Pixabay, veterinarian and puppy

PetSmart Charities is gearing up for its second year of the Steve Marton Veterinary Student Scholarship, which provides up to $50,000 for one year’s tuition to a veterinary student who has demonstrated interest and aptitude to pursue a career in accessible veterinary care.

One out of four pet owners experience barriers to obtaining veterinary care, officials said, pointing to a report titled “Access to Veterinary Care: Barriers, Current Practices and Public Policy.” While these barriers can range from geography to culture and language, the primary obstacle for many pet owners seeking any type of care is finances—which has likely been amplified by unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

“At PetSmart Charities we believe all pet parents want to provide the best care for their pets, and we want to help them access that care in the face of challenges,” said Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities. “At the same time, we know students pursue a career in veterinary medicine because they want to help all pets in need, but often struggle financially to realize their dream. This scholarship enables us to bring those two principles together by funding future veterinarians who are committed to community accessible programs.”

According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), the median annual veterinary school tuition is about $53,000 for out-of-state students and $32,000 for in-state students. The total average educational debt of veterinary school graduates in 2016 ranged from more than $143,000 to over $167,000, with 20 percent having at least $200,000 in debt. Many veterinary students rely on federal, private and/or personal student loans to fund their education, officials noted.

Devon Mims, the inaugural winner of the scholarship, is currently a third-year veterinary student at the University of Florida and works as a student clinician while volunteering to oversee cases for pet owners with disabilities and low incomes.

“For me, a career in veterinary medicine has always meant a dedication to both animals and humans in need,” Mims said. “PetSmart Charities’ support allows me to champion the mission of accessible veterinary care while continuing to engage and uplift individuals from marginalized communities.”

Scholarship applications are open through April 28 to first- and second-year veterinary students. Additional details can be found here.

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