The National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense—aka FAZD, funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is launching a new education program designed to prepare high school students for careers in veterinary medicine.

The One Health Career-Oriented Youth Educational National Program takes aim at a national shortage in veterinary paraprofessionals. The program emphasizes the public health and regulatory aspects of zoonotic and exotic diseases to qualify students as veterinary paraprofessionals and increase their prospects of securing related jobs after graduation.

The phrase "One Health" refers to an international initiative to integrate human and veterinary medicine. At least 60 percent of all human pathogens are transmissible between human and animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Veterinary Medical Association and American Medical Association are endorsing the One Health Initiative.

The curriculum consists of 75 core lessons on basic veterinary science and career education in three tracks, each with 25 lessons. Some of the areas it will address includes clinical sciences, One Health science and technology, and laboratory research/diagnostic science and technology. The curriculum will be published as a handbook and as a Web-based course with interactive features to establish a national curriculum in workforce development of youth, called "Veterinary Science: Preparatory Training for Veterinary Assistants", by this fall.

Participating students will serve as apprentices in their chosen fields. They will observe professionals at work and receive 120 hours of on-the-job training before achieving certification.

Also in regard to the U.S. veterinary shortage, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, DVM., said USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is accepting applications from veterinarians wishing to participate in the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program.

The program addresses veterinary shortages in rural America by repaying the student loans of qualified veterinarians in return for their services in areas facing a veterinarian shortage. In return for a three-year service commitment in a designated, NIFA may repay up to $25,000 of student loan debt per year.

USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the program on April 30.

“I know first hand that there are areas in Louisiana and elsewhere that are underserved when it comes to veterinary care,” Strain says. “This program will help get trained veterinarians where they are most needed.” More than 150 U.S. locations were identified as having a critical shortage of food animal veterinarians.

“We need more veterinarians in these areas to help our food animal producers,” Strain adds. “Veterinary care is essential for the national food safety and food security infrastructures as well as the health and well-being of animals and humans.”

Major studies indicate significant and growing shortage of food-supply veterinarians and veterinarians serving in certain other high priority specialty areas. A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training, which can average between $130,000 and $140,000. Congress established the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program as a way to remedy this growing need.

The deadline to apply for the loan repayment program is June 30. Offers of acceptance will be made by Sept. 30. Application forms can be found on the NIFA website.

Source: FAZD, USDA