The Center for Animal Health in Appalachia (CAHA) held its first national conference at Lincoln Memorial University-College of Veterinary Medicine (LMU-CVM) DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center in Lee County, Virginia, October 14- 15. The event marked the release of the 2015 State of Animal Health in Appalachia report.
CAHA executives set out to determine the distribution of veterinarians throughout the footprint of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the animal composition and distribution of trends and the impact that veterinarians have on rural communities. CAHA partnered with the National Center for Rural Health Works and the national Center for the Analysis of Healthcare Data and created a Mixed Animal Practice Model to show which projects impacts at the county level. Through existing literature and capacity modeling, the Center estimated the county level need for Large and Mixed Animal Veterinarians within Appalachia.
Through its research CAHA and its partners found a total of 7,178 in-state practicing veterinarians within the Appalachian footprint provide care for an estimated 13.8 million small animals and 13.7 million large animals within an estimated herd size worth $42 billion. These 7,178 veterinarians provide a total employment impact of estimated 8 people per practice, and their practices serve as economic engines for their communities by providing an estimated $2.3 billion to the economy within the footprint of Appalachia. The report also shows that veterinary practices provide 57,424 jobs within Appalachia.
Based upon the modeling it first appeared that Appalachia is well served with veterinarians. However, a staggering statistic that was found through within the research was that 75 percent of the rural counties within the footprint have an apparent veterinary shortage estimated to be 1,907 veterinarians. This shortage translates into an estimated economic loss of $621 million and 15,256 jobs.
“Veterinarians are indeed important to the economy of Appalachia and rural America,” concluded Dr. Jason Johnson, executive director of CAHA and medical director of the DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center at LMU-CVM. “What we have discovered through this research is that much of Appalachia is underserved by veterinarians, and there is a significant loss of economy due to the lack of veterinarians in the rural counties of Appalachia.”
The event included wide-ranging presentations and discussions on cutting edge issues within the veterinary and public health industries including economic drivers, animal health, public/one health and legislation and policy.
Ann Peton, director of the National Center of the Analysis of Healthcare Data & Rural Health Policy assisted with the research for the report, and also participated on Public/One Health panel at the conference. “We brought together some of the highest level of individuals within the profession of veterinary medicine to talk about how we find solutions at a very critical time when there is an increasing demand for protein in our diets, but also a huge need to create an integrated system between veterinarians, physicians and others within the public health sector, working together to start finding solutions that will meet the needs of the public,” said Peton.
“It is very interesting that this occurred here in the middle of Appalachia where there is a significant need, but also a significant presence amongst the people who have grown Lincoln Memorial University, because of all of the integrated programs they have already created,” said Peton. “We are finding solutions here that will reach out beyond the Appalachian region.”
Dr. Lonnie King, former dean of The Ohio State University–College of Veterinary Medicine, served as the keynote speaker and gave a presentation on One Health and Social Relevance. He presented global issues as it relates to disease, poverty, hunger, and the connection between animal health and public health. An expert in “One Health” and the emergence of new diseases, he is a highly sought-after speaker regarding the convergence of human and animal health and the future of veterinary medicine. King was recognized as Ohio’s Veterinarian of the Year for 2015, and was recently appointed the director of OSU’s new Office of Innovation and Collaboration.
“One health can change the scope, scale and potential impact or relevance of the veterinary profession,” said Dr. King during his presentation.
Panelists at the 2015 CAHA conference included:
CAHA’s goal is to inform and pull together innovative ideas to help the veterinary profession, human healthcare, government and higher education better meet the acute needs of the people and animals of Appalachia. Organizations participating in the event include leadership from U.S. Department of Agriculture, state governments, state veterinary medical associations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Veterinary Medical Association, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, state veterinarians, food safety, college leadership, allied organizations, industry and farm bureau.
Lincoln Memorial University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is located on the LMU main campus in Harrogate, Tenn., with additional academic facilities in nearby Lee County, Va. LMU-CVM is an integral part of the University’s Division of Health Sciences and provides real-world, community-based education in a collaborative learning environment. For more information about LMU-CVM, call 1-800-325-0900, ext. 7150 or visit us online at vetmed.LMUnet.edu.