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Kansas State University Faculty Offer Assistance To Applicants For Rural Veterinary Practice Grants

MANHATTAN — Two U.S. Department of Agriculture programs support rural veterinarians, but filling out the applications can be challenging. Faculty in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University are now offering assistance to those applying for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and the Veterinary Services Grant Program.

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, or VMLRP, pays up to $25,000 each year toward qualified educational loans of eligible veterinarians who agree to serve in a USDA-designated veterinary shortage situation for three years. 

The Veterinary Services Grant Program, or VSGP, helps relieve veterinarian shortage situations and supports veterinary services through Rural Practice Enhancement, or RPE, grants.

"Both programs have an application process that takes time to fill out and complete," said Brad White, D.V.M., professor of production medicine and director of the Beef Cattle Institute. "Brian Lubbers, associate professor in clinical sciences, and I have served on peer-review panels for these grants and have looked at several applications. For practitioners in the state of Kansas, we're happy to provide feedback and answer logistical questions."

White said applicants in shortage areas can renew the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program grant for as long as it takes to repay their D.V.M. debt, even if the shortage area changes. The state animal health official nominates areas for VMLRP consideration, which may change annually.

"Once you receive an award, it is for the full three-year period whether that area is nominated again the following year or not," said White. 

Lubbers said applicants should read the shortage situations nomination carefully before applying to the program to ensure they are able to fulfill the required time and duty commitments.

The VGSP Rural Enhancement Practice grants are not renewable, but they can be utilized for various purposes.

"The goal of these awards is to change your practice in a positive way for the long term, so it's supposed to grow your practice and make it more sustainable," said White.

Because the full process can take up to 60 days, applicants are encouraged to start early.

"There are a few critical steps that need to be done, and there are numbers you need from the federal government," said Aaron Shaffer, veterinarian and co-owner of Apogee Animal Health in Sabetha, Kansas.

Shaffer, who graduated with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from K-State in 2015, obtained a $125,000 RPE grant. He has used funding from the grant to procure a portable alleyway, bud box, hoof-trimming chute, portable X-ray system and miscellaneous small items, as well as help to support salary funds for a veterinary technician. The VGSP program director assisted Shaffer when applying for the grant, and Shaffer said White's input would also have been helpful in the process.

Shaffer's practice has to submit an annual report to the USDA for the next three years to show the impact of the grant. 

"Keep in mind that many of these grants are not funded," White said. "These are highly competitive programs. Our goal is to provide assistance to those in rural practice to help them work through the process. Whether or not they get funded is completely out of our control, but we do feel that providing them some assistance will be useful."

The Veterinary Services Grant Program application deadline is March 22, 2023. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program application window opens in February and runs through April 2023.

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