CSU rolls out country's first veterinary-business program

CSU rolls out country's first veterinary-business program

Feb 01, 2002

Fort Collins, Colo.-To teach students what it takes to run and manage a business, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU) plans to launch a combined DVM/MBA program next fall.

Five students will make up its inaugural class.

The five-year program was created in response to what Assistant Dean Dr. Marty Fettman calls the "wake-up call"-the famed KPMG study of 1998. Commissioned by top agencies such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association, KPMG study revealed the veterinary community's lack of business and economic sense. It warns that business opportunities might not be realized unless the profession "is able to adapt and change our current business practice and attitudes, and habitual ways of delivering services that may be incompatible with our future success."

It underscored the need for business training, says Fettman. "The majority of a veterinarian's time is spent running a business, and this combined program will fully answer those needs."

How times change

As a Cornell University student 25 years ago, Fettman was taught management concepts is the same class with jurisprudence and ethics studies.

Today, he's led CSU to incorporate the largest management course of all the colleges, totaling four credits, into its already intense course load. So naturally, the next step was to add another year of school, Fettman says, and hence, the MBA/DVM program was born.

"We've got quite a bit in the curriculum already; all the basic financial information," he says. "But fitting all the management information in the curriculum that a student needs is a problem at large. Every day, there's more information in all subjects that exist. That's why we're offering another year of study."

Course particulars

The program is ideal for students who want to become veterinary business consultants or manage multiple practices, Fettman says.

The enrollee's first year will consist solely of requirements for the MBA while a slot for the first-year veterinary student will be held for the following year. Remaining MBA requirements must be completed along with the student's DVM training.

From now on, CSU will always give the MBA/DVM option to incoming students, even though the college doesn't plan to take more than five candidates a year.

"That's because we can only guarantee five seats in the veterinary college right now," Fettman says. "But if this is a raging success, we'll have to rethink that."

Heightened costs

To offset the cost of a fifth year, students enrolled in the CSU program should receive financial support from fellowships and graduate assistance programs, Fettman says.

But the thought of a near 25 percent increase is too much for students at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine to bear, says Dr. Anthony Schwartz, associate dean for academic affairs.

"Student debt is already so high, unless there's a compelling need, we won't add another year," he says. "But we are considering adding more business curriculum to our current course load, especially since there's an increased sensitivity to the need of business training for students nationally.

"Based on the studies that have been done, pretty much every school is probably rethinking what it's teaching right now."

Course load at NCSU

Like CSU and Tufts, North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine (NCSU) also is looking into altering its curriculum to incorporate more business and management learning.

In fact, it has hired a management expert with the sole purpose of programming and teaching management and business classes.

Eleanor Stell, once a NCSU public relations consultant, now teaches business to the colleges veterinary classes, including a newly required management course for third-year students. In addition, she's programmed an extended orientation for first-year students and offers elective workshops, customer relations and communication classes.

"We started rolling this stuff right into the regular curriculum three years ago," she says. "We've also shifted some of the responsibility backward, changing the requirements for college entry and asking students to have business and management courses."

But as much as Stell's worked to make changes, she says the college, like many others, still needs to grow to keep its students business savvy.

Ideally, she wants to see business knowledge, case management and problem-solving lessons incorporated in medical courses as well as have externships added.

"I'm sure it will take a while," she says, "but business management doesn't happen just outside the veterinary practice. I don't think it should be left outside the classroom, either."