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Aug 25, 2014 11:34 AM EDT

University of Arizona to Start Veterinary Program


The University of Arizona will create the state's first veterinary medical and surgical program using a $9 million gift they received, school officials announced.

The program, which is targeting a 2015 fall semester launch, will train doctors of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Arizona. These institutions are rare in the United States -- the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges lists only 30 members, Inside Higher Ed reported.

"This program is incredibly important to Arizona and I thank the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation for their generous support," Ann Weaver Hart, president of the University of Arizona, said in a statement. "This innovative program will help the UA to meet a critical need for veterinarians throughout Arizona, and provide a vital talent base for the state's growing workforce needs."

The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Veterinary Medical and Surgical Program, as the new program will be called, will help address the critical veterinarian shortage in rural Arizona communities and tribal nations, benefit bioscience businesses and promote public health. This gift, which will be counted toward the University's $1.5 billion Arizona NOW campaign, exemplifies the Marley Foundation's goals of backing health and human services, supporting education and advancing medical research and facilities.

The program will run year-round so students complete their degrees faster, incur less debt and enter the workforce more rapidly. In what is called a distributive model, the final two semesters will be spent working in private veterinary practices, government agencies or other community partnerships to secure hands-on, real world learning in communities throughout the state.

Other clinical training partners will include federal and state animal health labs and regulators, U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security, and animal shelter and rescue agencies. The University of Arizona already has letters of interest from many prospective partners.

Currently, Arizona students interested in becoming veterinarians must compete for veterinary school admissions at out-of-state institutions, many of which favor resident students. For example, 1,600 applicants competed for 138 seats at Colorado State University. Only 55 of these seats are open to applicants outside Colorado, and just a handful of these are filled by Arizonans.

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