Utah State University making a case for its own college of veterinary medicine

DJ Anderson and Tyeisha Watters lift up a goat to perform an ultrasound at the Animal Science Farm.

DJ Anderson, Equine Education Center manager, left, and Tyeisha Watters, a sophomore vet student at University of Utah, lift up a goat to perform an ultrasound at the Animal Science Farm in Logan on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. | Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the need for more veterinarians

It may have taken a pandemic to shed light on the importance of veterinary medicine.

As more people worked from home or otherwise left the workforce as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, there was an explosion in the adoption of companion animals. One national poll indicates that among 5,000 households surveyed, nearly 20% acquired a cat or dog since the start of the pandemic and the vast majority of them plan to keep them.

The adoptions resulted in growing demand for veterinary care, said Ken White, dean of Utah State University’s College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences.

Between Utah’s growing human population and those who “found great solace in having a pet and a companion, the amount of veterinary work for the state of Utah has just gone through the roof,” he said.

To better meet demands for care and enhance educational opportunities in the state, Utah State University is proposing to pivot from a collaboration with Washington State University to educate doctors of veterinary medicine to establishing its own college of veterinary medicine.

Plans envision cohorts of 80 students over time, compared to 30 in the university’s existing partnership with Washington State in which students complete two years of foundational study at the Logan-based school and complete the final two years in Pullman, Washington. Among the 30 students who receive half of their training at USU, 20 are Utah students.

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“Utah is ranked 42nd out of 50 in the number of veterinarians per capita population. So certainly we’re not keeping up with the demand with the 20 Utah students we’re graduating right now. So I think there’s a lot of room and a lot of agreement that we need additional trained veterinary medicine doctors,” said White, who also is vice president of USU Extension.

USU President Noelle Cockett, in a presentation to the Utah Board of Higher Education on Friday, said more veterinarians are needed in research fields as well.

“For instance, we have the Institute for Antiviral Research that’s currently working on treatments and vaccines for COVID as well as other viruses. They use laboratory animals as models for human pathogens, primarily because that’s where many of our human pathogens originate,” she said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, among human pathogens, 61% originate in animals. “That’s the case for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic, brucellosis, Lyme disease and rabies,” USU documents state.

Cockett said the workforce also needs veterinarians to staff clinics in big box pet stores and animal rescues and to perform regulatory functions such as meat grading for the U.S. Department of Agriculture “so there’s a tremendous need right now for additional production of veterinarians with a …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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