Rural Veterinarians Getting a Helping Hand

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

House Bill 1684 offers to help new veterinariasn pay off their student loans.  The only catch is they have to be willing to relocate.

"It just puts people out there in the places that a lot of times they might not go on their own," Dr. Becky Battershell with Angel Veterinary Clinic in Odessa, said.

Battershell has been a practicing veterinarian for eleven years.   She knows first hand what the new vets go through, just starting out, "As we go through professional school, we certainly incur additional debt and there's a lot of fear, of course, going into practice, of being able to repay your student loans and make a living yourself."

The bill will provide financial assistance to new vets, provided they agree to set up shop in a country setting, seeing all types of patients.

"A lot of times they would be the true mixed animal practicioner, where you are working on the large animals and the small animals," Battershell explained.

The Doctor says this type of practice isn't for everyone, especially those who are planning to specialize in one specific area, "It may be something one wouldn't consider because of where they are, they are probably going to end up practicing on whatever is needed."

Because of where they're located, many rural communities don't have a vet to call their own.   And professional schools, like many others, can be very expensive. According to Battershell, the benefits of this bill are two-fold. "It helps the rural community and it helps the veterinarian to establish and it helps them to not be under such a financial burden when they first practice."

With a growing need for rural veterinarians across the country, Battershell says this is a good move for the government, "There is definitely a need and in order to fill this need they know that they are going to have to offer something to get folks out into that community."

The bill will go into effect as soon as it recieves a 2/3 majority vote in the both houses.   But even if that doesn't happen, it will still go into effect September 1st of this year.