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Arizona’s New Vet Degree Program Backed by $9 Million Gift

The new program is scheduled to begin fall 2015.

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The University of Arizona (UA) will soon be the state’s first public veterinary medical and surgical program to train doctors of veterinary medicine thanks to a foundational gift of $9 million from the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation.

The new program, slated to begin in fall 2015, will help address the critical veterinarian shortage in rural Arizona communities and tribal nations, benefit bioscience businesses and promote public health, the university noted.

The UA program will run year-round so students can complete their degrees faster, accumulate less debt and enter the workforce sooner. In what is called a distributive model, the final two semesters will be spent working in private veterinary practices, government agencies or other community partnerships to secure hands-on, real-world learning in communities throughout the state.

Other clinical training partners will include federal and state animal health labs and regulators, U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security and animal shelter and rescue agencies. The UA reported that it already has letters of interest from many prospective partners.

“For me, real-world experience is something that is oftentimes lacking when students come to us,” said Richard Panzero, DVM, of River Road Veterinary Clinic in Tucson and a member of the program’s consultative board. “I think the distributive model is probably the way of the future. The UA program will provide students with an additional semester of professional training versus the traditional four-year program—more in the way of hands-on experience and more time to digest the massive amounts of information required of a veterinary student.”

Currently, Arizona students interested in becoming veterinarians must compete for veterinary school admissions at out-of-state institutions, many of which favor resident students, according to UA.

“Arizona students pay higher costs through nonresident or private tuition, incur more debt and often stay in the practices, or seek employment with the out-of-state veterinary practices and companies where they intern as part of the out-of-state education,” said Shane Burgess, Ph.D., vice provost and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We need the smart and dedicated people we train to stay here. Arizona’s hard-earned tax dollars need to promote Arizona’s future.”

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Facilities for students will be built, refurbished or renovated at satellite locations in Douglas, Yuma, Maricopa and in the Verde Valley.

As a cost-saving measure, the program will not build a veterinary teaching hospital, according to the university. Teaching hospitals can cost tens of millions of dollars and place a very large continuing financial burden on institutions, the university further noted.

“A teaching hospital also creates a level of competition with private practitioners,” said Noble Jackson, DVM, associate professor of practice in veterinary science and microbiology in the UA School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences. “We don’t want to compete with practicing veterinarians. We want to engage them and have them help teach our students in a hands-on clinical setting.”

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