S.C. livestock veterinarian to work in underserved counties

CLEMSON — A young veterinarian in Cassatt is the first in South Carolina to be selected for a USDA program that helps repay his school costs in return for working in a region without enough food-supply veterinarians.

Justin Martin is a Clemson University Animal and Veterinary Science program alumnus (Class of 2006) and University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine graduate. He practices with Ronnie Fulmer at the Camden Veterinary Hospital. Under the tuition loan-repayment program, Martin will spend a percentage of his time for three years treating food animals in nine Pee Dee counties.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture created the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program to address veterinary shortages in rural America by repaying student loans of qualified veterinarians.

Martin and his wife, Toni, who is a veterinary technician at the hospital, plan to make their home near Cassatt, a rural community east of Camden on I-20. They want to raise cattle.

“We both grew up on farms and want to bring up our children on a farm,” said Martin. “This is a great part of the state and I am looking forward to helping the cattle producers keep their herds healthy.”

A native of Williamston, Martin has wanted to be a veterinarian since his teenage years.

“I wanted to stay connected to the land and give back to the agriculture community that helped me so much,” said Martin.

In high school, Martin was a rodeo standout in team roping and was national president of the High School Rodeo Association. Martin still ropes today.

The USDA asked Boyd Parr, S.C. State Veterinarian, to nominate up to three areas where there is a shortage of veterinarians. The S.C. Association of Veterinarians and the S.C. Farm Bureau were among the groups consulted by Parr to identify the areas.

“Dr. Martin’s selection is first of all due to his initiative and career goals,” said Parr, who is director Clemson Livestock and Poultry Health, which includes S.C. state meat inspection and the veterinary diagnostic center. “Justin is an example of a Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences graduate coming back to South Carolina to meet a vital need after leaving for veterinary school.”

Parr encourages food-animal producers without access to adequate veterinary service to contact him. He will begin certifying three more places for the program in December.

Veterinarians can go to www.nifa.usda.gov/vmlrp for information and application details.

Four years of veterinary medical training can cost $130,000 to $140,000, on average. The institute may repay up to $25,000 of student-loan debt per year.

The institute designated more than 150 veterinarian shortage areas in the United States.

"The lack of adequate veterinary services, especially in the area of food animal medicine, creates hardships for producers and endangers livestock throughout rural America," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This program will help alleviate the shortage of trained professional veterinarians that serve our producers, improving the health of the livestock industry and helping ensure a safe food supply."

Story Courtesy of Clemson University

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