Walk out the front door of the University of Wisconsin’s Veterinary Medicine Building, turn right onto Linden Drive and within minutes you can be at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Turn left and you’ll run into the School of Medicine and Public Health, the School of Pharmacy and the School of Nursing.
Chris Olsen, DVM, Ph.D., the School of Veterinary Medicine’s associate dean for academic affairs, puts it in golf terms: “They’re within a long 3-iron of one another.”
Daryl Buss, DVM, MS, Ph.D., the veterinary school’s dean, says the proximity is no accident.
“It provides a tremendous opportunity and environment in which to collaborate across disciplines, and veterinary medicine has so much to offer in every one of those,” Dr. Buss says.
The collaboration ranges from orthopedics research involving the veterinary, engineering and human medicine schools to a popular program that allows DVM students to simultaneously earn a master’s degree in public health.
“Our DVM students can even do a combined DVM/MPH and certificate in global health in a combined five years,” Dr. Olsen says. “Those global health experiences are very interdisciplinary between students and faculty in all the schools.”
The 80 students admitted to the DVM program each year don’t get in on grades alone.
“We describe our admissions process as a holistic process, meaning that our faculty admissions committee doesn’t set specific cutoffs,” Olsen says. “We don’t say you have to have a minimum GRE of this or a minimum GPA of that. Rather, the committee tries to look at the entire student.
“They certainly do look at undergraduate academic performance. That’s as much for the sake of the school as it is for the student applying, to make sure they are ready to handle the rigor of the educational program. But they also look strongly at animal experience and even more so at true veterinary medical experience. They look at outside community activities, evidence of leadership roles, evidence of communication skills.”
Fourth-year students spend much of their time at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, which sees more than 21,000 cases a year and offers the latest technology, from MRI and CT scans to laser surgery and digital radiography.
The hospital also is where students might bump into their future co-workers.
“Some of our referring veterinarians can come in and spend a day with a particular specialty,” Olsen says. “Veterinarians can also come in and for a reasonable fee spend a week on a particular rotation as more of an advance training opportunity.
“It’s a great way for us to connect with our practice community in Wisconsin and the northern Midwest.”
Educating potential large-animal veterinarians is a role administrators take seriously in a state known for its cheese production. One of the school’s newest programs allows selected undergraduates to earn admission without a bachelor’s degree.
The program, called Food Animal Veterinary Medical Scholars (FAVeMedS), is aimed at Wisconsin students committed to a career in food animal medicine who have “grown up with that tradition and know that it’s what they want to do,” Olsen says.
“These students are identified at the end of their first year of undergrad and apply to the program,” he says. “If selected, and if they maintain the requirements through the next two years of undergrad, they take part in both clinical and research mentored programs with faculty from the School of Veterinary Medicine and ultimately end up coming into the DVM program after three years of undergrad.”
Research is a big deal at Wisconsin, which ranks among the nation’s top veterinary schools for receiving National Institutes of Health grants. Hundreds of research projects are under way at any moment, ranging from the preservation of organs for transplant to spinal cord injury to disease-causing pathogens.
“Infectious diseases, broadly, is a very large component of our research program,” Buss says.
Among the researchers is virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, MS, Ph.D., who leads the Influenza Research Institute. A few years ago he led an international team that looked at how the 1918 influenza epidemic was able to kill an estimated 50 million people.
Also in the spotlight is neuroscience professor Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D., who Buss says discovered that “brief periods of breathing reduced oxygen – like you would find at altitude -- may stimulate the nervous system to increase its plasticity, in other words rearrange itself to improve function.”
And there’s Wisconsin’s oncology program, which Buss says is an example of “the marriage of basic research and clinical research – what we call translational research using patients that are presented to us with various forms or cancer.”
Expected to open in late 2010 is a cancer treatment center featuring a tomotherapy suite.
“Tomotherapy is a state-of-the-art radiation therapy for oncology patients that was developed at the School of Medicine and Public Health with the participation of our faculty,” Buss says. “That will add a tremendous new resource to treat animal patients with cancer and be a terrific training opportunity for residents in general and particularly for oncology residents.
At a Glance
Location: Madison, Wis.
Class of 2014 Mean Undergraduate GPA: 3.69
Average Debt Load at Graduation: $103,644
Tuition: $18,139 (Wisconsin residents), $25,823 (non-residents)
Wisconsin Vet School Sees Increased Grant Support (08/12/2014)
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