More veterinarians needed in rural areas
Many rural and inner city areas of the United States lack proper veterinary care within their communities. As a result, the health of animals and humans in these areas could be at risk.
In many cases, veterinarians, upon graduating from a school of veterinary medicine, opt to practice in suburban settings, which often provide opportunities for a higher standing of living. This is understandable but, unfortunately, leaves many regions lacking quality veterinary care.
Recently, I introduced legislation aimed at bringing more veterinarians to rural and under served areas. The bill, the Veterinary Health Enhancement Act (H.R. 1943), provides debt assistance to veterinarians who practice in rural and inner-city areas.
Tuition debt for veterinary students can be as high as $120,000. Under the legislation I introduced, veterinary students will be provided debt relief for their veterinary school loans.
This would be a voluntary, federal program in which the state school of veterinary medicine may choose to participate. Students may receive this assistance only if they agree to practice in an under served area.
This legislation is especially positive for Mississippi's rural communities. The result of having more veterinarians practicing in rural areas provides better care for animals and a better quality of life in the community.
The program will be administered in the same fashion in which a similar initiative is administered to medical students who opt to practice in rural areas.
Rural areas of the United States are going through a unique transformation. Thousands of small-town, agrarian communities are vanishing. Many agricultural communities especially those that have high numbers of livestock are dependent upon large animal veterinarians to help ensure the well-being of their rural economies.
Unfortunately, lower earning potential, long hours, and fewer farmers are making livestock veterinarians scarce in agrarian communities.
In the same respect, inner city areas have also noticed a shortage of animal health care professionals in their communities. These areas are potential hotbeds for dangerous diseases carried by rodents and stray animals.
These diseases can be easily transmitted to residents, particularly to highly-susceptible children. Veterinarians are often the key in preventing the spread of such diseases in densely-populated, inner city areas.
The result of having veterinarians provide services to rural and inner city communities will improve animal health, ensure that the risk of disease transfer from animals to humans is minimal, and improve economic opportunities for agriculture producers who depend on livestock veterinarians for the well-being of their animals.
There are many rural areas in Mississippi and across the country that need coverage for their ranching operations. The Veterinary Health Enhancement Act will be a helpful incentive for attracting students to rural areas and as a result, supporting their local economy.
This legislation encouraging veterinarians to practice in under-served areas has many positive benefits to Mississippi and all parts of our country.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering represents
Mississippi's Third Congressional District. Write him at 427 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, or call (202) 225-5031.