2017 Food Animal DVM Track Graduates

Just about every weekday of the school year, a 24-year-old veterinary student leaves his family’s farm in Milam County and drives 45 minutes in an early model F-250 to start his day at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

Brought up in Gause (population: 400), Benjamin Snowden has been unwavering in his goal to live and work in rural Texas. As he puts it, it has always been his plan to make a living by “serving rural Texas and the agriculture industry.”

When Snowden graduates in May, he and seven of his classmates will be part of the first group of graduates in the new food animal track offered by the CVM. When they leave College Station after graduation, the food animal track graduates will all likely be headed to the rural communities that need them and their newly acquired skills with cattle and other food animals. They will be part of communities with 6-man football, show barns, and simple living. Snowden is considering a Large Animal Ambulatory Practice in Milam county and surrounding areas.

“My love, my goal, is to really serve the food animal industry,” said Snowden. “On a community level, it’s how I’d like to contribute. The Lord is good at pointing you in the direction of how He chooses for you to serve Him.”

The new food animal track was designed to make sure Texas A&M can help meet the needs of rural communities in the Panhandle and throughout Texas where hard-working people raise the cattle, goats, sheep, and swine that provide so much to America.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said officials at the veterinary school heard about the need for more food animal veterinarians and they responded accordingly.

“At Texas A&M, we are working hard to meet the needs of rural Texas as we send some of our finest graduates to practice in our state’s countryside,” Chancellor Sharp said. “We heard the call from state leaders, and we delivered.”
Dr. Eleanor Green, the Carl B. King dean of veterinary medicine, along with her team designed the food animal track for veterinary students after members of the Texas Legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board identified a need for more rural-based food animal veterinarians.

“The CVM has served the livestock industries continually for the last 100 years,” said Dr. Eleanor Green. “Currently, the CVM is working to produce more food and fiber livestock veterinarians. We have developed a robust student mentorship program and a specific food animal clinical track, and are very proud of our first graduates. We look forward to contributing to their continuous learning as they serve the great State of Texas.”

In order to participate in the food animal track, in the third year of the curriculum students must choose significant hours of elective course work supportive of their food animal interest and identify a food animal faculty mentor within the CVM. Following acceptance into the Food Animal Track, students work with their mentors to plan rotations within the CVM and rotations outside the college to meet their specific areas of interest.

Like his classmates in the food animal track, Chase Key also looks forward to practicing in rural Texas following graduation. “It’s a way to help your community. It’s a simpler way of life,” Key said. He’s also the son a practicing veterinarian, and notes that he is most comfortable in small towns where everyone knows their neighbors. “Growing up like that—it draws you back,” he said.

Places like College Station or Sweetwater are pretty big, he admitted, and Abilene is simply huge from his perspective. The San Saba native said he looks forward to knowing his community and making farm calls to care for sick or injured animals. “I am interested in a Bovine internship then I would like to move into a mixed animal practice in a small town. I enjoy the lifestyle that a small town gives. I have always owned animals and was very active with rodeo and stock showing growing up,” said Key.

Key, the salutatorian in his high school graduation class of 54 students, isn’t sure where he will end up practicing. Maybe, he will work with his father in San Saba, but perhaps, he will venture out on his own. Recalling time he spent on Plainview feedlots with 70,000 animals, Key imagined working someplace new. “There are areas in the Panhandle that I wouldn’t mind going to.”

Beyond the food animal track offered at the new $123 million academic complex at Texas A&M, Chancellor Sharp and Dean Green also have created another strategy to meet the needs of the state’s food animal industry. The CVM is part of a unique partnership with four universities within the Texas A&M University System. The goal is to encourage more underrepresented minorities and students from rural communities to become veterinarians and return to their hometowns to live and work. The universities in the partnership include: West Texas A&M University; Tarleton State University; Prairie View A&M University; and Texas A&M University–Kingsville.

More 2017 Food Animal DVM Track Graduates

Michael Forrester
Alpine, Texas
Food animal focus:
Beef cattle (cow-calf)
Your plans after graduation:
I’m talking several clinics in Pampa, Clifton, and Mission, plus two equine-heavy clinics in New Mexico and Montana.
Your reason for going into food animal:
I wanted to work with cattle and producers, work with more species than small animal veterinarians, and I knew of the shortage of food animal veterinarians.

Garrett Janke
Hometown: Needville, Texas
Food animal focus: Beef cattle (cow-calf)
Your plans after graduation: Wharton Veterinary Clinic in Wharton, Texas
Your reason for going into food animal: I grew up on a small farm and knew I wanted to become a rural, mixed animal veterinarian. From this background, I understand first-hand how important livestock are financially to producers and their families. I want to provide them with a service that not only supports them, but provides consumers with a safe and wholesome product.

Aaron Rode
Hometown: Llano, Texas
Food animal focus: Cattle
Your plans after graduation: I’d like to work in a rural or mixed animal practice in central Texas.
Your reason for going into food animal: I grew up on a ranch in Llano county and wanted to continue to work in agriculture and help farmers and ranchers improve their production quality.

Annella Stanford
Hometown: Linden, Texas
Food animal focus: Cattle
Your plans after graduation: The ideal plan is a mixed animal job.
Your reason for going into food animal: I grew up with cattle, I wanted to track food animal to gain more experience specifically with cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs than what the large animal track had to offer (which is predominantly horses). I always planned to work in a mixed animal vet clinic in a rural town and hopefully be an owner someday.

Brittany Thompson
Hometown: Allen, Texas
Food animal focus: Production medicine
Your plans after graduation: I’m still working on it, but I’d like to work in a mixed animal practice with at least 50% food animal medicine.
Your reason for going into food animal: I grew up with a family cow-calf operation, but it was during my undergraduate studies that my professors instilled a passion for helping producers efficiently and safely raise animals to produce food for the world.

David Wilbur
Hometown: Colleyville, Texas
Food animal focus: Everything from cattle to commercial fish, but I will predominantly see cattle.
Your plans after graduation: I’d like to work in a mixed (predominantly food animal) practice.
Your reason for going into food animal: I enjoy the people, the animals, the outdoors, the community of rural practices,
and the challenge of food animal medicine.

» Download a PDF of the Food Animal & Rural Practice Student Stories booklet (Jan. 2019)