Our Past, Our Present and Our Future
The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is an
institution that represents more than 87 years of growth from a
small school of veterinary medicine in 1916 to its present role as
a major veterinary educational, medical and research center.
Through years of maturation and expansion, an institution emerged
that has proudly produced some of the nation's best practicing
veterinarians and continues to lead the nation in innovative
approaches to veterinary medical education.
The first attempt to teach veterinary
science at the Agricultural & Mechanical College (as Texas
A&M University was called) was made in the third session of the
college in 1878-79 when the college surgeon, D. Port Smythe, M.D.,
was also listed on the faculty as professor of anatomy, physiology
and hygiene. No course is described, however, and no further record
is available to indicate that such a course was actually given. It
is assumed that the proposed lectures would concern our domestic
animals, for this thought is clearly expressed in the catalog of
the fourth session. In April 1888, the college received a state
appropriation of twenty-five hundred dollars for equipping and
operating its Department of Veterinary Science, and on June 6,
1888, Dr. Mark Francis received his formal appointment to the
faculty. This marked the real beginning of professional veterinary
medicine in Texas; Francis was the first trained veterinarian at
the college and was destined to become one of the most
distinguished men in United States veterinary medicine.
It was the latter part
of July or the first of August when I arrived at College Station.
The college work at first was merely some classroom lectures to the
agricultural students. There were no laboratories or equipment for
this work. We had a room about 14 x 16 feet that was on the ground
floor of the Main Building (destroyed by fire in May 1912) that
served as office, classroom and laboratory. At the end of the
school year-June 1889-the adjoining room became vacant and was
assigned to us as a classroom. In this unsuitable place we toiled
for 15 years. There was no hospital. Along about December 1888 a
frame barn was built to serve this purpose. It was about 20 x 36
feet and was near where the Agriculture Building now stands ....
The following year a frame building was provided that served as a
It was Mark Francis, working under these conditions, who helped
prove that the tick was the culprit causing Texas cattle fever. He
developed effective inoculations for the fever that had plagued
Southern livestock since the late 1700s.
Changing Times, Changing Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary science was now on the move in
Texas, and the demand for veterinary services from the college was
increasing. This soon brought about another expansion of facilities
for the department in the creation of a veterinary hospital
building in 1908. In 1916 the School of Veterinary Medicine was
established with a complement of instructors and, two years later,
a new building, Francis Hall, was built. The new school opened its
doors in September 1916 with 13 students. At last it was possible
to earn a degree in veterinary medicine in Texas.
Texas veterinarians, along with the rest of the nation,
essentially made the transition from the horse and buggy to the
automobile age within the same short span of years that encompassed
the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, and the armistice in 1918.
Perhaps there was some symbolism in the meeting when Professor
David W. Williams, who was driving Mark Francis to an archeological
outing near the A&M College, passed a horse and buggy driven by
one of Francis' students. Francis hailed the driver, had Williams
pull over, and proceeded to inspect the horse (which he had
recently treated) and check its temperature (never orally),
oblivious to the fact that the student was accompanied by "a young
lady, all done up in organdy, ribbons, and the Lord only knows how
much embarrassment." One would have thought that the automobile,
cities and paved highways would have diminished greatly the demand
for trained veterinarians. Paradoxically, the new urban-industrial
society stimulated the demand for veterinarians.
The practice adjacent to
urban areas changed from large to predominantly small animal
practice and, particularly within the small animal field of
veterinary medicine, specialization began to develop. One of the
most dramatic changes of the postwar era had to do with the entry
of women into a field almost exclusively consisting of male
practitioners before World War II. Not only did women begin to
enter into veterinary medical practice in Texas after World War II,
but by the close of the 1980s women were well on the way to
comprising a majority of practitioners. Women were admitted to
Texas A&M University on a limited basis beginning in 1963 and
did not gain unrestricted admission until 1971. Following in the
footsteps of Dr. Sonja Oliphant Lee, the first woman graduate
(1966) of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, women
now represent over 60 percent of today's enrollment.
Today & Tomorrow
Veterinary medicine is in a constant
state of change as it adapts to the needs of a changing society and
as it is enhanced by the emerging technologies of science and
medicine. The role of the profession in modern society is being
extended. Veterinary medicine is critical in livestock production,
food hygiene, human and animal disease control and eradication,
public health, laboratory animal medicine, and even in the space
Small or companion animal
medicine comprises a larger than ever proportion of veterinary
practice. Likewise, exotic animal medicine and zoological medicine
claim an increasing segment of the veterinary professional staff.
Huddling on the horizon are a variety of activities and fields in
which veterinary medicine will have contributions. Mental health,
biomedical research, environmental health issues, wildlife
resources and wildlife biology are areas that increasingly require
the expertise of veterinary medical doctors and technologists.
Veterinary health care providers of the future may specialize in
business management, food science, public health, pathology,
epidemiology, toxicology, biochemistry, microbiology, animal and
poultry science and bioengineering under the general mantle of
Especially in Texas
Enticing areas of
future opportunity for Texas veterinarians and CVM faculty and
staff are in animal sports medicine and wildlife medicine. With
pari-mutuel betting legalized in the Texas, horse and dog racing
are bringing new opportunities to veterinary medicine. Expensive
racehorses, breeding programs, and the management of tracks and
animals will require equine and canine specialists of high caliber
and skill. Texas also has one of the nation's largest wildlife
reserves and most active exotic animal farming industries. Clinical
veterinarians, veterinary medical scientists and dedicated
technologists and staff personnel throughout the college support
this rapidly growing industry.
The story of veterinary medicine in
Texas and within the College of Veterinary Medicine is a microcosm
of a very ancient bond among animals and people, but there are some
distinctive aspects of veterinary medicine in Texas. For most of
its history, Texas has been intensely rural and agricultural. Its
cattle and other livestock industries helped stimulate the advent
of modern veterinary medicine. Its extensive international border
with Mexico has created special situations in veterinary medicine
and public health, and a significant number of CVM faculty
collaborate with the Mexican government, Mexican veterinary
educational institutions, and Mexican veterinarians. The military
history of Texas and its influences have directly affected the
national and even international development of veterinary medicine
and public health. Texas has only recently become one of the most
urban and populous of states, and its per capita ownership of pets
and animals of every kind is among the highest in the nation.
The College of Veterinary Medicine, in partnership with the
people of Texas and veterinary medicine in Texas, provides a
particularly vital example of the bond among people and animals and
of the special doctors, technologists and many other staff
personnel who work in the center of this very special
Chronological Events in the History of Veterinary Medicine at
Texas Agricultural Extension Station established as a division of
Texas A. and M. College under the provisions of the Hatch Act.
Erection of the Chemistry and Veterinary Building.
First Veterinary Association in Texas Organized at Fort Worth. Dr.
Mark Francis was elected president.
Veterinary Hospital Constructed.
School of Veterinary Medicine established. Dr. Mark Francis was
appointed the first Dean.
First grads (4) to receive DVM degrees from Texas A&M.
Texas A&M Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical
Dr. R.P. Marsteller appointed Dean.
Enrollment limited to 100 new students each year.
Dr. R.C. Dunn appointed Dean.
Veterinary Library Opened.
Dr. W.W. Armistead appointed Dean.
Erection of Veterinary Medical Hospital.
Erection of Veterinary Sciences Building.
Dr. Alvin A. Price appointed Dean.
The designation College of Veterinary Medicine replaces former
designation of School of Veterinary Medicine.
First woman admitted to the professional program.
First woman receives DVM degree from Texas A&M.
The Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory is
Dr. George C. Shelton appointed Dean.
Dr. John Shadduck appointed Dean.
The Veterinary Research Building and new Large Animal Clinic are
Dr. Robert F. Playter, Jr. appointed as Interim Dean.
Dr. H. Richard Adams appointed Dean.