USU to offer new doctor of veterinary medicine degree

Starting in the summer of 2012, Utah State University will offer a doctor of veterinary medicine degree in partnership with the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The new program was unanimously accepted by the USU Board of Trustees at a meeting Friday. “This is something we should really celebrate,” board member Douglas Foxley said, who noted Utah is currently lacking a dental school and a veterinary school. To create a new veterinary program at USU from the ground up would cost $15 million, but partnering with Washington’s program will only cost $1.7 million to start up, said Noelle Cockett, dean of the College of Agriculture. The funding will come from tuition dollars and new ongoing state appropriated dollars. USU is working with legislators, who USU President Stan Albrecht said have shown strong support for the program, to get federal funding.According to the proposal, the new program – which has been talked about for years – will cause few infrastructure changes to the College of Agriculture, more specifically the Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences Department (ADVS) at USU. Classes will be taught by the 10 existing faculty in the department for the time being. Ken White, ADVS department head, said this is a “tremendous opportunity” for Utah students, who face extremely competitive veterinary school acceptance rates. Currently, there is only room for 6 students from Utah to enter veterinary school out of the 200 who make that their educational goal each year. The USU program will allow 20 Utah residents, and 10 non-residents, to become trained as veterinarians. In Utah, there is currently one veterinarian per 6,500 people. In order to keep up this figure, with the rate of population growth in Utah, the state would need at least 10 more veterinarians per year, White said. Cockett said USU will control who gets accepted into the program, and will decide whether to focus on large or small animal veterinarian training depending on the needs of the state. During the first two years of the program, students would stay at USU. During these years students would take classes, do some clinical work and start developing partnerships with local clinics, White said. Some work will be done at the Humane Society to do spays and neuters. Then the students will transfer to Washington State’s campus in Pullman to complete the final two years of the degree. Albrecht said the new program has not only been supported by agricultural departments, but the USTAR governing authority sent a letter of support as well. The veterinary program feeds “nicely” into USTAR and some of the commercialization projects USU is working on, he said. This veterinary program can be a “critical step” toward future collaborative efforts with the University of Utah as well, he said, where the animal work could be done at USU and the human work will be done at the medical school at the University of Utah. – rachel@cvdaily.com

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