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Regents approve UA veterinary medicine degree

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Arizona Board of Regents approved a committee’s recommendation for implementing a veterinary medicine degree program at the UA during its meeting at the Northern Arizona University campus on Thursday.

The proposed program has been subject of debate during the past year, and the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation recently donated a gift of $9 million in support of the proposed veterinary program.

Shane Burgess, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, are both in support of this program.

“What we’re really building is a program that’s going to be able to involve Arizona economically,” Burgess said.

Burgess explained to the board of regents that this program was built on a 2012 National Research Council medical needs report on the following areas: rural service, public health and biomedical engineering.

At the beginning of the morning session of the meeting, audience members spoke during the call-to-audience to address their belief and need for the UA veterinary medicine degree program.

The call-to-audience session began with Judy Prosser, a third-generation cattle rancher from Northern Arizona, who said the unique model of the proposed UA veterinary school would benefit Arizona.

“We have a critical shortage of rural farm animal veterinarians in the state of Arizona,” Prosser said.

Prosser said she believes this program would encourage students to stay in Arizona for veterinary school and ultimately solve the problem.

“It is not a time to limit the possibilities,” Prosser said. “It is a time to be creative, innovative and look for opportunities.”

Another third-generation Arizona rancher, Andy Groseta, said the major concern among ranchers and farmers is a shortage of large-animal veterinarians in rural areas. Both Groseta and Prosser emphasized the need for younger veterinarians, because from their experiences in rural communities, veterinarians tend to be significantly older.

Groseta thanked President Ann Weaver Hart for supporting the UA veterinary program and said the ranchers in the state of Arizona are excited for the program.

Groseta said from his experience, he has seen students from Arizona go to veterinary schools in other states and not return. He also said it would be wonderful to have those veterinarians serve Arizona.

Serving the rural communities in Arizona isn’t the only factor regarding the support for the UA veterinary program. Zane Gouker, an animal sciences major, said the average veterinary student that graduated in an in-state Arizona college had a $250,000 debt, compared to the new UA vet school, which would cost only $100,000.

When it came time for the regents to vote on the action item Thursday afternoon, all were in favor except for Regent Jay Heiler. Heiler had reservations about the distributed education model on which the program would be based.

Under this model, students would complete the program in four years without having to get a bachelor’s degree, according to Comrie. Burgess went on to explain that the program would provide students with 11 semesters of clinical training.

Heiler asked about the additional cost of the program even with the $9 million gift, and Burgess replied that there were no additional costs.

There are a small number of fellowships established through endowments as a result of the donated gift, according to Comrie. He said the pricing structure of the degree would make the program self-funding.

“This program will be a magnet, too,” Groseta said. “It will draw kids not only from Arizona, but throughout the country and throughout the world.”
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Follow Meghan Fernandez on Twitter @MeghanFernandez and Ethan McSweeney @EthanMcSweeney


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