Urban students without livestock experience can become interested in rural veterinary practice, too. The study, Why Veterinarians Enter Rural Veterinary Practice in the United States, shows that if these practitioners developed an interest, it was more likely in veterinary school, especially true for women of the study’s Generation Y.

This isn’t a surprise for M. Wayne Ayers, DVM, an assistant professor of food animal production medicine at Caine Veterinary Teaching Center, Caldwell, Idaho, who says they’re seeing a great influx of women, especially, entering veterinary school today.

Dr. Ayers, who spent 20 years in mixed animal practice, a big percent cow-calf, says, “I think there’s a big difference between urban and rural kids because growing up in rural America, you see lots of different things.”Rural kids, he says, tend to make up their minds earlier about veterinary practice because greater experiences often lead to a targeted interest. “When you grow up truly urban, you don’t have all of those experiences, so you find something that sparks interest later in life,” he explains.

From his work at Caine Center, he often sees students who don’t develop an interest in rural veterinary practice until fourth year. “Then it’s nearly too late,” he says. “The student is past the point in their education to take the elective courses that would help develop the skills for mixed or food animal practice. The whole idea is to get people with an urban type background exposure early in their education so they can determine if they have an interest and be able to pursue the elective course work and experiential learning opportunities that will prepare them for a career in food-animal medicine.”

Caine faculty and staff maintain a highly rated and effective veterinary medicine teaching program, including hands-on experiences in food animal production medicine. It provides summer internship opportunities specially designed for pre-veterinary students and a number of food animal electives for fourth year veterinary students from Washington State University and schools around the country.

In northeastern Oregon, Dave Rademacher, DVM, a partner in Hermiston Veterinary Clinic, a five person mixed animal practice in Hermiston, OR, reports they’re seeing more true interest from local, high school-age students.

“We have it set up at the schools so these kids can job shadow. There is a class for credit hours where they can come in and observe two or three times a week for a couple of hours. They get a real feel for ‘is this what I really want to do?’”

If these students go through veterinary school and want to return home, that presents a great opportunity for practices like theirs. Two of this practice’s five persons are, in fact, from the local area.

This past summer, Dr. Rademacher and his partners also hosted a veterinary student awarded a Pfizer Animal Health scholarship. One of the focuses of this program, sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, is to help improve the availability of veterinarians to serve in mixed or rural practices.

Dr. Rademacher explains that it gives students from non-rural backgrounds opportunities to experience rural veterinary practice in the summer between their second and third year. “It’s more for those students on the edge, trying to decide if that’s the direction they want to take.”