Arizona veterinary program secures funding

Local foundation donates $9 million
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A $9 million gift from a private philanthropy will allow the University of Arizona to establish a veterinary degree program after two unsuccessful attempts at obtaining public funding for the endeavor.

The new Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Veterinary Medical and Surgical Program will be part of the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences. The new program is slated to begin in fall 2015.

In 2012 and 2013, the Arizona board of regents requested funding from the state legislature for a veterinary degree program at UA and was twice denied. In the meantime, the Arizona program had asked for a consultative site visit by the AVMA Council on Education to determine its preparedness for a comprehensive site visit; the consultative visit took place this past January. Now the UA veterinary program is seeking a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation. A comprehensive COE site visit will happen soon, according to an Aug. 26 university press release. In the meantime, the regents considered the degree offering at their September meeting.

Arizona already has one veterinary college at Midwestern University in Glendale, which received a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation from the AVMA Council on Education in mid-2013 and admitted its first class of students in August.

Clinical rotations in pathology and public practice are planned for the final year of the professional program at the University of Arizona. (Courtesy of UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

Twenty-four students in the class are from Arizona, and 27 of the 50 U.S. states are represented. Most members of the class are female (88 of 102).

Leaders of the University of Arizona veterinary program say it has something different to offer in that, among other things, students will be able to graduate more quickly and at less cost.

A sort of hybrid between the European and Caribbean veterinary college models, the UA program will allow students who do not have a bachelor’s degree but have met the prerequisites and have a sufficiently high GPA to directly enter the two-semester preclinical program. From there, they will apply for acceptance into the three-year, year-round veterinary program, during which they will spend a total of nine semesters obtaining their veterinary degree—six semesters of a preclinical program followed by 48 weeks of distributive clinical rotations.

The Arizona Daily Star reported in an Aug. 22 article that first-year students will be taught by current faculty in the college’s veterinary science programs at existing facilities. Additional faculty will be hired in subsequent years as a revenue stream is generated by tuition payments, said Dr. Shane Burgess, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in the article. Half of the expected class of 100 will come from outside the state, including foreign students.

Clinical training partners will include federal and state animal health laboratories and regulators, U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security, and animal shelter and rescue agencies. The UA already has letters of interest from many prospective partners, according to the university press release.

Additionally, the university will use $3 million of the Marley Foundation’s gift to build, refurbish, or renovate satellite locations in Douglas, Yuma, Maricopa, and the Verde Valley. In these settings, students will have the opportunity to learn about border health issues, rural medicine, food safety, large-scale animal production, and wildlife as well as the cattle and dairy industries.

This is the second major gift to the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences from the Marley Foundation. In 1993, it gave $6 million to finish a laboratory building on campus.

Related JAVMA links:

Arizona veterinary program being reconceptualized (June 15, 2014)