Dr. Navarre says rural practitioners are needed for a variety of reasons, one of which is public health.

“Whether small animal practices are working to prevent rabies, ringworm or leptospirosis, these diseases can be transmitted to humans,” she says. “In addition, rural practitioners are needed for food safety issues. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is putting more and more pressure on veterinarians being in charge of drug use, and when a vet is not in a rural area, it’s more difficult to have that veterinarian involved. When we have a lack of veterinary care in an area, it can affect human health, too.”

Not only does the program benefit the communities, but it obviously benefits the recipient, too. Of course, the financial benefits of loan repayment programs are great. Other benefits abound, as well, Dr. Navarre says.

“I may be biased, but these vets get to live in a rural community in the lifestyle they love,” she says. “Not only is the vet taking care of animals and public health, but they’re also able to be active on the school board and Kiwanis Club. I think a professional can benefit the whole community, and vice versa.”

And in some cases, such as for Dr. Roberts, the loan repayment programs also help professionals return to their home communities. He says the loan repayment program has allowed him the opportunity to practice food animal medicine in his home area—a luxury he may not have had, otherwise.

“To be able to practice in my home area would have been tough the first few years without the award,” he says. “I probably could have gone to work in another part of the country, but it’s much nicer to be closer to family.”

And, Dr. Roberts says, the award is providing this opportunity to many others in similar situations.

“It’s a definite incentive for students who would consider different routes for practice,” he says. “Now, hopefully, they can continue doing what they enjoy the most. It’s not such a financial burden for them, and it will greatly benefit the area to have a vet that enjoys the practice.”

Words of wisdom

For those who are soon to be in the job market, Dr. Navarre and Dr. Roberts offer a few words of advice.

Dr. Navarre recommends recent graduates be flexible when seeking a job.

“Everyone has a ‘perfect job’ in mind, and where it’s going to be,” she says. “Keep your options open, and take advantage of every opportunity to get extra skills and meet people. You never know how meeting the right person might help you along the way.”

Dr. Roberts agrees. Networking can benefit new graduates in many ways.

“Talk to your state vet and talk to the food animal professors at your vet school,” he says. “You can never ask too many questions.”

And, he says, nothing can take the place of experience, when it comes to searching for that first position after graduation.

“Try to get as much hands-on experience as possible,” he says. “Take as many of your food animal rotations as possible. It’s good to get out and see how private practitioners do it, as well. I went with our professor on pregnancy checks in vet school as often as I could, even if I wasn’t on his rotation, just to get the experience.”

By doing the research and making the connections, recent graduates can find help with the overwhelming burden of veterinary school loans. Not only does the veterinarian benefit, but communities across the country are reaping the rewards, as well.