Texas Tech hopes to create a new veterinary college. Texas A&M University, meanwhile, operates the state’s existing College of Veterinary Medicine and this fall will expand it, with the opening of a new $120 million veterinary teaching complex.
Whether a second veterinary school makes sense for Texas depends upon whom you ask. A recent news release from Texas Tech builds a case for the need for more veterinarians in rural areas and food-animal practice, an issue it plans to address with its proposed lower-cost DVM program, which would focus on large-animal medicine.
Texas A&M, however, also distributed a news release stating that a second veterinary college would be expensive for the state to create and maintain, and is unnecessary to meet the demand for new veterinarians.
Both releases cited findings in a recent report from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) examining the issue.
The report’s authors acknowledge the need for veterinary services varies by region and by type of practice. “The nation and the state are unlikely to have significant need for additional veterinarians to treat pets in cities and suburbs but are likely to need veterinarians to treat farm animals in rural areas, based on the changes in the relative proportions of these two groups in the total veterinary workforce during recent decades.”
Citing relatively flat demand for veterinarians overall, and the high cost of developing a college of veterinary medicine, the authors list among their conclusions that “No new college of veterinary medical education that primarily produces small animal veterinarians is recommended at this time.”
Among its recommendations, the THECB suggests expanding the state’s veterinary loan repayment program, called the Rural Veterinarian Incentive Program (RVIP), to encourage veterinarians to enter practice in rural areas with shortages of veterinary services. They also suggest enhancing the qualifications and responsibilities of veterinary technicians to help meet demand for some services.
The report however, draws a distinction between companion-animal and large-animal practice in terms of supply of veterinarians, and in its third recommendation, the THECB leaves the door open to the possibility of a new degree program. “The Coordinating Board would consider a proposal for a new college of veterinary medical education that is designed to specifically produce large animal veterinarians in an innovative, cost efficient manner that does not duplicate existing efforts,” the authors write.
“There is no doubt that there is an existing and growing need for more food animal production veterinarians,” says Texas tech Chancellor Robert Duncan. “This situation continues to worsen as Texas faces an aging veterinarian population coupled with more than one-third of its students leaving the state for veterinary medicine education. We are grateful for the Coordinating Board’s willingness to consider new approaches to address this critical need and look forward to sharing our unique vision for an innovative, cost-efficient veterinary college.”
Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, counters, saying “It is clear they (the THECB) were diligent and thoughtful in their study, which has resulted in a substantive, data-driven report about veterinary medical education in Texas. I believe this report bolsters our announcement in January for a judicious expansion of veterinary education, research and undergraduate outreach into several regions of the state through four Texas A&M System universities.”