapy, diagnostic and anatomic pathology services
Research leading to improvements in animal health usually involves the study of the species of animal expected to be the beneficiary of the intervention. This requires a broad understanding of animal physiology and pathology across many different species, ranging from fish and poultry to livestock and companion animals. As research moves from basic to clinical studies, veterinarians continue to be involved in product development, refinement, and ultimately in meeting regulatory requirements for market approval, in most instances, by FDA or USDA. After a product is available on the market, veterinary expertise is needed to explain the benefits of the product to customers, who might be veterinarians, food-animal producers, or others.
One respondent, a large pharmaceutical company (Company A) with an animal health products division, provided the committee with a detailed breakdown of the distribution of the veterinarians employed across the areas of discovery research, product development, regulatory affairs, support services,
field/customer support, and marketing and sales (Table 5-4). These areas encompass a great diversity of positions within the company. Interestingly, the majority of the firm’s veterinary workforce (71%) is employed in the business operations side of the company (field/customer support and marketing). Those veterinarians were the least likely at the company to hold PhDs or board certification, but more likely than those involved in research and development to hold a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree.
Company A indicated that the majority of veterinarians it employs had at least 5 years of clinical experience and/or post doctorate training in specialized areas. That was consistent with the committee’s questionnaire results: private animal health companies are seeking candidates with training and expertise beyond the DVM/VMD.
Company A also has a human health division in the United States. It employs more than 60 veterinarians who serve in multiple roles, but in contrast to the animal health division, very few hold positions in business support-related roles. Table 5-5 illustrates the distribution of veterinarians in its human health division. Most of the positions are for pathologists and require board certification. Research that targets new drugs and biological treatments for human health use fewer animal species but require individuals who can think in terms of biological systems and understand integrative medicine.
Companies that develop drugs for human diseases often model those diseases in genetically-engineered mutant mice, the available varieties of which have increased exponentially over the past two decades. This has increased the demand for veterinarians with specialized knowledge of murine physiology, behavior, and pathology, and also for veterinarians with special knowledge of the care, nutrition, and diseases of mice and how to protect them from the introduction of infectious agents.
In 2007, Company A indicated that it had 10 open positions for pathologists. The company also sought veterinarians for its pre-clinical, discovery research area and the majority of these positions require post-DVM training in comparative medicine fields (e.g. board certification in laboratory animal medicine).
Many of the other respondents indicated that they were also trying to hire more veterinarians in at least one job category. Table 5-6 reflects the number and types of open positions at the 59 companies that responded to the questionnaire in 2007. Of the 170 open positions, 57% required a degree in addition to the DVM and/or board certification. The 170 open positions represented 10% of the current veterinary workforce employed by these companies, and while not necessarily representative of the broader trends in industry, suggests a strong future demand for veterinarians.
|Area||Number of DVMs||Percent of all Veterinarians in Company||Positions||Percentage of Veterinarians with Advanced Degrees|
|Ph.D.||Board Certification||Ph.D. and Board Certification||MBA||Total|
|Research and Development|
|Discovery Research||9||4||• Basic Research Scientists
• Project Leaders
|Development||34||16||• Clinical Researchers
• Project Leaders
|Regulatory Affairs||9||4||• Regulatory Agency Liaison
|Support Services||11||5||• Global Registration Support
• Laboratory Animal Medicine
• Clinical Medicine
• Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics
|Field/Customer Support||136||63||• Technical Services/Veterinary Operations
|Marketing and Sales||17||8||• Marketing
• Business Development
• Strategic Alliances
|Area||Number of DVMs||Percent of all Veterinarians in Company||Positions||Percentage of Veterinarians with Advanced Degrees|
|Ph.D.||Board Certification||Ph.D. and Board Certification||MBA|
|Research Support||•||Laboratory Animal Medicine|
|Regulatory Affairs||2||3||•||Regulatory Affairs||--||--||--||--|
|DVM only||DVM, Boards||DVM, PhD||DVM, Boards, PhD||DVM, MBA||Total|
|Research Support-Lab Animal Medicine||19||5||0||3||0||27|
Respondents also saw a need to hire more veterinarians in the future, collectively anticipating a total of 463 new position openings between 2008 and 2016 (exclusive of retirements), which represents a 30% increase over the 1,527 currently employed industrial veterinarians reportedly working in those companies. The majority (70%) of these positions require post-DVM training or degrees, an even higher percentage than previously identified for current employees or currently open positions.
Effect of Retirements
The respondents reported that an average of 15.7% of the currently employed veterinarians would reach or exceed the age of 65 by the year 2016 (percentages ranged from 0-100%, with the extremes due to companies with very few veterinarians, all or none of whom may reach the age of 65 by 2016). Based on the 1,527 veterinarians employed by respondents, that represents an additional 240 positions over and above the companies’ current vacancies and anticipated future hiring needs. These figures are in general agreement with other projections of current and future needs for industrial veterinarians. The so-called KPMG study predicted that by 2015, industry could experience a shortfall in veterinarians equal to 24% of its workforce (Brown and Silverman, 1999b). However, just as other sectors of veterinary medicine and the economy at-large have been affected by the recession that began in 2006, it is likely that some of
those veterinarians will delay retirement, thus weakening the demand for replacements. Nevertheless, in a 2008 survey of employers prepared for the College of Veterinary Pathologists, 62.7% of respondents identified the major difficulty in hiring was the limited number of qualified pathologists available (Owens et al., 2008).
Use of Veterinary Technicians
Thirty-six of the respondents indicated that they employ veterinary technicians. The companies, predominantly pharmaceutical firms and CROs, collectively employ 279 technicians, of which 50% are licensed. A majority of the respondents (71%) indicated that they would use veterinary technicians in the future. While veterinary technicians are already used robustly in industry, expanding the use of such technical support might provide more time for veterinarians to perform their professional responsibilities and may overcome shortages in veterinary manpower in the short term.
Views on Factors Affecting Future Demand
When asked about the factors likely to increase the employment opportunities for U.S.-trained veterinarians in their industry, the respondents provided a list of multiple factors, reflecting various industry trends (see Box 5-1). In general, the growth in the overall market and for some respondents, individual company growth, was the key source of demand.
One CRO noted that many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have begun to outsource preclinical studies to reserve valuable in-house resources for activities closer to their core strengths (such as discovery). As a result, CROs are taking on this work, and hiring more U.S.-trained veterinarians as a consequence.
• growing food safety and regulatory issues
• overall company growth
• increase in the demand for technical services
• development of new products
• increase in the growth in the companion-animal market
• increase in the use of nonhuman primates in research protocols
• growth in the number of biomedical research programs
• increased use of outsourcing for preclinical trials
For respondents in the animal health sector, the increasing sophistication of customers has resulted in higher expectations for, and demands of, the products they purchase. Food-animal customers want increased scientific and financial evidence to prove the value of animal health products in their increasingly complex operations. Therefore, veterinarians with a keen knowledge of food-animal production (at the level of a herd versus individual animals) are needed to educate customers in how to utilize new products and to demonstrate the financial value of products in large scale production systems.
Similarly, as companion-animal owners are willing to expend resources for animal health products, there is greater demand for innovative products that prevent, control and treat diseases or improve a companion animal’s quality of life. Thus, in this sector there will continue to be an increased need for veterinarians in key areas of discovery and product development but also those with board certification in targeted areas to provide practicing veterinarians with field-based support as more technologically complex companion-animal products are introduced into the marketplace (for example, obesity and oncology drugs).
Moreover, as the technologic complexity of products being introduced into both food- and companion-animal marketplace is increasing, so are the regulatory requirements related to product safety. The increasing use of pharmacokinetics in drug development and registration processes is driving the need for veterinarians with specialized training in this area. Increasing regulatory standards throughout the product development and registration process continues to drive increased standards such as Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) and Good Clinical Practice (GCP) in the conduct of animal studies. All of these factors drive the need to hire more veterinarians, especially those with advanced training in biomedical sciences that qualify them to effectively oversee the type of studies needed by industry for regulatory purposes. It is also anticipated that there will be an increasing need for veterinarians with training in food safety, including microbial safety and toxicology.
Companies were specifically asked whether and how globalization would affect their hiring decisions. The majority of respondents (68.8%) indicated that globalization would not affect the number of veterinarians in their company, 14% said they would hire more foreign-trained veterinarians and 8.3% said that globalization would result in them hiring more U.S.-trained veterinarians. One company observed that a shift was underway in the pharmaceutical industry to move R&D activities from Europe and Japan to North America and the Pacific Rim. While economic factors are involved in these decisions, the critical shortage of appropriately-trained veterinarians in the Pacific Rim, including China, has placed more emphasis on recruiting veterinary expertise in North America, especially those with toxicological and pathology expertise.
When asked about factors that will likely decrease their demand for U.S.-trained veterinarians, the respondents indicated that a change in the size of the market (such as changes in the size and scope of dairy operations) and outsourcing of some work to companies overseas could negatively affect the hiring of U.S.-trained veterinarians. Some respondents suggested that an inadequate sup-
ply of veterinarians, especially diplomates of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAP) and the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP), would lead companies to seek individuals from outside the United States or from other scientific fields to fill key positions.
Views on the Future Workforce: Veterinary Student Training
When asked whether the current system of training adequately prepared veterinarians for careers in industry for positions that require no more than a DVM degree, slightly more than half of the 59 respondents answered in the negative, providing a long list of characteristics they found lacking in new veterinarians. Regarding the preparation of veterinarians for positions requiring advanced training or degrees (post DVM), 24 of the respondents believed that the education system fell short. Many of the factors identified as lacking in post-DVM education were the same as those identified in DVM programs.
Industry-Specific Research and Technical Skills
Among the competencies that respondents found lacking in graduates and post-graduates were training in: clinical pathology, laboratory-animal medicine, and basic safety assessment (as well as training in more specific fields, such as nutrition and poultry medicine). But it is not clear if this is an issue of training or simply the lack of available candidates with the desired expertise. Not surprisingly, companies wanted job candidates to be prepared to fit their needs immediately upon taking a position. For example, according to one respondent, the single greatest deficiency among veterinarians seeking employment with industry is a lack of knowledge about how to fulfill GLP and GCP regulatory requirements.
However, many companies also commented that new graduates lacked the fundamental knowledge of the scientific process, which is a necessary skill for the organization of scientific studies, the ability to think critically and to properly interpret the scientific literature. Some respondents mentioned a lack of training in statistics as part of their criticism of the research skills of new graduates.
Business and Other Skills
In some sectors, veterinarians are more likely to be asked to fill positions in regulatory affairs, technical and customer services, marketing, sales, and management. Thus, many respondents also felt that graduates and post-graduates should have better training in business skills, as well as communications, interpersonal and human resource management. It is worth noting that employers view soft skills as important in the training of anatomical and clinical pathologists (Owens et al., 2008). The 1999 KPMG study also identified non-
technical skill sets that lead to success in veterinary careers: leadership, communication and business skills (Brown and Silverman, 1999b). The perception by industry is that these skills are still lacking in new graduates and post-graduates.
The great diversity of educational experiences of the applicants to veterinary schools, combined with the ability of astute admissions committee members to select those with the best communication and interpersonal skills aids in the final development of veterinarians capable of meeting the needs of industry. Likewise, the breadth of knowledge in physiology and medicine, coupled with the diversity of species covered in conventional veterinary education, prepares veterinarians to think in terms of whole-animal systems biology. This comparative approach also aids in the development of individuals who are capable of modeling human physiology and diseases in animals. Because proficiency in clinical skills extends across the same diversity of species, graduate veterinarians can more easily adjust to the animals commonly used in human pharmaceutical research. Finally, many veterinarians hired by industry spend at least part of their efforts on regulatory matters where good organizational skills are essential.
Based on their responses to the questionnaire, the committee surmised that the companies contacted by the committee want to hire veterinarians with advanced training, in particular those with board certification in laboratory-animal medicine and pathology. To see how prevalent the requirements for board certification are in job listings, the committee examined job advertisements on the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science listserv, COMPMED, posted between 2006 and 2008. The analysis revealed that 12% of all positions advertised required board certification in order to apply, 19.5% required that the candidate be board-eligible, and 31% stated that board certification was desirable or preferred. Overall, more than two-thirds of the advertisements commented on board certification, and some advertisements indicated that the employer would support an individual’s effort to achieve certification. The most common certifications mentioned in the ads, in rank order, were those of the American College of Veterinary Pathology (ACVP), the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM), and the American Board of Toxicology.
Filling some of those advertised positions was also challenging. Of the 78 job postings placed in the COMPMED listserv in 2006, 8.9% were re-posted in 2007 and 1.2% were re-posted in 2008. Of the 67 advertisements posted in 2007, 8.9% were re-posted in 2008.
Increasing salary levels are an indicator of a tight supply of qualified applicants. Results of the 2005 and 2008 surveys of the members of the American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners (ASLAP) and ACLAM show that salaries of its diplomates have risen from $133,803 in 2005 to $153,038 in 2008, an increase of approximately 14% in the 3-year period. The surveys also showed that the average salary of ACLAM diplomates employed by industry increased at about the same rate, but from a higher level; that is, from $171,704 in 2005 to $199,437 in 2008 (Huneke et al., 2009). In contrast, the average salary of ACLAM diplomates employed in academe in 2008 was $153,509.
In 2007, an ACVP survey of its members found that the average and median income of diplomates with 6-10 years experience beyond certification was $157,000 and $166,000. Similar to that of their ACLAM peers, some of the highest salaries were paid by industry employers.
Supply of Diplomates for Industry
The ACLAM and the ACVP provided the committee with information on the employment of their diplomates (Tables 5-7 and 5-8, respectively). The tables demonstrate the competition between academe and industry for ACLAM and ACVP diplomates. The number of ACLAM diplomates hired by industry over the past three decades increased from 45 in 1981 to 178 in 2007 (personal communication, Melvin Balk, ACLAM, 2008). These two colleges are major pipelines for industry candidates.
Supply of New Diplomates
Since 2007, ACLAM has seen increased growth in its membership and the number of new diplomates certified (Table 5-9). In addition, the pass rate of candidates taking the ACLAM examination has improved, from 31% between the years 2004-2007 to more than 50% between 2008-2010 (ACLAM, 2010). This outcome is in part the result of a concerted effort by the College to respond to demands for veterinarians in biomedical science. However, since ACLAM began certifying diplomates, the average number of years from veterinary college graduation to board certification is 9.3 years. In fact, the average time between graduation to certification has increased from 7.71 years in 1985, to 9.97 years in 1995, and 11.12 years in 2005 (ACLAM, 2007). There are many possible explanations for the increase in the passage of time to certification: candidates leaving private practice and beginning a residency training program (which average 3 years), candidates seeking advanced degrees (average for PhD is 4 years), more candidates having to repeat the examination before passing, and some candidates taking time off after graduation before returning to a training program. More investigation is warranted to elucidate the precise cause of this current trend.
|Employment Sector||Number of ACLAM members||Percent of Membership|
DATA SOURCE: ACLAM.
|Employment Sector||Number of ACVP members||Percent of Membership|
|Did not designate||233||14.1|
DATA SOURCE: ACVP.
Table 5-10 presents data on the numbers of active ACVP members, retirees, and new diplomates. The number of active members in ACVP has not increased markedly. The annual numbers of new board-certified veterinary clinical pathologists remains especially small (17 new diplomates in 2010), despite an annual pass rate that has hovered around 50% for the past five years.
DATA SOURCE: ACVP Newsletters (www.avcp.org); Additional data provided by the Executive Director, ACVP.
In 2002 and again in 2008, the ACVP completed demographic surveys of veterinary pathology training programs and employers to determine if the supply of veterinary pathologists moving through the programs would be sufficient to cover market needs (Owens et al., 2008a, b; Kelly-Wilson, 2002). Among other things, the results indicated a continued deficit in the supply of veterinary pathologists. Insufficient funding remained the biggest factor limiting the number of residency positions, and retirements continued to account for approximately 50% of job openings.
Strengthening the Specialty Colleges
ACLAM accredits 45 training programs throughout the United States and Canada. However, only 12 of these programs are based in veterinary colleges with many of the remaining programs based in medical colleges and hospitals. There are also three programs based in federal government institutions, one associated with a pharmaceutical company, and several others which derive trainee support from pharmaceutical companies. Although ACVP does not accredit training programs, of the 45 U.S. training sites listed on its website, 18 are not based in veterinary colleges. Clearly, training for these two disciplines has benefitted from expanding the training venue to include research centers in medicine, government, and industry. ACLAM and ACVP are aware of the demand for highly-trained specialists and are taking steps to attract candidates for diplomates and to improve the efficiency of their residency and examination processes. To assist mentors involved in residency training programs for laboratory animal medicine, ACLAM began developing a Role Delineation Document (RDD) in 1997, defining the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to be considered an ACLAM-certified laboratory-animal specialist. After two updates to the RDD, it was ultimately incorporated into the ACLAM certification examination as a template against which exam questions were aligned.
In 2002, ACLAM created a Career Pathways Committee (CPC) that developed programs at veterinary colleges to attract students into the profession through seminars, workshops, and summer externships. The CPC also encour-
ages private practitioners to explore the profession by providing educational sessions at AVMA meetings and by funding scholarships to clinicians to attend these sessions.
Together with the Charles River Laboratory, ACLAM developed Camp ACLAM, a week-long summer session for veterinary residents and veterinarians intending to take the ACLAM certification examination within the next 3 years. In addition to intense course work there is a practice session for the examination. During the same period ASLAP actively encouraged veterinary students to enter the profession by creating a student liaison in every North American veterinary college who answered student questions and provided access to additional reading material on laboratory animal medicine. ASLAP also provides summer fellowships to veterinary students to work in the field.
Together, these changes appear to be making an impact. Between 2002-2008, the number of ACLAM-approved training programs increased from 35 to 41, and the number of residents enrolled in these programs has increased from 85 to 115. In 2008, a record 92 candidates took the exam and the pass rate was 51% (compared to 31% in the past).
Like ACLAM, ACVP has recognized the need to increase membership and has established pathology clubs in each of the U.S. veterinary colleges. It also has just completed a RDD which it plans to use as a template for their certification examination, and it regularly employs an educational consultant to provide quality control and to validate the examination. In addition, it has created a joint program with the Society of Toxicologic Pathology (STP) called the ACVP/STP Coalition for Veterinary Pathology Fellows which seeks funds from industry to support additional pathology fellows at academic institutions throughout North America. With the support of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as of 2009, the Coalition had competitively established 22 new training positions, including 15 anatomic pathology residencies, 3 clinical pathology residencies, and 4 post-residency PhD pathology research positions (Cockerell et al., 2009). Trainees have no payback obligation following completion of their fellowships other than to complete the ACVP certification examination and/or the PhD, and to become employed as a veterinary pathologist. Results to date indicate that fellows are distributing themselves among positions in academia and the private sector. Furthermore, the percentage of fellows who have successfully completed the ACVP certification exam is approximately 2-times the average pass rate of all first time candidates over the past 3 years, reflecting the quality of Coalition trainees and the excellence of their training programs. The majority of sponsors have renewed their funding for additional Coalition training positions, demonstrating their satisfaction with, and commitment to, this unique educational initiative.
The NRC report National Needs and Priorities for Veterinarians in Biomedical Research (NRC, 2004) highlighted the need to expand the number of veterinarians qualified for research and other positions in biomedical science in public and private sectors. Many of the report’s conclusions and recommendations related to the costs of a veterinary education and student debt, the lack of
public support for residency training, and the need to boost awareness among veterinary students of opportunities in biomedical science remain true today.
In the committee’s view, opportunities for highly-trained veterinarians in industry are growing, and the new and vacant positions represent a clear unmet need. Although more graduating veterinarians are pursuing post-DVM training, the numbers entering the specialties of laboratory-animal medicine and pathology are still inadequate to fill current vacancies and future needs in industry. The establishment of student clubs for pathology and laboratory-animal science at veterinary colleges as recently initiated by ACLAM, ASLAP and ACVP is a positive development, as is industry support for internships and training positions through the ACVP/STP Coalition for Veterinary Pathology Fellows. Deeper partnerships between academia and industrial employers of veterinarians are possible during the professional veterinary medical curriculum. Although externships currently sponsored by industry provide greater exposure to career opportunities in pathology, laboratory-animal medicine, and toxicology, the development of additional partnerships would help increase awareness of these opportunities. Moreover, this type of academic/industry collaboration should be pursued to help defray the costs of PhD education.
Given the limited resources of veterinary colleges, consideration should be given to tracking options in veterinary colleges, which may offer the best opportunity to channel students into career opportunities in laboratory-animal medicine, pathology, and comparative biomedical research. The merits of such an approach are discussed further in the final two chapters of the report (Chapters 10 and 11).