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Rural Areas In Need Of Veterinarians

LAWTON Okla_ There are a lot of animals that need medical attention and not enough veterinarians to treat them in our rural areas.

Small southwest Oklahoma towns are desperately seeking vets, but young veterinarians fresh out of school complain that they can't find work. We've found that it all comes down to money.

The average vet school student leaves with over $130,000 worth of debt, so they want to head to the big city to make the big bucks, leaving rural vet clinics and animals to suffer.

Dr. Holly Wilson from the Beavers Animal Hospital in Lawton said this is not a new problem. She said in the vet world, this issue has been a topic of conversation since 2007. Around that time, the cost of education sky-rocketed and new vets started to seek employment where they knew they'd get a bigger paycheck. Agriculturally driven communities are depending on farmers to tend to animals' health needs, and Wilson said sometimes that's just not enough.

It's not Comanche County that's the problem. They have plenty of veterinarians to go around. The rural areas have the highest population of large animals with medical needs. Dr. Holly Wilson said rural vets are in high demand.

"Anytime they go rural though, you're going to be working on lots of large animals," Wilson said. "There lies less money and harder work. The large animals are just harder to deal with."

More work for less pay is not exactly what a vet school grad wants to hear when $100,000 worth of debt is weighing on them. However, their reservations about heading to the county to put their degree to work are hitting rural clinics and their animals where it hurts. The veterinarians are taking the biggest hit.

"A lot of them are aging," Wilson said. "I came into this practice the same sort of way. I came into someone who was ready to retire. He worked here a few years, and then he retired. You're not getting that now. You're not getting those young people that want to take over those practices. The money is not there, and the work is much harder. They're faced with having to continue to work when they're well ready to retire."

Without enough vets willing to work on large animals at reasonable prices, many of them are left untreated. In southwest Oklahoma, rearing cattle and horses is all about money.

"They're not pets," Wilson said. "They're in it to make money and turn a profit as well."

Having a heart for animals is what got Dr. Wilson into the business in the first place. She was raised in a rural area, running cattle and tending to her animals. She encourages young vets to give rural a chance.

"It's just as rewarding to me, if not more," Wilson said. "When you work on those large animals, and you get those results you want, like delivering a baby calf into this world, it's just very rewarding!"

Dr. Wilson said that while she understands where these recent grads are coming from, she said that any job is better than no job at all, especially when the need is so great.

 

 

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