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From the Editors

The past and the future

Who wants to own a veterinary hospital? Listening to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s chief economist, Dr. Matthew Salois, I found out that fewer people do.

“We hear anecdotally that a lot of new associates are less interested in practice ownership for a number of reasons,” Dr. Salois reported at the AVMA’s annual Economic Summit. Many of today’s younger veterinarians, he explained, are looking for greater work-life balance and, in some cases, desire “a different career trajectory.”

That’s potential trouble for the older practice owner. Dr. Salois and his team forecast a surge in retirements over the next 10 years, which is no surprise given that the average owner is in his or her 60s.

“This is one of the biggest trends that’s going to shape the future of veterinary medicine,” Dr. Salois said.

Deep-pocketed consolidators are eagerly buying hospitals, but they’re picky. Large group practices follow the money. They’re more likely to go into affluent urban areas and the East and West coasts, said Charlotte Hansen, assistant director of statistical analysis.

AVMA research also revealed an increase in hospitals employing at least 100 people — from 3% of all practices in 2002 to 11% today. The prediction for 2025 is 22%. Hospitals with one to nine employees are expected to dip from 53% today to 44% in 2025.

“The economy is changing,” Dr. Salois said. “It’s no surprise that our profession is changing.”

Two more nuggets from the Economic Summit:

  • The average starting salary of new full-time veterinarians rose to $84,982 in 2019.
  • New female veterinarians appear to be getting shortchanged.

“After controlling for all factors, such as location, practice type and hours worked, female veterinarians prior to graduation are made a lower starting salary offer than male veterinarians,” said AVMA statistical analyst Dr. Bridgette Bain.

“The good news,” she said, “is that last year the difference between the male and female starting salary was 4% and this year it’s 3%.”

What do you think? Email me at [email protected].

Ken Niedziela








Ken Niedziela, editor