This week Kristin and I had the opportunity to attend the AVMA President’s Roundtable Luncheon. The topic of this event was “One Health and Federal Employment – How do we influence federal agencies to better utilize veterinarians for positions outside of traditional veterinary employment categories?” The attendees of the luncheon included not only the AVMA-GRD staff, but also a variety of veterinarians working in the federal government, including several that work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and many more. I was honored to sit in a room of numerous distinguished leaders in the field and listen to varying perspectives on the issue. Dr. Michael Gilsdorf, Executive Vice President of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians spoke of an ongoing workforce study that is focusing on the roles veterinarians currently hold in the government and those jobs that veterinarians could potentially fill in the future. In the research he has conducted so far there are 26 federal agencies that employ veterinarians with over 1,000 veterinarians working in approximately 31 different positions. In addition, he mentioned that over 25% of government employed veterinarians are eligible for retirement.
There were several concerns from those in attendance including the issue of adequate pay for veterinarians compared to human medical counterparts and recognition of the skills and abilities veterinarians can bring to government work. Several stated that specific categories existed for employment; jobs exclusively for veterinarians, jobs in general biologics that require biomedical degrees, and jobs for which veterinarians are qualified, but excluded from applying. Kristin and I both had the opportunity to voice our opinions on the issues, specifically from a student perspective. I stated my feelingsin regards to the importance of veterinary schools giving students the opportunity to fully understand the potential for jobs or careers within the federal government and to provide a realistic idea of how to achieve this goal. Dr. Valerie E. Ragan, Director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, mentioned that students at her school can participate in a public/corporate track instead of the traditional small animal, large animal, or mixed animal tracks. Also, she has been involved with several career transition workshops that offered veterinarians the option to explore career alternatives.
The role of veterinarians in the federal workforce is both important and diverse. Veterinarians are needed for public health, food and animal safety, national disease control programs, and biomedical research on human and animal health problems, among many other areas. With the growing number of veterinary graduates each year competition for jobs will only increase and it will be vital that those in the field to have options of where to utilize their skills and abilities. I was appreciative of the opportunity to attend an event that directly focuses on the future of veterinary medicine and to gain a broader perspective of the essential roles veterinarians can play in the federal government. To top it all off key lime pie, my personal favorite, was for dessert! You can never complain about learning when free food is involved.