Supporting Early Career Veterinarians in Rural Practice in Tennessee (2017-2020)

Alleviation of educational debt is an important advance in removing obstacles for recruiting and retaining veterinarians into underserved agricultural communities, but stops short of providing fully integrated assistance.  Early career veterinarians require additional resources in the form of mentorship and instruction to prepare them for the challenges inherent in rural practice. This proposal is designed to develop, implement, and evaluate a mentoring and educational program that complements the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program’s support of rural veterinarians through the following objectives: 1) Survey food supply/rural veterinarians in Tennessee to identify key road blocks for the recruitment and retention of veterinarians in underserved communities, 2) Match early career rural veterinarians with established rural veterinarians and provide opportunities to strengthen these relationships 3) Deliver new continuing educational material specifically targeting rural practice sustainability and quality of life in rural communities, 4) Create an online open-access resource center to provide additional educational content to rural veterinarians, and 5) Encourage third and fourth year veterinary students to participate in food supply/rural externships through the provision of merit based travel grants with the goal of affirming interests in those lifestyles. The short term goals of this proposal are to establish objectively evaluated programs designed to bolster rural veterinary sustainability and thereby strengthen agricultural communities in the state of Tennessee. The long term goals will be to build an ongoing independent initiative to continue the of support rural veterinarians in Tennessee and expand this proof-of-concept model into other underserved areas throughout the United States.