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Wednesday, November 26, 2014 | Last updated: 2:52am

Proposed program would offer veterinary science degree



A proposal from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences could enable aspiring veterinarians to get their degree right here on campus.

Currently, the UA’s veterinary science program allows students to spend four years taking prerequisite courses toward the degree. At the end of the program, students must transfer to another institution to finish the degree. With the proposed program, students would be able to finish the degree here.

During the Arizona Board of Regents meeting, the board approved a $3 million state budget request to study the possibility of creating a veterinary medical education program. The request was part of the operating budget request for the 2014 fiscal year.

In addition, the animal sciences department and department of veterinary science and microbiology voted in favor of creating an Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences school, which would host the proposed program. The new program would serve more than 100 students, and aim to stop Arizona residents from transferring to out-of state universities to receive an education in veterinary sciences, said Shane Burgess, vice provost and dean of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Rural areas like Arizona have seen a shortage in veterinarians, Burgess said. Arizona students who wish to pursue a career in veterinary science have been forced to leave the state, and they tend to stay there even after completing their degree, he added.

Though the UA doesn’t have a veterinary program, it has supported students in receiving a veterinary education out of state through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Professional Student Exchange program, said Noble Jackson, an associate professor in the department of veterinary science and microbiology.

Not having a veterinary program in any of the Arizona university systems comes with two costs: “One is that our students are leaving and spending money in other states that would have been spent here in the state of Arizona,” Jackson said, “and the second loss is the school’s expenses in terms of supporting students to study out of state.” The state of Arizona is paying over $1 million in student support fees every academic year, he added.

While Arizona has a substantial agricultural industry, the number of Arizona veterinarians remains low due to the number of veterinary science students who have to leave the state to get their degree, Beth Engelschall, a veterinary science junior, said.

“There aren’t a large amount of vets coming back,” Engelschall said. “I think if we had a veterinary school here it would help increase our economy and the number of veterinarians that stay here.”
In addition to the university being at the center of the state’s agricultural industry, it’s also already equipped with a veterinary laboratory and research facilities, Burgess said.

“I think this is a big plus for our state of Arizona and for our students who would be at a distinct advantage to go to veterinary school,” Jackson said.

Deb Amiga, a practice manager at Valley Animal Hospital on 22nd Street, said that some of the veterinarians who work at the hospital received their prerequisites at the UA but left the state to get their degree. “This will be exciting, not just for the community, but on a national level,” Amiga said. “I think this would help our economy.”

Chelsea Linehan, a veterinary science junior, said she also thought that this program would be beneficial to the school and state in terms of increasing enrollment rates.

“We would have a large increase in students for undergrad and for the doctorate program,” Linehan said. “We would be having people from out of state coming into our program, which would help our state and economy.”

Final plans for how much funding will be needed for the program are still being determined.


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