July 01, 2011


 3 universities interested in veterinary programs

One proposed college developing an accelerated curriculum

By Malinda Larkin
Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark.; Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.; and Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., are all considering opening veterinary schools, although they are in different phases in their planning.  

A new direction

Lincoln Memorial's proposed College of Veterinary and Comparative Medicine could be the first of its kind in the United States. Plans call for the creation of an accelerated veterinary curriculum, i.e., the program would last six years rather than the standard eight, by combining undergraduate and veterinary education. This model is widespread in European, Australian, and South American professional programs but has yet to catch on in the U.S., at least until now. 
Dr. Peter Eyre, former dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, is consulting with LMU on creating its veterinary program. He says this college intends to address veterinary education's most challenging problems.
Kathleen Goeppinger, PhD
Kathleen Goeppinger, PhD, president and CEO of
Midwestern University, said her institution is
looking into creating a veterinary school at its
campus in Glendale, Ariz. (Courtesy of Midwestern)

"LMU's model significantly reduces information overload and caters to individual students' personal abilities and career aspirations. Also, this plan reduces college capital expenditures and operating costs while cutting two years of student tuition payments and providing two extra years' earning opportunities for new graduates," Dr. Eyre said. "Ten foreign schools incorporating these elements are fully accredited by the (AVMA Council on Education); thus, there should be no political obstacles to establishing this model in the U.S. Its time has come."

LMU, located in the Appalachian region, has considered adding a veterinary college for two years now, said LMU President James Dawson, PhD. The university conducted a feasibility study in the past year and has filed a letter of application with the AVMA COE seeking a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation.

For a veterinary college to be eligible to apply for a letter of reasonable assurance, the parent institution must be accredited by a regional or national institutional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, offer other professional degrees, and employ a veterinarian as a full-time dean of the college of veterinary medicine. (Dr. Randall K. Evans, currently dean of the LMU School of Allied Health Sciences, is slated to fill this position.)

The COE will consider LMU's request at its September meeting. At that time, the council could schedule a reasonable assurance evaluation and site visit for the proposed program. This entails a team of council members reviewing the university's plan for creating the veterinary program and existing resources such as budget, facilities, faculty, and administration.

Using all of the information gathered, the COE could decide whether to grant a letter of reasonable assurance as soon as its spring 2012 meeting.

"Even if (the COE) said no, we would still look at ways we can improve our presentation and, hopefully, get approved in the next cycle. I feel confident we'll receive approval in the initial stage," Dr. Dawson said.

The private, four-year, not-for-profit university is in the midst of constructing a 140,000-square-foot math and science building. It will open in fall 2012 and could potentially house the veterinary program, Dr. Dawson said. The college would incorporate distributed clinical education and training similar to that found at Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, according to Dr. Eyre.  

Perfect timing

On April 6, the Arkansas state legislature approved H.B. 1780, which authorized the Southern Arkansas University board of trustees to design and establish a school of veterinary medicine; it did not appropriate any money.  

Arkansas State Rep. Garry Smith, who introduced the bill, said he's not sure where the funding would come from. As one possibility, he mentioned endowments or grants such as the Arkansas-based Roy & Christine Sturgis Charitable & Educational Trust.

"It will take a lot of money to create a veterinary school. I'm a realist and an optimist, so I figured, why not try and begin the process?" Rep. Smith said.

The timing couldn't be better, because the university's Department of Agriculture is expanding and could accommodate the potential veterinary school, he said.

Late last year, the SAU board of trustees approved a $6.5 million bond to cover construction of a new agriculture center. The public university plans to build a two-story, 30,000-square-foot academic facility to house classrooms, laboratories, and a lecture hall. The building would be constructed on a nearby farm with 640 acres the university acquired in late 2010 in anticipation of the expansion. The department already is in the process of moving its dairy and other animal industry operations there.

"It's now left up to the board and leadership (at SAU) to see how quickly they move on it or if they pursue it. I think there will be pursuit, because people there encouraged me to move forward (with the legislation)," Rep. Smith said.

Jeremy Langley, an SAU spokesperson, said if the university decides to proceed with creating a veterinary school, it would first have to seek approval from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Its Coordinating Board next meets on July 29.

The Arkansas VMA hasn't heard from anyone at SAU regarding plans for a new veterinary school, said Executive Director Maggie Milligan, and it will wait to receive more information before it takes a position or any action.

"It's so early and we don't know what the intent is," Milligan said. "Perhaps we'll contact (the university) and see what their ideas and thoughts are."  

Expanding horizons

Finally, Midwestern University, a private, not-for-profit institution specializing in health care education, is considering creating a four-year veterinary program at its 144-acre central Arizona campus.  

"We have begun the process, but it is a long process. We believe in a great deal of due diligence before starting any program," said Kathleen Goeppinger, PhD, president and CEO of Midwestern University.

The university has looked at adding veterinary medicine as part of its health care mission for many years, she said, but until the university established its dental and optometry schools, leaders didn't feel they could move forward with veterinary medicine quite yet.

"We're excited about the opportunity. We hold true to our mission of health care, and many people feel that's caring for people and pets. It's within the mission of our university and deserves full attention," Dr. Goeppinger said.

The university will not explore creating a veterinary program until February 2012. The process will involve the university conducting an internal study, visiting U.S. veterinary schools and colleges for their input, soliciting feedback from the community and state association, and then putting together a plan and a feasibility study.

"Then, if the board of trustees and I believe it is the right thing to do, we will invest heavily in people and facilities," she said.

Already, Midwestern had reached out to the Arizona VMA and sent a representative to give a presentation at the AzVMA's board meeting June 2.


For more information about the AVMA Council on Education
accreditation process, click here.