Serving Every Texan Every Day: The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC)
Culminating a seven-year plan, the Texas A&M University System announced partnerships to expand veterinary medical education, research, undergraduate education, and outreach into several regions of the state through four Texas A&M System universities. The partnerships are between the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and West Texas A&M University (WTAMU), Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TMUK), and Tarleton State University.
In 2009, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) reported there was not a need for a second veterinary school, but that the CVM could increase enrollment to meet future state needs. The study focused on the need to increase the number of underrepresented minorities entering the veterinary profession and enlarging the pipeline of rural-based veterinarians to better serve the livestock industry and deer and wildlife interests.
All four of the Texas A&M System universities have significant underrepresented minority student populations, unique animal science programs, and ties to the livestock or wildlife industries in their regions:
- West Texas A&M operates its own feedlot in the Panhandle, a region that feeds a third of the nation’s beef cattle and boasts expanding dairy and swine industries. The Beef Carcass Research Center and the Nance Ranch Teaching and Research Facility are located there.
- Prairie View A&M’s International Goat Research Center, with more than 1,000 dairy and meat goats, is one of the largest and oldest goat research programs in the nation. It specializes in genetics, reproductive physiology, nutrition, and veterinary health.
- Texas A&M-Kingsville’s Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute is the leading wildlife research organization in Texas. It also has a Veterinary Technology program with a new state-of-the-art facility.
- Tarleton State operates the state’s only university-based dairy as a public-private partnership and collaborates regularly with the dairy cattle industry. The university also has a Veterinary Technology program.
In response, the Texas A&M University System began enhancing its agriculture programs at the four universities while planning a state-of-the-art Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) in College Station. With no state appropriation available for construction during the recession, the Texas A&M University System invested $120 million from the Permanent University Fund (PUF).
VBEC, opened in August 2016, allows the CVM to accept more veterinary students and create the partnerships that encourage more underrepresented minority and rural students, who are more likely to return to their home regions, to work as veterinarians and become community leaders who support the state’s agricultural economy.
The VBEC is key to extending the reach of veterinary education and research beyond College Station. While the state’s population has boomed, class size of the veterinary school remained virtually flat due to older, cramped facilities. The new facility allows the CVM to meet the needs for both the veterinary and livestock industries as the demand for veterinarians grows now and far into the future.
VBEC will easily accommodate an initial increased class size of 20 to 30 new veterinary students in each class, as well as increases to meet any needs in Texas into the foreseeable future. By providing new learning opportunities for students who attend the four Texas A&M System universities, the CVM intends to increase the number of students from those regions.
Toward that goal, the CVM intends to initially add veterinary faculty to teach undergraduate courses, strengthen the curriculum, and expand research partnerships with industry in each region as part of the statewide TVMC network. The CVM will offer relevant parts of the veterinary curriculum at sites other than College Station. The CVM has hired two faculty members to teach and conduct research at the TVMC at WTAMU The CVM will also seek appropriations to add more faculty at WTAMU and duplicate those efforts at PVAMU, TAMUK, and Tarleton State.
This cost-effective, graduated approach to expanding veterinary medical education leverages the state’s assets to their highest and best use while being mindful of Texas taxpayers and following the guidance of the THECB’s study.
Quotes from Texas A&M University System Leaders About the TVMC
“Texas agriculture feeds and clothes the country. We will always need small animal veterinarians to take care of our pets, but we also need more large animal veterinarians helping to protect our state’s agricultural economy.”
~ Chancellor John Sharp, Texas A&M University System
“This initiative is ultimately about service to our state. It extends the reach of our highly-ranked College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences while also putting the prospect of a veterinary education on the radar of more students throughout Texas.”
~ President Michael K. Young, Texas A&M University
“The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences has served animal owners in Texas and beyond for 100 years. We intend to expand our ability to respond to the needs of our diverse populations and to the needs of the veterinary profession by linking the vast strengths of Texas A&M across the state. This program puts boots on the ground where they are needed, as they are needed.”
~ Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University
“The Texas Panhandle provides the perfect setting for this partnership with the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine. The livestock industries that have helped build and sustain this area—beef, swine and equine—also provide invaluable educational experiences for our students. The partnership will help increase those experiences through research opportunities, and we are excited to be part of it.”
~ Dr. Walter V. Wendler, President, West Texas A&M University
“We are thrilled that Texas A&M has created this pipeline for more students to study Veterinary Medicine in the State of Texas. Agriculture education is vital to the success of every community and a cornerstone of Prairie View A&M University. We are proud that our faculty will be able to expand our tradition of service, research, and teaching in this critical area.”
~ Dr. George C. Wright, President, Prairie View A&M University
“This is a wonderful development for students from the veterinary technology program at Texas A&M-Kingsville. It will provide opportunities for collaboration with their peers around the A&M System and as well as the preparation necessary for veterinary school. It is a win-win situation for our students, the A&M System, and the state of Texas.”
~ Dr. Steven H. Tallant, President, Texas A&M University-Kingsville
“From our roots as an agricultural college, Tarleton has provided educational programs in animal health for many years. We operate the only university dairy in the state and have one of only two four-year Vet Tech programs in Texas. Over the past 10 years, we ranked near the top among universities sending students to the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. We are pleased to participate in this unique partnership that will help even more students reach their dream of becoming veterinarians.”
~ Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio, President, Tarleton State University
Leveraging and Synergizing Strengths
The CVM is creating an integrated system that connects distant communities and regions of the state through strategic partnerships. Key members of the Texas A&M System are logical pilot sites, starting with WTAMU and then PVAMU, TAMUK, and Tarleton State. After establishing programs at these sites, remaining needs and opportunities will be assessed.
These partnerships will leverage and synergize the strengths of the CVM, the Texas A&M University System, and constituencies to:
- Impact the health of Texas through advancing animal, human, and environmental health (Global One Health) throughout the state
- Invest in the young people of Texas, and therefore, the future of Texas, as they seek professional careers in veterinary medicine, biomedical sciences, and related disciplines
- Contribute to the stability and growth of the Texas economy by:
- Supporting and protecting the $15 billion Texas livestock industries, from large operations to small acreage livestock producers
- Enhancing the health and well-being of the $3 billion deer industry and the wildlife species of Texas
- Advancing the $4 billion veterinary profession, which provides jobs for Texans in rural and urban communities
- Encouraging and supporting rural veterinary medicine
- Ensuring diversity in the veterinary profession
Unique Contributions of Each TVMC Network Partner
Clearly, there is a strong need for statewide access to veterinary education and outreach programs, expanded collaborations in animal health research, and even greater service to the livestock industries, animal owners, and the veterinary profession. The recruitment, advisement, and mentorship of potential Texas A&M veterinary students from these communities will be impactful. This concept will facilitate the return of students to their home communities, where they will contribute to the economic viability of Texas communities, and at the same time increase the diversity of the veterinary profession in Texas. The partnerships that will make statewide access possible will comprise educational, research, and outreach components tailored to leverage the strengths of each institution and address the needs of their respective regions. Each of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) partnerships below offers unique, but related opportunities and benefits.
- The TVMC at West Texas A&M: Texas ranks first in the nation in cattle production. The Panhandle region yields tremendous economic value to the state, the cattle industry, and its economic well-being are constantly vulnerable to emerging infectious diseases, which could have devastating consequences. The health and welfare of animals and its impact on human health and the environment are of paramount importance. A partnership between WTAMU and the CVM, enriched by collaborations with Texas A&M AgriLife, the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), and the animal industries offers unique opportunities for a stronger, more tangible connection with the CVM.
- The TVMC at Prairie View A&M: Texas ranks first in small ruminants, both sheep and goats. PVAMU’s program emphasis on small ruminants is a natural fit for a partnership with the CVM to help address Texas small-acreage livestock health. Additional partnership possibilities include enhancing undergraduate opportunities in public health with Global One Health emphases and pre-veterinary interests.
- The TVMC at Texas A&M-Kingsville: With its focus on wildlife research and cervid (deer) research, the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at TAMUK provides a logical partnership for deer and wildlife medicine. Teaching, research, and outreach in wildlife medicine could be enriched and expanded as a result of stronger collaborative efforts with and presence of the CVM. In addition, TAMUK already has a veterinary technology program in which the CVM could be an asset.
- The TVMC at Tarleton State: With its presence in north central Texas and further growth in the Panhandle, the Texas dairy industry continues to expand. Tarleton State operates a large dairy in a unique private partnership arrangement in the region and rich collaborations exist with the dairy cattle industry. With its large number of pre-veterinary students and its veterinary technology program, Tarleton State is uniquely positioned for a stronger partnership with the CVM.
Guiding and Supporting Students
In all of the partnerships, promising young people with interest and aptitude in careers in veterinary medicine will be recruited and mentored to strengthen their pre-veterinary educational foundation and credentials. Further mentoring of veterinary students throughout their veterinary curriculum at the Texas A&M CVM will provide the guidance and support needed to pursue veterinary career paths relevant to the needs of Texas. Young people from rural backgrounds are more likely to return to rural communities, so particular emphasis will be placed on recruiting and guiding these students. In addition, high-impact learning opportunities for students, such as DVM externship programs, distance education, remote medicine, and telemedicine, will be provided. Relevant parts of the veterinary curriculum can be delivered at each site.
From the Student Perspective
The DVM class size at the CVM has been capped at 132 for many years, with an average of 35 Texas students attending veterinary school outside of Texas each year. With the completion of VBEC in June 2016, the CVM is moving toward increasing the annual DVM class size by 20 to 30 students to meet the near-term and future needs of the state in a responsible manner.
The recruitment, advisement, and mentorship of potential CVM veterinary students from rural communities will be impactful. This concept will facilitate the return of more students to their home communities, where they will contribute to the economic viability of Texas communities and at the same time increase the diversity of the veterinary profession in Texas.
The focus at each partner institution will be to recruit talented students from the region and help them be as successful as possible in the pre-veterinary program and then build the pipeline directly to the CVM at Texas A&M University.
A pre-veterinary program is one that has students who wish to pursue the field of veterinary medicine, earn a DVM degree, and enter one of the many careers that this degree prepares them to hold.
All pre-veterinary programs include a series of prerequisite course requirements that help to prepare students for the rigorous professional program. Doing well academically is important, but many factors are used to select each class of students, including leadership roles, veterinary and animal experience, and letters of reference. The existing pre-veterinary program at each school is already strong and this partnership will further help the students be uniquely prepared to enter the DVM program.
In this program, CVM faculty at each institution would integrate and help meet specific needs. After establishing programs at each Texas A&M System site, remaining veterinary needs in Texas and opportunities will be assessed.
The Best Investment for Texans
The CVM is part of the Texas A&M University System that allows us to reach and better serve all regions of the state and is a true strength within this initiative. The TVMC network allows for partnerships that meet specific regional needs. We have been building a quality program for the past 100 years, and are entering our second century. We have a proven record of training the very best veterinarians in the world.
As innovators, we are always looking for better ways to serve and have a 100-year history of building nationally and internationally recognized educational, research, and outreach programs of excellence.
We are a cost-effective source of professional education with one of the lowest tuitions and mean student debt levels in the nation. We are proud to provide the high quality education that makes us the third best program in the country at nearly the lowest cost in the nation. No one else provides better value added for their students.
The TVMC network will allow every Texas community to be better served by excellent educational opportunities for young people, cost-effective education and outreach, extension of faculty to meet regional needs, more communities receiving veterinary care, and directed research on issues that affect the animal industries of the state.
The ability to recruit a more diverse student body will be of great benefit to the student, the educational process, the profession, and the regional areas of the state where the students return to practice.
The TVMC network allows the CVM to serve the needs of Texas in the highest quality, most cost effective manner by creating an integrated network that connects distant communities and regions of the state through strategic partnerships.
This integrated network of Texas A&M University System partnerships will best leverage the investment of the state of Texas by expanding the reach of its nationally and internationally renowned college of veterinary medicine, and enable Texas to substantially expand its current veterinary strengths with a modest investment, particularly when compared to the initial and recurring investment required for a new veterinary school that wishes to achieve excellence.
This is a long-term plan and solution to the needs of the animal industries that are critical to the health of this state. We are asking animal industry leaders to partner with us and help recruit, train, and ensure the success of the very best students in Texas.