Newswise – Veterinary medicine contributes $3.3 billion to the economies of New England-and the region faces a shortage of as many as 658 veterinarians by 2014, according to a study released today by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
The study-undertaken by the UMass Donahue Institute and commissioned by the Cummings School, the only veterinary school in the six-state New England Region-reveals that veterinarians and associated staff comprise over 20,000 jobs in the area. Moreover, for every 100 veterinary medical jobs in the region, an additional 59 jobs are created in related industries, the study indicates.
Clinical practice-providing medical services for household pets, farm and food animals, and exotic animals-represents the largest percentage ($1.1 billion, or 65 percent) of direct veterinary expenditures in New England, which total $1.72 billion. Scientific research and development-which require animal health and husbandry services to test new drugs and devices and better understand animal and human health-comprises the next-largest category, with a total of 23 percent of veterinary medicine spending and 14 percent of the industry’s total employment. Laboratory animal veterinarians are responsible for the welfare of as many as 2 million laboratory animals in New England.
The study also highlights a growing critical need for veterinarians in the region. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the study found that the region will have 1,036 vacancies for veterinarians by 2014, both through new job creation and retirement of an aging workforce. With an average of 60 percent of Cummings School graduates remaining in New England, trends suggest that 378 of the school’s graduates will enter the region’s workforce, leaving unfilled 658 new vacancies for veterinarians.
What’s more, the study suggests that the region faces a flood of retirements among food animal veterinarians. Over a quarter of the region’s more than 100 specialized food animal veterinarians will reach retirement age by 2014. With current levels of food animal graduates, the Cummings School will be positioned to replace only half of these vacancies. Overall, 43 percent of New England veterinarians are over age 50; by contrast, 56 percent of livestock veterinarians are over age 50. Until 2014, the study suggests, food animal veterinarians will retire at nearly twice the rate of their companion animal colleagues. With the critical role that food animal veterinarians play in protecting the nation’s food supply, this shortage is especially alarming.
“This study confirms the importance and economic impact of veterinary medicine in Massachusetts and New England,” said Deborah T. Kochevar, DVM, PhD, dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. “Cummings School is proud to serve the citizens of this region by educating veterinary professionals, advancing biomedical research, and serving as a clinical and public health resource for animals and their owners.”
The study was supported by the Veterinary Medical Associations of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, the New England Veterinary Medical Association and InTown Veterinary Group. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., was the study’s lead industry sponsor.
“In order to best understand the health of the animals in New England, we need to understand the industry that cares for them,” said Dr. Christine Jenkins, Director of Academic Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, the study’s lead industry sponsor. “This study does just that-and we hope it sheds light on the growing need for veterinarians in the workforce to ensure the care and safety of animals in the region.”
The study also revealed interesting findings in each state of New England. Among them:
- Massachusetts has New England’s biggest veterinary scientific research and development sector, with more than 5 percent of the state’s veterinarians specializing in this area. The state is the fifth-largest in the nation for research animals registered under the Animal Welfare Act and veterinarians support the work of a vital life sciences industry in the state. With 8,000 employees statewide and a total economic impact of $1.3 billion in 2006, veterinary medicine is an essential part of the state economy.
- In Connecticut, $83 is pumped back into the state’s economy for every $100 spent by the veterinary industry, a multiplier of 1.83. For every 100 jobs in the industry, another 55 jobs in Connecticut are supported. Connecticut boasts a total veterinary economic impact of nearly $1 billion in 2006, the second largest in the region.
- Maine has the nation’s sixth-highest rate of pet ownership, with 70 percent of households (376,000 homes) owning one or more pets. The veterinary industry represents an economic impact of more than $290 million in the state.
- New Hampshire residents spend the second-most in the region on veterinary clinical services per capita, at $94. The state also ranks second in median wages for veterinarians, at $78,180. Every $100 of veterinary industry spending in the state supports another $74 of economic activity in the state.
- In Rhode Island, veterinary medicine employs an estimated 1,110 people, including 189 veterinarians. The industry invests an estimated $81 million on payroll, operating expenses and capital projects, including over $69 million in veterinary clinical practice, $5 million in scientific R&D and $6 million in academia.
- Vermont has both the highest rate of pet ownership in the region and the nation-74.5 percent-and the region’s highest per capita spending on veterinary clinical services ($97). Additionally, the state boasts the region’s highest rate of veterinary practice ownership (52 percent of clinical practice veterinarians are self-employed).
Several leaders from the biomedical industry in Massachusetts spoke out in support of the study’s findings. “In order for the biomedical and medical device fields to continue to thrive in Massachusetts, we must maintain a very high standard for ethics and care in our research divisions,” said Kevin O’Sullivan, President and CEO of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives. “As such, veterinarians are our greatest resource, and provide a crucial element for the growth of the biotech sector.”
“The economy of Massachusetts is intrinsically linked with the growth of the biotechnical, pharmaceutical, and medical device sectors-and without a ready supply of veterinarians to oversee the clinical trials for these industries, the growth would be stifled,” continued Thomas J. Sommer, President of MassMEDIC. “The Commonwealth has a great resource in the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine-not just as a excellent training ground for the next generation of veterinarians, but also as an economic incubator for small biomedical start-ups. This study brings the contributions of the Cummings School and of veterinarians in general to light.”
“The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is an essential resource for the Massachusetts life sciences super cluster,” said Robert Coughlin, President of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. “The close proximity of this global leader in veterinary medicine is another reason why so many companies and institutions find Massachusetts the best place in the world to do business.”
About the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Founded in 1978 in North Grafton, Mass., the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is internationally esteemed for academic programs that impact society and the practice of veterinary medicine; three hospitals that treat more than 28,000 animals each year; and groundbreaking research that benefits animal, public, and environmental health. The school has secured more than $23 million in NIH funding to build a level-3 Regional Biosafety Laboratory for work with infectious disease organisms, the anchor tenant of a life sciences industrial development known as Grafton Science Park.
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