usda-logoThe U.S.D.A. is awarding more than $4 million in grants to 48 veterinarians serving rural communities in Iowa and elsewhere.

The money aims to help them repay some of their veterinary school loans in return for serving in areas lacking veterinary resources. Dr. Phil Reemstma, a veterinarian in DeWitt, says this is an important step in getting young veterinarians out into rural America.

“The debt that these students are coming out of college with now and what we’re able to pay them, there’s a pretty significant amount of debt there,” Reemstma says. “When the U.S. government can help them repay some of their loans and provide incentives for them to go into these rural communities, it’s really a big deal.” On average, student veterinarians have an average loan debt of more than $135,000.
Reemtsma, who’s president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, says he has experience with the U.S.D.A. program and says it has worked well in the past.

“There was a four-county area here that, three years ago, was designated as needing veterinarians,” he says. “I hired a veterinarian into my practice and he was able to participate in that program. It helped him out quite a bit and it helped eastern Iowa to bring veterinarians to our area.” The focus for many veterinarians today, he says, is shifting and there’s a demand for those kinds of skills.

“The veterinarians’ role has continued to evolve into more disease prevention and focused on preventive type medicine,” Reemtsma says. “Not that we don’t go and work on sick animals, but a lot of what we do every day is production-oriented any more. There’s a real need for those type of people.” The latest U.S.D.A. grant of $4.3 million aims to help fill the veterinary shortage in Iowa and 26 other states.

(By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)