June 01, 2009

 

 State, national entities give voice to veterinary colleges

posted May 16, 2009

As state budgets were being determined this spring, veterinary schools and colleges looked to outside resources to make sure their requests were heard.

At the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dean Ralph C. Richardson said he had weekly communications with the university's legislative liaison. Every Monday he also met with other deans and senior administrators to talk about where they stood during the budgeting process.

"We have had some inquires from legislators on our budget and we have provided them information. I would say it's a fairly continuous, close-working relationship with the board of regents and legislature," Dr. Richardson said.

State VMAs can also act as go-betweens for veterinary colleges and state governments. Richard Antweiler, executive director of the Missouri VMA, said his association communicates with the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine to identify college needs.

"They cannot be involved in lobbying, so it's upon the profession as citizens of the state to find out what the needs are," Antweiler explained. "From that point on, that's where the MVMA can use its membership and legislative committee and paid lobbyists."

Antweiler travels to Jefferson City often and speaks with budget committee members. That way, when the college comes up in discussion, he said, "(the legislators) know what the issues are about, and hopefully, they see our need as greater than all other requests for the same dollar."

Antweiler said of the $1 billion available in state stimulus funds, there have been $1.7 billion in requests. The college would like to see building repairs and increase its facilities capacity to accommodate greater class sizes.

Veterinary colleges can tap into national veterinary resources, too, including the AVMA and Association for American Veterinary Medical Colleges. Dr. H. Michael Chaddock, AAVMC deputy executive director, gave the example of the two entities having worked together to prepare an extensive list of shovel-ready projects for many veterinary colleges.

"With the stimulus package, you not only have to show that detail, you have to sell those projects to university leadership, then to governors, as they put together the stimulus package for their state. It's not as easy as a college saying they want to submit their project for the stimulus bill. They have to compete with everyone else," Dr. Chaddock said.

When asked how successful he thinks the colleges will be in getting stimulus funds, he said he wasn't optimistic but thought colleges that work well with university leadership and their governor may see better results.

Dr. Chaddock also mentioned the inclusion in the most recent farm bill of the Regional Centers of Excellence provision, which covers veterinary medicine and was another combined initiative of the AVMA and AAVMC. This provision will provide grants to veterinary schools to create collaborative endeavors with an emphasis on food systems veterinary medicine.

"Down the road, this gives authorization for appropriation of money so colleges can get together and talk about how to collaborate ... It opens the door for discussions at the college level on how to work together," Dr. Chaddock said.

He cautions colleges against emphasizing building infrastructure as a way to accommodate more students. He says in the past three legislative sessions, Congress has not been overly receptive to initiatives the AAVMC and AVMA have put forward asking for federal money to build on campuses.