The VMLRP will pay up to $25,000 each year toward those loans for veterinarians who agree to serve in a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) designated veterinarian shortage area for three years.

“The hope is these veterinarians will be in those practices long term,” Navarre says.

Justin Roberts, DVM, is part owner of the Kentwood Veterinary Clinic, Kentwood, La., and participated in the VMLRP after he graduated from the LSU veterinary medicine school in 2009, where he accumulated nearly $110,000 in student loans.

“It’s tough when you want to get a family started,” Dr. Roberts says. “Trying to buy a house and continually grow a practice is a pretty big load, especially coming to a rural practice where you wouldn’t quite make the same amount as if you moved to a more populated area.”

Having grown up in the Kentwood area, Dr. Roberts became interested in the VMLRP as a chance to repay his debt while returning to his home community.

“I worked with some of our local vets as a undergraduate student worker,” he says. “And it worked out that one was about 70 and was ready to retire as I graduated. I got in touch with our state veterinarian and we worked together on the proposal for the designated shortage situation.”

Dr. Roberts says the application was lengthy. But the process was worth it, as he was one of 32 recipients from across the country during the first year of the program. He received $25,000 each year for a three-year commitment.

Meeting requirements

Dr. Roberts qualified for the program under Type I Shortage (80 Percent or Greater Private Practice Food Supply Veterinary Medicine). Veterinarians may also qualify as Type II Shortage (30 Percent or Greater Private Practice Food Supply Veterinary Medicine in a Rural Area) or Type III Shortage (Public Practice Shortage, 49 percent-time or Greater Public Practice).

Many states also offer veterinary loan repayment programs with various requirements and rewards. A comprehensive list of these programs can be found through the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) website here.

Programs such as these help fill a growing void in rural areas.