Greetings from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

Dr. MaccabeWelcome to the Pre-Vet Advisor, the AAVMC's e-bulletin for aspiring veterinarians and those who advise them. This issue is full of important stories related to veterinary medical education and veterinary careers. We hope that you can learn more about your prospective career and that you enjoy our visually refreshed format.

If you're interested in applying to veterinary medical school, don't forget to mark June 5 on your calendar.  That's when the Veterinary Medical Application Service (VMCAS) begins accepting applications for the 2014-2015 school year.

Plus, we hope that you'll help us out by letting us know who you are and what kinds of stories you would like to see in future e-bulletins. The short survey at the bottom of this e-bulletin will just take a moment to complete and will help us a great deal as we shape future issues.

At the AAVMC, we work hard to prepare the next generation of veterinarians to meet society's needs and we'd appreciate the valuable insight that you can provide on how we can best serve you.

The AAVMC's tagline is "The Future of Veterinary Medicine," and if your goal is to earn a DVM degree, that descriptor applies to you as well.

Best wishes for success in all of your future endeavors.

Dr. Andrew Maccabe
AAVMC Executive Director

New and Improved VMCAS Begins Accepting Applications June 5

The Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) begins accepting applications for the 2014-2015 school year on June 5. VMCAS recently introduced some changes for this coming cycle, including transcript verification, that will make the application process more efficient, effective, and media friendly. Beginning with this cycle, VMCAS will begin transcript verification, meaning that applicants only have to send one set of transcripts to VMCAS rather than sending multiple copies to multiple schools. Ordering transcripts costs money, so this should save students money, time and trouble. The highly detailed verification process will audit the applicant’s coursework data and compare it against official transcripts, verifying the term, session, course title, credit hours, and grades. This will benefit schools by correcting any discrepancies ahead of time, easing the transcript verification process.

The verification process can take up to four weeks to complete, so VMCAS has implemented a September 1, 2013, transcript submission deadline to ensure transcript verification by October 2. All transcripts will be verified, but VMCAS does not guarantee that transcripts received after Sept. 1 will be verified in time for the application deadline. Learn more about transcript verification.

At the same time, the AAVMC is rolling out a new admissions portal called “WebAdMIT.” This web-based application tracking and processing program will greatly improve how schools work with incoming applications. Features include built-in email, status reports, and admissions committee review modules.

Enhanced social networking includes a Twitter and an updated Facebook account for VMCAS, as well as a new Facebook page for the AAVMC.

VMCAS encourages applicants to start the application process as early as possible. The application asks for a significant amount of information and it can take several hours to complete, but you can always save your information and return to the application later. The VMCAS page, which includes a link to the application, will serve as your hub of information during the application cycle, with a checklist and other important information, so check the page frequently for updates.

AVMA Study Finds Excess Capacity in Veterinary Medicine

Students in labNot too long ago, there was a lot of talk about the need for more veterinarians in the U.S., particularly in certain practice areas. Now, a recent study from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), an association of practicing veterinarians, finds the existence of an "excess capacity" in companion animal medicine and parity in other areas. But what does "excess capacity" mean and what effect, if any, should this have on your career plans?  The AAVMC wants to help you sort it all out.

Maybe you’ve always desired to become a veterinarian. Maybe you’re just considering a veterinary medical career path. Or maybe you’re an adviser and you aren’t sure what advice to give aspiring veterinarians in light of  the AVMA's finding of  “excess capacity” in the profession, which the study defines as “the ability to provide services in excess of the quantity demanded at a price that consumers are willing to pay.”

The AVMA’s “2013 U.S. Veterinary Workforce Study: Modeling Capacity Utilization,” described an overall 12.5 percent excess capacity in the profession and noted that gaps between capacity and demand vary among geographic regions and specific sectors of professional practice. For example, the study identified a current 18 percent excess capacity in companion animal practice, but noted that the demand for veterinarians employed in public health, food safety, research and regulatory affairs appears to be equal to the supply. See the AAVMC’s press release to learn more.

There’s no doubt that pursuing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) is an undertaking that requires a major commitment on multiple fronts – so is it still a path that makes sense?

Rest assured that veterinarians are finding jobs. A recent study from the AAVMC finds that 97 percent of veterinary graduates are employed or educationally engaged within six months of graduation – but companion animal practitioners in particular report that they aren’t operating at full speed and, if trends continue, they expect excess capacity to increase.

Aspiring veterinarians should be aware of that current situation and mindset. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that the current situation is here to stay. The AVMA and other organizations are launching Partners for Healthy Pets, an initiative aimed at increasing pet-owner awareness of the need for preventive animal healthcare that will likely help to increase demand for veterinary services. And be assured: America’s love affair with the family pet is not over.

Also, it’s important to remember that, until the Great Recession in 2008, there was a generally recognized need for more veterinarians, which highlights the difficulty of predicting the future, even for the most educated and well-informed experts. And expert projections can vary. For example, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics is still projecting increased demand for veterinarians over the long term. Either way, it helps to prepare.

So how can aspiring veterinarians respond? In light of the current situation, it’s important to show some flexibility. For example, let’s say that you intend to practice companion animal medicine in the same suburban locale where you grew up – but there’s already a strong veterinary presence in your target location. Would you be flexible enough to go to a different geographical area with greater need or undertake advanced education? Until the current situation is resolved, that kind of flexibility may be necessary.

Another kind of flexibility involves considering strategically important but less well known paths within veterinary medicine, such as research, public health, maintaining the safety of our nation’s food supply, or disease detection and prevention.

It’s important to consider that the rigor and comparative nature of a DVM degree can serve as a solid launching pad into any number of medical or scientific pursuits. It might make sense to consider branching out beyond clinical practice, or at least keep your options open.

We know that there are some people who will want to become companion animal veterinarians no matter what. We know that there is no stopping you if you’ve got the smarts and the fortitude and we encourage you to pursue your goal with all that you’ve got. For those of you willing to consider other options within the profession, consider this: Obtaining a veterinary medical degree remains an extraordinary achievement that indicates scientific and medical rigor and requires aptitude, hard work, and perseverance. Its comparative, species-spanning perspective is unique among the medical professions. And those who manage to earn a DVM degree are still among an elite group.

The work that veterinarians perform is critical to the well being of society and veterinary medicine remains one of the most highly respected and well regarded professions. Beyond that, there are plenty of employers who need exactly the kind of preparation that a veterinary medical degree provides. We encourage graduates to open the minds of all prospective employers and make them aware of what a unique achievement and great credential a DVM degree represents. The AAVMC is working hard to increase society’s understanding of the broad application and value of a veterinary medical degree and ensure that graduates are meeting society’s need for veterinary expertise in all of its permutations, both now and in the future.

We encourage prospective students to educate themselves regarding job opportunities and workforce trends, but we also caution against giving too much weight to fluctuating projections that could change significantly over the course of your educational tenure. And we welcome the participation of all who have the talent and drive to pursue a career in this noble profession.

The Virus Hunters -- Tracking Down the Next HIV

Veterinarian Heads International Organization that Monitors Emerging Diseases


Worldwide travel, land use changes, and our demand for goods from all over the world are creating the perfect storm for pandemics.

Look closely to see a gorilla to the right of Dr. Jonna Mazet, a veterinarian and epidemiologist who leads an early warning pandemic system called PREDICT.

It’s not a matter of if a worldwide pandemic will strike but when, say experts like veterinarian and epidemiologist Jonna Mazet, a professor in the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology in the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. That’s why Mazet, who leads an early warning pandemic system called PREDICT, monitors the world’s hot spots, or “hot interfaces” for signs of emerging diseases. Her goal is to prevent or contain the next outbreak of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or other emerging diseases. Pandemics besides HIV that have emerged in the past include influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Ebola, but the exact nature of future threats is unpredictable — and that’s part of what makes the task so daunting.

Worldwide travel, land use changes, and “our demand for goods from all over the world are really creating the perfect storm for pandemics,” warns Dr. Mazet, who brings a unique veterinary perspective to the field of epidemiology. That perspective is important, she says, because, “Sixty percent of all emerging diseases of people come from animals and most have wildlife origins.”

Mazet describes “hot interfaces” as places and circumstances where humans and animals come together, in particular, “where we have high biodiversity, high human population density, and the environmental conditions that are ripe for this kind of transfer of disease.” Centers of focus include Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Amazon basin, and Africa’s Congo basin, where “you have the environmental conditions and drastic changes in land use that put the ecological system out of balance.”

Examples of drastic changes that open the door to disease include those occurring in places in Africa where rivers are drying up because of a combination of climate change and purposeful agricultural diversion. As a result, “animals and people come together and share small watering holes for drinking, bathing, and washing,” creating a prime breeding ground for disease and transmission.

PREDICT partners are experts in wildlife surveillance, risk modeling, and sophisticated molecular diagnostic techniques and work to identify both known and new suspected pathogens, the earlier the better. Methods include geospatial modeling, genomics, molecular virology, and targeted field studies. The investigators look for mysterious patterns that might include dead animals or sick people, and even test apparently healthy animals that can transmit disease without exhibiting symptoms at these hot interfaces.

Internationally, PREDICT is funded by a $75 million federal grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats Program, but the investigators also communicate with agencies that conduct national surveillance, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control.

“We don’t really have a good handle on the diversity of pathogens that are out there, so we have to try to find and characterize the unknown before it spills over and causes an epidemic that could quickly become a pandemic,” she says. “If we can detect and minimize the impact of epidemics, we’ll be ahead of the game and can reduce the risk of pandemics. We’ve got the technology to accomplish that, but we need to commit to it.”

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) encourages students who are interested in veterinary medicine to consider public health careers. In Dr. Mazet's case, she earned her doctor of veterinary medicine, master of preventive veterinary medicine, and her PhD in epidemiology from UC Davis. She recommends her line of work for students with an interest in veterinary medicine who want to solve global health problems for vulnerable populations. She uses a One Health approach that recognizes that sustainable solutions will only be found by considering the connected and interactive influences on animals, people, and the environment. Dr. Mazet recommends that students get critical experience in One Health by working in public health, animal agriculture, environmental management, conservation, and natural resource agencies and nongovernmental organizations, as well as by working with professors and scientists on their research projects.

"Dr. Mazet and her colleagues are out to stop the next HIV-like pandemic before it starts," says the AAVMC's former Interim Executive Director Bennie Osburn. "It's a perfect example of the 'One Health' approach that veterinarians take to solving problems at the nexus of animal, human, and ecosystem health."

Did you Know? Veterinary Medical School Admissions by the Numbers ...
  • Twelve percent of first year DVM students started vet school without completing their BA/BS studies.
  • Seven percent of first year DVM students have advanced degrees.
  • On average, for admitted students, GRE verbal scores fall in the 60th percentile; GRE quantitative scores fall in the 52nd percentile.
  • Applicants who start their VMCAS application but do not complete it typically have low confidence about their preparation for vet school. This group very often fails to visit their pre-vet/pre-health advisor in advance of attempting the application.
  • Of last year's applicants, 54.9% say they first became interested in veterinary medicine before the age of 10. Male applicants were more likely to become interested between the ages of 11-25.
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