NCSU drives equine program to next level
Visionaries of North Carolina State University's equine program plan to enhance its user-friendly status to compete with well-renowned academic players in Colorado and California.
The equine component needs a new public image, declares Dr. Oscar Fletcher, Ph.D., dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, which houses the equine program.
"What I envision is a better way to link our faculty to horse owners and referring veterinarians," he says. "We need to know the kinds of issues that need research emphasis. We think we have a handle on that, (but) we need verification. We need to be able to translate the results of our research back into use by the people who need it."
At the start of the year, Fletcher appointed Dr. Richard Mansmann on a part-time basis to a newly-created post as director of the updated Equine Health Program.
His directive is to improve communications between veterinary faculty and the horse-owner clientele in North Carolina and its surrounding region.
Fletcher says under Mansmann's leadership the College plans to "repackage" equine programs already installed and add new components, such as additional continuing education offerings for veterinarians and laypersons.
Untapped gold mine
The North Carolina horse industry easily accounts for $400 to $450 million, according to Fletcher.
Translate those financials into an opportunity for NCSU, he says. "From a standpoint of who's the customer and where is the opportunity, we have a lot of horse owners in the state - there's a great opportunity we need to meet," he says.
Mansmann's vision as director will be to help classify NCSU's equine component among the big-name horse programs at University of California, Davis, Colorado State University and the University of Pennsylvania.
"Among veterinary schools we're trying to position ourselves a little bit higher profile than we've been in the past," Fletcher says.
Down the road
In the immediate future, school planners are brainstorming to raise funds. Thus far, the CVM has tapped existing budgets to fund the equine program restructuring.
"We're in a quiet phase of the campaign right now. We're taking baby steps to increase our visibility and enlarge our donor pool. By increasing awareness, we can increase private contributions to the program as well as other potential sources of support for research and education," says Fletcher.
School officials have already earmarked $30 million to renovate the existing NCSU veterinary teaching hospital. An estimated $10 to $12 million of that may be designated toward the equine health program, Fletcher confirms.
Bursting at seams
The referral hospital, which treats small animals and equine, has grown by about 30 percent since 1997, creating space and structural limitations within existing facilities, Fletcher says.
That said, an enhanced and expanded equine health program can immediately provide relief to referring veterinarians.
"This would make it easier for them to get cases admitted, we could respond quicker to the demand and we could perhaps expand services to improve diagnostics and treatment," he says.
Mansmann was unavailable for comment.