Three universities eye new veterinary programs

Private, six-year program at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee could be operational by next fall
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Aug 01, 2011

HARROGATE, TENN. — Lincoln Memorial University will open a new veterinary college in the fall of 2012.

The private liberal arts college in Tennessee asked the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) Council on Education (COE) to conduct a consultative site visit later this year to help guide the school toward establishing an AVMA-accredited program. The university plans to enroll 100 veterinary students in its first class.

Dr. Randy Evans will lead the new veterinary school as dean. He says the college is adopting a model more common to European veterinary programs. The veterinary college will combine a bachelor of biomedical sciences and a DVM degree, thereby shortening the entire program to six years, Evans says.

"We think we can cut two years off," says Evans. "It should be a smooth flow throughout the whole six years."

Some of the pre-veterinary curriculum will be incorporated into the bachelor's degree program, and Evan says students will get clinical experience through community-based practice similar to the model developed at Western University of Health Sciences.

Evans, who joined LMU as director of the veterinary technician program in 1989, says veterinary students will train alongside veterinary technician students. The goal, he adds, is to prepare new veterinarians to jump immediately into work as a general veterinary practitioner.

"We're looking to help these students be good general practitioners once they enter a practice," he says. There will still be opportunities for students to train as specialists, too, Evans adds.

LMU hopes to work with other veterinary programs, undergraduates and students who have a bachelor of science degree possibly entering into the third or fourth year of the six-year program.

"They could finish the veterinary program in three years, depending on what they had (during) their undergrad," he says. "We're trying to make it very flexible and make it fit the students' needs."

Dr. B. James Dawson, president of LMU, says the university is in the process of constructing a new health sciences facility that will open in the fall 2012.

Ultimately, the plan is to admit about 100 students per year, but Dawson says that depends on the accreditation process. Tuition levels have not been set, but he says initial talks have placed it in the range of $30,000 per year.

Evans says much of the planning is still up in the air at this point, as LMU awaits input from COE. But four faculty are already on staff, and LMU is working on its curriculum plan with Dr. Peter Eyre, dean emeritus of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Another new veterinary college in the planning stages, although not as far along as LMU, is Midwestern University. This university focuses on healthcare programs with two campuses—one in Illinois and another in Arizona.

"The one program and one area we have not in the past looked at was veterinary medicine and so, Midwestern University has embarked on a yearlong study to consider a veterinary medicine program only for the Glendale, Ariz., campus," says Midwestern's President and Chief Executive Officer Kathleen Goeppinger.

There is no veterinary school currently in Arizona and few operate in Western states, Goeppinger explains. The university is now comparing different veterinary school models from around the country and conducting an internal feasibility study, which will be presented to the university's Board of Trustees in February.

"We really want to understand fully what is involved in veterinary medicine from a university's perspective," she says.

Midwestern is considering a full, four-year program, similar to its other healthcare models.

Whether the university would pursue on-campus clinical training or community-based experience is uncertain, she adds.

"We are inclined to look at partnerships with clinics, as well as having some facilities that are owned and operated by the university. But we have to wait and really see what is needed and what is the best program," she says. "We'd love to be able to do it here and keep the students home."

Southern Arkansas University officials also are talking about a new veterinary school, but talks are still in the early stages. The university may pursue a full-scale veterinary college or just a partial program.

Dr. David Rankin, president of Southern Arkansas University, says there are no parameters for the project yet, but a partial program is a possibility, since Arkansas is surrounded by veterinary colleges in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and Kansas.