Texas-sized livestock program taking shape at West Texas A&M University

Veterinary Education, Research & Outreach (VERO) facilitySharp breaks ground on two new facilities, welcomes top large animal expert to the Panhandle

The Texas A&M University System’s effort to build the strongest livestock program in the nation moved three-steps forward today as officials broke ground on two new facilities and announced the hiring of one of the top large animal veterinarians in the world at West Texas A&M University.

“Today’s ground breakings are the culmination of our $90 million investment in the future of large animal health in the Panhandle,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “This investment — and the buildings we are breaking ground on here today — ensure The Texas A&M University System continues to not only meet but exceed the needs of this region and the state in the future.”

Sharp joined local elected officials to break ground on the new Veterinary Education, Research & Outreach (VERO) facility, as well as the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL).

The VERO facility will serve as a learning space to supplement externship programs in rural Texas. The more than 22,000 square foot facility, budgeted at $22 million, will be a regional veterinary teaching center that will facilitate collaborative, multidisciplinary research among scientists from across the region.

Dr. Paul Morley will serve as the director of research at the VERO facility, Sharp announced. “Dr. Morley is one of the best-respected large animal veterinarians in the world,” Sharp said. “His presence brings instant prestige to the VERO facility’s efforts.”

A Nevada native, Morley is accustomed to raising cattle and earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from Washington State University. He specializes in epidemiology and has been a professor at Colorado State University for the past 20 years.

“I’m really looking forward to showing all levels of students how exciting research can be and how important it is for the future of agriculture and the future of veterinary medicine,” Morley said. “The Panhandle is one of the true jewels in the world, in regard to opportunities for intensive animal production and all of the work and careers that go along with that.”

Adjacent to the VERO facility, the TVMDL facility, budgeted at $17.6 million, will feature all the latest technology to provide the best in diagnostic capabilities. The 11,233 square foot building will house labs for bacteriology, pathology, serology and virology as well as spaces for receiving and processing and necropsy and support.

“These new state-of-the-art facilities create a highway of research activity from WTAMU to TAMU that supports animal health in this region,” Dr. Walter Wendler, president of WTAMU, said. “This partnership brings together the System’s universities to extend their reach and address Texas’ large animal veterinary needs.”

The TVMDL building will be named the Charles W. Graham, DVM Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory after Dr. Graham, a Texas A&M Distinguished Alumnus and one of Texas’ most renowned equine veterinarians.

Graham’s veterinary practice led to the establishment of Southwest Stallion Station, a horse-breeding business responsible for the nation’s most famous quarter horses. He is the only person to serve as president of both the Texas Quarter Horse Association and the Texas Thoroughbred Breeders Association. In addition to the equine industry, he is recognized as a successful cattleman and founder of Graham Land and Cattle Company, specializing in Braham-influenced cattle.

Sharp said that the two new facilities under construction are an important part of The Texas A&M University System’s “Serving Every Texan Every Day” initiative to partner with four system schools — WTAMU, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Tarleton State University and Prairie View A&M University — to expand the veterinary medical education, research, undergraduate education and outreach throughout the state.

Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Services (CVM) established the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Complex at WTAMU to address the shortage of large animal veterinarians in Texas.

“The VERO facility will be the most cost-effective and innovative game-changer in support of rural veterinary medicine in the Texas Panhandle,” said Dr. Eleanor M Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “With Dr. Morley on board at VERO, the exchange of knowledge on the information superhighway between WTAMU and the CVM for the benefit of Texas and the livestock industry will accelerate.”

About The Texas A&M University System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.55 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 148,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $972 million in FY 2016 and helped drive the state’s economy.

About West Texas A&M University

West Texas A&M University, a member of The Texas A&M University System, is located at the heart of the Texas Panhandle and serves the top 26 counties of the state. With a budget of more than $138 million, the University serves more than 10,000 students with 59 undergraduate programs, 38 graduate programs and two doctoral programs. Most programs have the option to be completely online and rank competitively in national publications such as U.S. News and World Report.

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VERO Groundbreaking Remarks
by Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. Dean of Veterinary Medicine
at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Fri., Dec. 20, 2018 | Canyon, Texas

What a special occasion!  What a perfect day for this occasion! The sun is out and it is brisk. The wind is high enough to blow us into this wonderful building, the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, and into the Johnny and Jana Trotter Classroom.  I welcome you all to the future home of the Texas A&M University Veterinary Education, Research and Outreach Facility (or VERO as we affectionately call it) on the campus of West Texas A&M University.

It took many people throughout Texas to make this a reality. Thank you, Chancellor John Sharp, for your vision and your resolve to leverage the strengths of the entire Texas A&M University System to give back to Texas on many fronts, the latest being VERO. Thank you, President Walter Wendler and your entire West Texas A&M University team, for being ideal partners and collaborators on this venture. Distinguished members of the VERO Advisory Council, thank you for generously sharing your valuable counsel and for being here today to celebrate together. Thanks to Dr. Susan Eades, head of the College’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, whose work is just beginning as she helps further link College Station and the Texas Panhandle. Thanks as well to so many others who have championed this initiative in the Texas Panhandle. We are grateful to all of you who have been with us every step of the way.

Today marks the culmination of an idea that began nearly 10 years ago. In 2009, many of you in this room were there for the first meeting on this campus in the WTAMU administration building—veterinarians, livestock industry leaders, faculty from Texas A&M and WTAMU, including the late, great Dr. Dean Hawkins. Out of those meetings came a new and innovative approach to expand the Texas pipeline of young people to Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, to encourage their path back to rural communities, to support the livestock industries and veterinarians who serve them, and to catalyze economic growth in the Texas Panhandle region.

The timing for such a facility in the Texas Panhandle couldn’t be better.  It builds upon the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science’s 100-year legacy of veterinary educational excellence and cutting-edge innovation, at a time when its DVM class size has been increased to meet needs.  In fact, continued significant investment by the Texas A&M University System in the Texas Panhandle ensures VERO to be a momentous game-changer.

What will VERO mean to you? Imagine veterinary students coming to VERO for parts of their veterinary education for significant, impactful experiences, such as summer internships in feedlots and externships with practicing veterinarians, like those here today.  Imagine veterinarians coming here from around the world to strengthen their capabilities in livestock veterinary medicine and learn about this region in the livestock epicenter of the world. Imagine the research that will be accomplished for livestock health, all of which will be shared in real-time with producers and veterinarians. Imagine the training opportunities for the livestock workforce. Imagine all of these contributing to a world class program.

Our latest success is that we targeted and actively recruited Dr. Paul Morley to join the VERO team to lead the research enterprise.  Dr. Morley is a prominent large animal veterinarian who is famous within the veterinary profession and highly respected by the livestock industries nationwide.  His expertise is surpassed only by his character.  He is a game-changer.

Dr. Morley joins Dr. Dee Griffin and Dr. Dan Posey, who have pioneered this program for the past two years, creating an exceptional learning environment for students, hosting industry gatherings, and building strong partnerships within the Texas Panhandle region.  We are also fortunate to share Dr. Sarah Capik, a researcher, in a joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife Research.  This team will round out the veterinary education, research, and outreach missions of VERO.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have our current DVM students, many of whom are focused on coming back to this region to work.  For example, Trent Dozier, who will graduate in May 2019 with his DVM degree, said, “It would be a great privilege to work day in and day out with the salt-of-the-earth people in West Texas to ensure that the livestock and ranching industry continues to endure for generations to come.”

Taylor Williams, a 2nd year DVM student said, “When I return to the Panhandle, I plan to help West Texas A&M pre-veterinary students by offering them internships at my practice out there. I am excited to go back, serve my community, and invest in the future of veterinarians.”

We are graduating more and more students every year who want to come back to this area to work and live.  This new VERO Facility will provide a place for those students to gather, learn, grow, and build their successful futures.

The VERO facility will be the most cost-effective and innovative game-changer in support of rural veterinary medicine in the Texas Panhandle.  The VERO team will form a virtual superhighway between West Texas A&M and the CVM at Texas A&M, merging and leveraging the strengths of both for unimaginable success.

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 of our Texas A&M University System leaders, but especially Chancellor Sharp and President Wendler, 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, our state, nation, and world.  I am honored and privileged to be part of the journey.  Thank you all for coming today.

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)