Within the next few days, 12,000 American Veterinary Medical
Association (AVMA) members will be asked to complete an email survey
about their employment.
Another random sample of
veterinarians soon could be queried about their annual incomes or how many
clients come through their practices.
The AVMA economics
division, headed by economist Michael Dicks, plans to roll out several
surveys this year. The feedback, he said, will guide the AVMA as it
addresses the profession’s economic health by way of policies and
The data also is expected to feed three upcoming AVMA
studies exploring workforce capacity, employment and economic
elasticity within the profession, Dicks said.
He stressed that obtaining accurate, solid information is crucial.
a lot of data that hasn’t been collected systematically,” Dicks said,
speaking Saturday before the AVMA House of Delegates in Chicago. “When
we send a survey out, getting a 10 percent response rate doesn’t give us
"When I read the financial information you give me and
there’s a lot of zeros … I need to see some real numbers," he said, referring to veterinarians' tendency to estimate survey answers.
hopes the information will help boost the profession’s economic
viability, which has waned in recent years. Many U.S. practitioners say
they struggle with declining patient visits coupled with
competition from a growing number of new veterinarians entering the marketplace.
The profession's financial
difficulties are aggravated by six-figure educational debt loads carried
by most new graduates, whose starting salaries, in the range of $65,000
a year, are not commensurate.
Dicks acknowledged that numbers of new graduates “have been going up 4.4 percent” since 2005, which is above historic trends.
greater competition isn't as big of an issue as the fact that
veterinarians are driving away business with high prices, he said.
prices go up, demand goes down. You’ve saturated demand ...,” Dicks
said. “Because you raised the prices above trend … there’s a gap between
how much you’re willing to provide” and what owners are willing to pay.
"Loss of demand is your biggest problem," he stressed.
get a handle on pricing thresholds in the United States, Dicks said
plans are under way to study 12 fast-growing major metropolitan areas to
identify consumer demand and the various factors impacting it.
Results gleaned from the surveys will be
reported during the second-annual AVMA Workforce Summit, tentatively scheduled for October at the group’s headquarters near Chicago.
Dicks said he anticipates the summit will be open to the public.
Editor's note: The AVMA's Michael Dicks has stated that this article inaccurately reflects his presentation before the House of Delegates. However, we're not yet clear about what needs to be amended. When we know more, we'll make the necessary corrections. In the meantime, we've removed the article from our public news site but have kept it live internally given the discussion that's ongoing.