Aggies “whoop” it up for 100th

Published on October 12, 2016
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The Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.

Currently a major veterinary educational, medical, and research center, the veterinary college initially started as a  small program and largely from a need to serve the livestock industry.

Dr. Mark Francis, who was the first veterinarian to teach at what was then the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, began by lecturing to agricultural students in 1888. According to the centennial website, he recalled:

“We had a room about 14 x 16 feet that was on the ground floor of the Main Building (destroyed by fire in May 1912) that served as office, classroom, and laboratory. At the end of the school year (June 1889) the adjoining room became vacant and was assigned to us as a classroom. In this unsuitable place we toiled for 15 years. There was no hospital. Along about December 1888, a frame barn was built to serve this purpose. It was about 20 x 36 feet and was near where the Agriculture Building now stands. The following year a frame building was provided that served as a dissecting room.”

Lacking a laboratory or equipment to support his work, Dr. Francis made his mark in veterinary medicine when he established that ticks were responsible for the transmission of Texas cattle fever and developed vaccines against this devastating disease. He is known as the Father of Veterinary Medicine in Texas.

Not until 20 years after Dr. Francis started teaching was the veterinary hospital constructed. In September 1916, the (then named) School of Veterinary Medicine opened, with Dr. Francis as the dean. Thirteen students were admitted into the first class. In 1920, a DVM degree was granted for the first time, to four students.

TAMU CVMBS 100th anniversary logoThe veterinary school grew quickly. By 1941, enrollment was limited to 100 new students each year. Women were not admitted until 1963, the same year the school became the College of Veterinary Medicine when the parent institution was renamed Texas A&M University. Today, the veterinary college enrolls about 132 veterinary students annually; more than 80 percent are female.

The veterinary college has grown not only in class size but also in infrastructure and mission.

“We still have a very prominent livestock industry and feel a great responsibility to serve that industry, but we’ve obviously expanded our scope to evolve with changing societal needs, (too),” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the institution’s 10th and current dean.

Texas’ veterinary college has excelled in research in the areas of genomics and infectious diseases. The university’s One Health Grand Challenge, a directive to implement an interdisciplinary collaborative approach to helping improve the lives of all species, has created connections across campus and beyond, Dr. Green said.

Dr. Green said the veterinary college has a considerable investment in positions to support and advance students at all levels. Its Center for Educational Technologies is dedicated to researching and developing innovative veterinary educational solutions. Currently, the center’s team is looking at whether web-based instruction can enhance veterinary students’ mastery of surgical skills. The veterinary college is also working toward creating a Center for Innovation in Veterinary Education.

Dr. Green says the college facilities also help support excellence. Its Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer Treatment Center is fully equipped with a CT scanner, 3-T MRI unit, and advanced radiotherapy unit that is able to accommodate large animals.

Part of the institution’s centennial festivities will include the grand opening Nov. 11 of the $120 million Veterinary and Biomedical Education Complex. The building will house classrooms, lecture halls, and other teaching facilities. Dr. Green calls it a “very modern, technologically advanced, transformational learning center.”

She says the 100th anniversary “allows us to review where we came from and why. It also helps us think about where to go from here.”