0812veterinaryaudDr. Larry Corry talks about the lack of funding for veterinary education.
A Buford veterinarian has been named president-elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The 76,000-member group voted for Dr. Larry R. Corry during its recent convention in New Orleans. He’ll become president of the organization in 2009.
For Corry, 66, the new position continues his longtime advocacy for his profession. He has been active in both the AVMA and the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association for decades.
When Corry graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1966, his goal was to take care of animals, not to be a spokesman for vets all over the United States.
"I can’t say it’s a lifetime dream," he said. "But after I had served on the (AVMA) board for a few years, people started asking me if I would run for president. I decided to go ahead and throw my hat in the ring."
Corry realized this would be an opportunity to raise awareness about some of the challenges facing the veterinary profession.
"My main interest has to do with education," he said. "The average veterinary student coming out of college today has a debt of about $110,000."
This makes vets reluctant to work in some critical but low-paying specialties, such as food animal medicine and public health.
"We need to encourage people to go into these areas and maybe help them repay their loans," Corry said.
But when it comes to state budgets, veterinary medicine is a low priority, he said.
"We need to expand veterinary schools, which is a problem because every year the states are cutting back on money," he said.
"It costs Georgia $65,000 a year to educate a vet student. Tuition is nowhere near that, and somebody has to make up the difference," he said.
Corry said there are currently about 85,000 veterinarians in the U.S. and about 28 veterinary colleges.
"There’s still a high number of applicants for school," he said.
But about 80 percent of the people now applying to vet school are female. Corry said no one knows exactly why, but it could be that male college students are looking for a more lucrative career that would enable them to pay back their student loans quicker.
"It’s an extreme financial drain to build and maintain an animal hospital," said Corry.
He should know; he has built several during his career. In 1977, Corry was among a group of partners who established Georgia’s first veterinary emergency clinic. He’s currently a shareholder in two emergency clinics and has two animal hospitals of his own, one near the Mall of Georgia, the other in south Gwinnett.
But he still finds time to do quite a bit of traveling as a board member of AVMA. He’ll be doing even more once he becomes president of the organization, which has 145 employees at its headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., and another 10 staffers at its lobbying office in Washington, D.C.
Corry said his duties will include speaking at the annual meetings of state veterinary associations, as well as attending meetings about veterinary colleges and state veterinary examination boards.
"Also, sometimes we’re asked to testify before Congress, and it’s usually the president who does that," he said.
Dr. Kevin Chapman, a veterinarian in Hoschton, is confident that Corry will be up to the challenge.
"I can’t say enough about Larry," Chapman said. "He’s done a great job for the GVMA, and the AVMA has recognized his leadership skills."
As a vet who treats both household pets and livestock, Chapman can see that his profession is reaching a critical juncture.
"There’s a lack of large-animal veterinarians. Often they have to drive 20 miles to a call," he said. "Also, there will be an upcoming shortage of small-animal vets because the population is growing but the number of vets is not. I think Larry’s going to work on that problem."
Corry said he looks forward to splitting his time between caring for sick animals and serving as an "ambassador" for his profession.
"I enjoy what I’m doing, and I plan to keep on as long as I’m healthy and able to do it," he said.