Veterinary Medicine Program
- Why is UAF considering a professional veterinary medicine program?
- What is a 2+2 veterinary medicine program?
- Why does Alaska need to train veterinarians?
- So how can a Department of Veterinary Medicine help Alaska?
- One Health? What is that?
- How can we reorganize existing faculty and resources without harming existing programs at UAF?
- Are there any benefits for research at UAF?
- Is creating this new department somehow linked to the re-organization of the animal facilities?
- Who is on the Steering Committee?
Why is UAF considering a professional veterinary medicine program?
In November 2009, one of the UA Regents asked Chancellor Rogers if Alaska had ever considered creating a veterinary school. The answer was no and that a 4 year professional veterinary medical program was not practical for Alaska; however, this question started a discussion on whether UAF could develop some type of program tied to an established school or college in veterinary medicine. With at least 8 veterinarians already on faculty and staff at UAF and several other faculty members with experience at professional medical colleges elsewhere, UAF can build on existing resources and programs to create a meaningful academic and research program, including pre-health advising. Although several events have propelled this discussion one of the most significant was when the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University asked if we might consider a 2+2 program.
What is a 2+2 veterinary medicine program?
This is a collaborative Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree program between an existing accredited veterinary college and another university. In brief, students can take their 1st and 2nd year of the professional veterinary medical program at UAF and their 3rd and 4th year at the veterinary teaching hospital at CSU. It has similarities to the WWAMI medical program with UAA and the University of Washington. This also encourages students to stay in Alaska and attend the University of Alaska (UA) to obtain pre-requisites, remain an Alaska resident, be eligible for UA-specific financial aid, and reduces the financial and logistical burdens on students and their families.
Why does Alaska need to train veterinarians?
UAF conducted a Veterinary Needs Assessment in June-August 2010. There is strong support for and a recognized need from the Alaska-based veterinarians as well as the general public.
First off people need to shed the stereotypical image of a veterinarian. Veterinary medicine offers a wide variety of career choices to those entering the profession (note those at UAF). Veterinarians are the only professionals qualified to address the health and welfare of animals and to work at the interface of animal and human health as licensed practitioners and via other means. For this reason veterinarians are engaged in a broad spectrum of health disciplines in such diverse areas as clinical practice, teaching and research, regulatory medicine, public health, military service and wildlife medicine among many others. Veterinarians are involved in local, state and federal governments, working with legislators to shape laws that protect the health, welfare and well-being of animals and people. Veterinarians work closely with other professionals in biomedical sciences and this would be reflected in the construct of the proposed Department and 2+2 program.
At present there is a nationwide shortage of veterinarians that extends to Alaska. This is particularly apparent in rural veterinary medicine, public health, food safety, and in biomedical research. At UAF we are uniquely positioned to address all of these areas. The primary reason we currently have so many veterinarians with advanced degrees and certifications is because of our biomedical research infrastructure building programs, such as the Alaska INBRE program.
So how can a Department of Veterinary Medicine help Alaska?
Families with members interested in obtaining a degree in veterinary medicine face barriers that residents of other states do not. First, being a resident of Alaska currently does not allow a level playing field for admission as they are placed in a pool of “Out of State” applicants that only accepts very few students from 100s of applicants per year. Secondly, the families or student must face “Out of State” tuition costs that can be many-fold higher than for the other students considered (“In State” or residents of the state where the program exists). This 2+2 program, as proposed, eliminates these two barriers and allows the student to remain in Alaska for 75% or more of the time required to obtain pre-requisites and the first to years of professional school.
The above focus on veterinary training inherently allows this group of faculty to focus on “pre-health” and this will benefit students with interests in other medical professions.
For existing veterinarians this Department will offer opportunities to work within the UAF, workshops, continuing education courses, facilities and services to enhance their practice (animal care), and many other facets. This will also improve the veterinary work at the UAF as many of our private sector veterinarians have skills that will enhance our educational and research endeavors.
One Health? What is that?
The One Health Initiative (formerly one medicine) is a fairly old concept that strives to break down barriers that prevent advancement of medicine and public health.
One Health shall be achieved through:
1. Joint educational efforts between human medical, veterinary medical schools, and schools of public health;
2. Joint communication efforts in journals, at conferences, and via allied health networks;
3. Joint efforts in clinical care through the assessment, treatment and prevention of cross-species disease transmission;
4. Joint cross-species disease surveillance and control efforts in public health;
5. Joint efforts in better understanding of cross-species disease transmission through comparative medicine research;
6. Joint efforts in the development and evaluation of new diagnostic methods, medicines and vaccines for the prevention and control of diseases across species and;
7. Joint efforts to inform and educate political leaders and the public sector through accurate media publications.
How can we reorganize existing faculty and resources without harming existing programs at UAF?
The Dean of CNSM and UAF Chancellor are investing resources to preserve essential components for the reallocation process. The proposed Department would offer “service” courses that are considered required or essential to other Departments and the professional courses will be made available to other students (graduate).
The proposed Dept intends to focus pre-health advising and this should relieve the burden on other Departments while those students remain matriculated in those Departments.
Are there any benefits for research at UAF?
Having a professional program at UAF shows a high level of credibility and commitment to biomedicine. Creating this new program also highlights a major emphasis of the INBRE and SNRP funding.
Awards specific for DVMs or for translational needs that can come from a health professional program can now be targeted. DVMs seeking graduate degrees will be attracted to UAF and we can work with CSU to increase opportunities for students wishing to pursue a combined DVM/PhD program.
The new department can also play a significant role with existing IAB faculty and the UAF Animal Resources Center to develop our animal research base. Specifically, we can focus on new and unique animal models of human disease that can be quite prominent in Alaska.
Is creating this new department somehow linked to the re-organization of the animal facilities?
No. The re-organization of the animal facilities is following a nationwide trend for centralized management. Thus the favored model for accreditation of our research facilities because it promotes the humane care and use of animals while ensuring high quality research. Accreditation is an important step for ensuring the success of biomedical research in this state. We do expect that the new Department of Veterinary Medicine, along with our other research and educational programs, will utilize existing animal facilities for both research and teaching activities. In addition, the comparative medicine elements of our Animal Resources Center is a critical component of our new training programs.