Texas A&M University System bringing veterinary medicine to West Texas
Texas A&M University said they can exclusively meet the needs of veterinary education in Texas as competition grows to offer classes in West Texas and bring more vets to rural areas.
This week, the Texas A&M University System announced an expansion of veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences to West Texas A&M in Canyon. It's part of a $22.8 million facility expansion.
But, Texas Tech is also working on a plan to bring a future vet school to Amarillo. Texas A&M officials have said in the past their College Station campus is built to meet the needs for more veterinarians.
"This campus right here is going to become, along with the feed lots and the dairies and the agriculture production here, is going to become the number one agriculture and veterinary complex that exists anywhere in the country," said John Sharp, Texas A&M University System Chancellor.
“It’s going to be, I would predict, the number one research facilities for large animals, feed lots, dairies and things like that that exist anywhere in the country," said Sharp.
"Because we’re also putting our state agencies Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory and some of our research labs in this complex together," he said.
"Our program here at West Texas A&M is actually the starting, a pipeline for students from the Panhandle and South Plains to getting them into veterinary school and we know that 60 percent of them will return home to serve the rural needs of Texas," said Dan Posey, who will oversee the program as an extension of what's offered in College Station. Posey is the West Texas A&M Academic Coordinator Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center.
“This is actually an extension of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences into the Panhandle. This program will allow us to educate the future food animal and rural practitioners of Texas," he explained.
"I think it's great that they are able to expand into a new area of Texas. This will hopefully give the veterinary students a much more well-rounded education," said James Baggs, with West Villa Maria Veterinary Clinic in Bryan.
Dr. Baggs says there are challenges bringing vets to rural areas. Attending veterinarian school at Texas A&M can cost around $26,000 a year.
"Just because there's a need for a veterinarian in certain locations, it doesn't necessarily mean that those locations will be able to support a young veterinarian, with the level of loans and educational expenses that they've had to endure for four years," he said.
“Honestly, I think it’s fantastic for the field. I know one of the greatest things about the West Texas campus was the exposure to the food animal side of veterinary medicine. A lot of people in College Station don't get exposed to that side," said first-year veterinary medicine student Charity Landes.
"I think that’s something that we definitely need in the profession right now," she continued.
Eleanor Green, the Dean of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said the partnership with West Texas A&M will bring many benefits to the state. The Texas Panhandle region leads the nation in livestock production.
The new facility should be ready by 2020. Texas A&M officials said their plans have been in the works for about nine years and not in response to what other schools, like Texas Tech are doing to expand veterinary medicine.