Tuskegee: A Small School With Big Ideas
By Ken Niedziela
Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine is a model of diversity, 64 years after its establishment as a place where black Americans could study veterinary medicine.
Today, just about as many whites as blacks are enrolled in the veterinary school. Sensitivity to diversity is an attribute Tuskegee administrators look for in their veterinary students.
“One, they have to want to come to a small school,” says Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ruby Perry, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVR. “Two, we want to make sure they can mesh well with the diverse environment.
“We’re also looking for students who have a strong grade-point average and score high on the Graduate Record Exam and their interview.”
Some 3,000 students--240 in the DVM program--attend Tuskegee, a semi-private institution founded in 1881 in eastern Alabama.
The four-year veterinary track is typical of what’s found across the U.S.
“The first two years are pre-clinical. They’re in the classroom doing their basic sciences curriculum,” Dr. Perry says. “The second year they have more pathology rounds, case reports and what they call ‘show and tell.’
At a Glance
Location: Tuskegee, Ala.
Degree programs: DVM, DVM/MS, master’s in veterinary science, master’s in tropical animal health, Ph.D. in integrative biosciences
2009-10 tuition: $9,425 (in-state, full time), $13,800 (out of state, full time)
Distinguished alumnus: Roscoe M. Moore, DVM, MPH, Ph.D., former U.S. assistant surgeon general
Accreditation: American Veterinary Medical Assn. (School of Veterinary Medicine), American Animal Hospital Assn. (Veterinary Teaching Hospital)
Fact: More than 70 percent of black U.S. veterinarians graduated from Tuskegee University.
“The third year they have coursework, the clinical courses, and they start the clinical rotation. They spend maybe 25 percent of the time in the clinics and the other time they’re taking classes.
“The fourth year they’re doing mainly problem-based learning and clinics.”
Perry says one difference between today and when she graduated from Tuskegee vet school in 1977 is the practical experience students receive over the summers.
“When I was going to school we were limited to what was offered in the school,” she says. “Now students have an opportunity to go on externships and have other learning experiences that I wasn’t afforded.
“There are students who travel internationally,” she says. “One student went to Sudan and participated in its livestock program.”
Fourth-year students are required to complete a preceptorship.
“They go to a veterinary hospital for hands-on experience,” Perry says. “We also have a small-animal community practice. A veterinarian takes three to four students with her in a van and they travel to distant communities to provide veterinary services.”
The school is part of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health, which speaks to Tuskegee’s dedication to the One Health, One Medicine concept.
“We are one of the few schools to have under one roof health for humans and health for animals combined,” says Cesar Fermin, MS, Ph.D., associate dean for research and advanced studies.
“We have ongoing collaboration and programs with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health,” Dr. Fermin says. “So we are pretty busy doing research in many aspects of biosciences that cross boundaries between vet medicine and human medicine.”
Take this research project:
“We have faculty who go to the store, get some chicken, then bring it to the lab and try to find out how many bacteria are in the chicken that people buy and cook,” Fermin says. “Of course you can see the relationship to vet medicine because poultry science is the big thing now; everyone wants chicken for dinner. We are intimately associated with those components of training to ensure that the people who graduate from here understand these concepts.”
What’s next for the School of Veterinary Medicine?
“We are in the process of revising our curriculum for online learning and e-classroom,” Perry says. “We’re having conversations with Kansas State, Purdue University and North Carolina State University so that we can share faculty.
“For example, we don’t have a nutrition course in our curriculum. Our students have to take that course at another university online,” Perry says. “We want to establish a nutrition course for the e-classroom. A faculty member at one of those institutions would teach his or her class and our students would be in our auditorium and interact with the other students as well as the instructor.” <HOME>
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