Below is the full text of the speech Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M, gave during the 2+2 DVM program announcement press conference on Thursday, Sept. 5, at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.
What a special occasion! We stand here today in front of the emerging Texas A&M University Veterinary Education Research & Outreach Facility (VERO) on the West Texas A&M University campus to share with you the next big milestone for the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and West Texas A&M University through the VERO initiative to support veterinary education and healthcare in the livestock epicenter of our nation here in the Texas Panhandle.
Imagine a 2+2 DVM program in which you, as a pre-veterinary student, or your son or daughter, or your grandchild, or your friend’s student will be able to stay right here in the Texas Panhandle, right here in Canyon, Texas on the WTAMU campus to complete the first two years of veterinary school at one of the top ranked veterinary schools in the nation and the world.
Imagine these students, along with other Texas A&M veterinary students with an interest in food animal or rural veterinary medicine, returning to the Texas Panhandle in the fourth year of the DVM curriculum for new, immersive clinical rotations in which they will work side‐by‐side with both outstanding veterinary practitioners and Texas A&M veterinary faculty members who work here in the Texas Panhandle. They wil work with veterinary icons like Drs. Joe and Carol Hillhouse, Dr. Gregg Veneklasen, Dr. Steve Lewis, and others.
Imagine the experience students will gain as these clinical rotations include experiences in the most important aspects of the livestock industry in the Texas Panhandle—including feedlots, dairies, and cow/calf, swine, and other livestock operations.
The rapidly emerging VERO building we stand before today will house the 2+2 DVM curriculum. It will also serve as a learning space to supplement the existing DVM externship programs and the new clinical rotations in the Texas Panhandle. It will be a regional veterinary teaching center that will facilitate collaborative, multidisciplinary research among scientists from across the region. It will attract students and veterinarians from across the nation.
VERO is both a symbol and culmination of the hard work of many, many people whose efforts have directly impacted our ability to bring this initiative to fruition. Texas A&M University is fully behind this exciting initiative and we are grateful to President Michael Young and Provost Carol Fierke for being so supportive and for identifying recurring funds. We especially thank President Walter Wendler, Provost Wade Shaffer, Dean Kevin Pond, and the entire West Texas A&M team. They have proven they are the kind of partners one would get into the harness with—and that says it all.
I must highlight the faculty, because people make programs. I have never seen faculty more dedicated to and enthusiastic about a cause, including West Texas A&M faculty, led by Lance Kieth, and Texas A&M veterinary faculty in both Canyon and College Station, led by Dr. Susan Eades. This includes our VERO faculty team of Drs. Dee Griffin, Dan Posey, Paul Morley, and Sarah Capik. Thanks also to our VERO Advisory Council members, including president and CEO of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Ross Wilson, and Director of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, Dr. Guyman Helman.
We also thank Chancellor John Sharp and the Texas A&M University System for their $90 million investment in this effort to support the Texas Panhandle and its livestock industries. Finally, we must thank the Texas legislature for investing in this program. Because of this broad support, VERO is bound to be the best of its kind, as it advances the livestock industries, veterinary medicine, career opportunities for young people, and the local economy. How often does one have the opportunity to be the best in the nation or to invest in or be a part of the best of its kind.
It seems like only yesterday when planning for VERO launched in 2009. The first meeting was in the administrative offices of West Texas A&M University and included representative from both universities, local veterinarians, and livestock industry representatives. We asked what we could do to better serve the Texas Panhandle and the livestock industries.
We are proud of the strides we have made in addressing the critical need for food animal and rural veterinarians in Texas, both in College Station and through our VERO initiative here in the Texas Panhandle. The targeted pipeline program has already doubled the number of Texas Panhandle and West Texas‐area students entering Texas A&M’s veterinary college. The summer intership program we had on paper since 2009 was finally able to be launched when we put Texas A&M faculty here. Through VERO’s summer internship program, a total of 15 Aggie veterinary students have spent the past three summers in the Texas Panhandle, working in beef feedlots, and dairy and swine facilities, as well as in rural practices—with an additional 10 participants anticipated next year.
In addition, the CVM’s longstanding Food Animal Production Tour recently reached a milestone of introducing its 100th student to these industries through an activity that showcases all of what the Texas Panhandle has to offer. These activities have had a huge influence on the students who participate, and we attribute the work of the VERO team to the success our veterinary college has seen in recruiting additional students from the Texas Panhandle who are interested in returning to these communities to work.
We firmly believe that the immediate implementation of the new, immersive fourth‐year clinical rotations in the Texas Panhandle, beginning next summer—you heard me correctly, I said the summer of 2020—will have a huge impact on DVM students intending to serve the region as practicing veterinarians.
In our next steps, the completion of the $22‐million, 22,000‐square foot VERO facility behind us will only further the progress we’ve made.
As we seek Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and AVMA Council on Education final approvals for our 2+2 DVM program, we are even more excited about the potential of bringing Texas A&M and the largest, most affordable, and 4th‐ranked DVM program in the nation to students from the Texas Panhandle and rural Texas in the Texas Panhandle. We have students starving for this type of experience which no other veterinary school in the nation will be able. to provide as we combine the power of Texas A&M University, West Texas A&M University, and the Texas Panhandle.
The CVM is dedicated to meeting the needs of the state and our students in the most innovative, high‐quality, effective, and cost‐efficient manner possible.
As well‐known actor Christopher Reeve once said, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then, they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
Once again, thanks to all for making our dreams an inevitable reality through a Texas powerhouse investment and building incredible synergy here in Canyon, to make a difference in the Texas Panhandle and the State of Texas. I am honored and privileged to be part of this exciting journey.
I would like to close with one more “imagine.” Imagine a few years from now when we all look back to reflect on what these two great universities, their faculty staff, students, and graduate veterinarians, the livestock industries, the Texas legislature, and the Texas Panhandle communities have done—together.
Thank you all for coming today.