$9 million grant to help launch new UA veterinary school in Fall - Tucson News Now

$9 million grant to help launch new UA veterinary school in Fall of 2015

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The top Arizona students who want to be veterinarians won't have to leave the state come next fall.

The University of Arizona plans to open the doors of the state's first veterinary school in 2015.

There are not nearly enough schools in this country for all the students who apply.

In fact, there's room for only about one out of a dozen qualified students every year.

A veterinary school in Tucson will help ease that shortage a little.

Plus, the benefits are expected to extend far beyond the classroom.

We're told the University of Arizona's School of Veterinary Medicine will incorporate ideas that are expected to cut costs for students and benefit existing veterinary practices and communities around Arizona.

"So this really is a win for everybody," says Dr. Shane Burgess, UA Vice Provost and Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Dr. Burgess also is a veterinarian.

He says the new veterinary medical and surgical program in Tucson will take innovative ideas from around the world and put them together in a package that works for Arizona.

He explains that students will benefit because, instead of taking the standard five academic years to graduate, students will be in school 48 weeks out of the year.

That means they will graduate in four years and be able to begin their careers a year earlier.

"This program has the same amount of education, the same amount of course content in fewer calendar years and, therefore, it costs less money to the students. And we use our buildings more efficiently, our other resources more efficiently. So we save money and we pass those cost savings on to the students," Burgess says.

Going to school 48 out of 52 weeks a year leaves no time for a summer job.

Dr. Burgess says an analysis shows students have a greater debt load after five years with low-paying summer jobs than they do if they attend school for four years with no summer job.

The university will be using existing buildings for the school.

Dr. Burgess says the UA will not be building it's own veterinary hospital that would take patients away from private veterinary practices.

Instead, Burgess says the UA's veterinary and surgical program will partner with veterinarians across Arizona.

Those partners will get fourth-year students for their practices.

"They'll receive revenue from us because they're part of the program. And they'll also receive equipment that they don't have now and that will enable those private practices to better serve their communities. So the communities win as well," Burgess says.

That gives students an additional benefit.

"They will see much larger caseloads. They'll see the real world experience. They'll see how veterinary medicine and surgery is practiced all around the state," Burgess says.

Dr. Burgess says Arizona and the entire western region require more veterinarians than any other region in the country.

He says there's especially a need for large animals veterinarians. 

As part of their studies, students also will be sent to UA facilities in Douglas, Yuma, Pinal County and the Verde Valley.

That's where Cottonwood and Sedona are.

Burgess says a $9 million grant from the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation will help pay for that investment.

It also will provide scholarships.

Dr. Burgess says the UA school will be a first in another way as well.

"For the first time ever, Arizona families and students will have a genuinely affordable route to becoming a DVM," Burgess says.

As for the qualified students who will never get into veterinary school because of the limited space available, Dr. Burgess says that's another place the UA program will be different.

He says the new veterinary school probably will be able to accept about 100 students, while right now there are about 600 UA students searching for places to go to veterinary school.

Burgess says under the current system, if a student doesn't get into a school nobody cares.

He says the UA program will be different because the courses can be applied toward a degree in another area.

"Under our system, if you don't get into veterinary school, then all courses and credits you took to that point are designed to flow back within the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences to degrees which are related to being a veterinarian, in all the animal production and animal health industries, in the biomedical industry, in the biotech industry."

Burgess says eventually, he wants to have a program to train veterinary nurse practitioners, especially for rural areas and the Native American reservations.

He says the new UA veterinary school also is partnering with the Reid Park Zoo, the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and the Pima Animal Care Center, Pima County's animal shelter.

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