What do St. Kitts, the mainland U.S. and New York City have in common?
All are stops on the education path of students enrolled in Ross University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
About 300 students a year start their journey on St. Kitts, a stunning Caribbean island 1,200 miles southeast of Miami. Just over two years later they’re on their way to a U.S. veterinary school for clinical training. And finally, three years and four months into their veterinary education, is commencement at New York’s Madison Square Garden and the start of a career as a newly minted DVM.
“That’s a real added advantage,” Peter Goetz, the vice president for enrollment management, says of the accelerated program. “You get into the work force and start making money eight months earlier, and you’re not borrowing anymore money at that point.”
Students graduate sooner for a simple reason: year-round education.
“We don’t take summers off,” Goetz says. “Students complete seven semesters of pre-clinical education in St. Kitts--that’s over two years, four months--and then for three semesters, or one year, they go to one of our 21 AVMA-accredited schools.”
Ross, founded in 1982, hopes to earn American Veterinary Medical Association accreditation.
“We’re updating our self-study and will resubmit it in a couple of months,” Goetz says. “We’re hoping for a site visit in late 2010 or early 2011. Ultimately we can’t decide for the AVMA, but we feel we compare favorably to our U.S. university colleagues who already have accreditation.”
Ross, like everywhere else, manages a competitive admissions process.
“We take a little more of a holistic approach than U.S. schools,” Goetz says. “Of course GPA and GRE scores are the most important part of the application, but we also look for those holistic things like passion for the profession, a real understanding of the profession and a very real desire to understand the science of healing animals.
“At the end of the day, is this someone we want to be our vet? If the answer to that question is ‘yes’ and they have the academic requirements, then we find them to be a good fit for Ross.”
A veterinary background is important.
“We want a good deal of practical experience working with animals, preferably in a veterinary setting,” Goetz says. “Students who volunteer in shelters, things like that, that’s great. But we’d rather that students understand exactly what they’re getting into before they do it, because vet school is really hard.”
Goetz admits that Ross isn’t on the radar screen of many American students, but “more and more now students are choosing Ross when don’t get into their state school.”
Understandably, the tropical climate is a selling point.
“We had a student who got into one of the cold-weather schools as an out-of-state student and chose Ross,” Goetz says. “At the end of the day this person said to us, ‘I had to make a decision whether I would rather palpate a cow there or palpate a cow in St. Kitts in December.”
Students arriving on the 50-acre campus find many of the same opportunities as their mainland counterparts.
“The thing that will always surprise people is we have state-of-the-art technology and facilities that match any U.S. school,” Goetz says. “We have classrooms that hold roughly 120 students. We’re building more classrooms, we have interactive laboratories, we have a brand-new clinical-skills laboratory where students learn and hone surgical skills starting in the first semester.”
Students participate in a large community practice and a spay/neuter program. Their education extends to a campus farm teeming with goats, sheep, cows, horses and donkeys.
“The great thing about our students is that when they get to their clinical year, when many of the home-grown students in those schools are just getting used to handling animals, our students have had a lot of exposure in the early semesters,” Goetz says.
He calls the Ross faculty “top notch,” pointing to scholars such as Kimberly Stewart, DVM, MS, who directs the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network, and the school’s dean, David DeYoung, DVM, Dipl. ACVA, Dipl. ACVS.
Dr. DeYoung pioneered hip replacement surgeries in dogs, Goetz says.
“Many are boarded, some are double-boarded,” he says of the 50-plus faculty members. “Educationally there’s not going to be a big difference.”
At a Glance
Location: St. Kitts, West Indies
Tuition: $14,375 per semester