Last year, Texas Tech announced plans for a veterinary school to be housed at the TTUHSC campus in Amarillo. Despite doubts from the Texas A&M System which is home to the only veterinary school currently operating in Texas, the Texas Tech System is continuing their efforts to make this school a reality. One faculty member involved with the planning told EverythingLubbock.com that the goal is for the first group of students to begin taking classes in 2019 at the Texas Tech veterinary school.
Guy Loneragan, Professor of Food Safety and Public Health as well as Interim Vice President for Research at Texas Tech, said that he is one of many people on the team crafting TTU's veterinary school plans. Loneragan adds expertise to the team because he is also a veterinarian, and many of his students in Animal Sciences say they wish they'd had the chance to attend Texas Tech for veterinary school as well.
"We hear that from students today and we hear that from former students," Loneragan said. "In fact we were in a meeting with some veterinarians just last month, and we heard from a student who came to Texas Tech in 1967 because he heard there was going to be a vet school. He since became a veterinarian through Texas A&M and he is thrilled that Texas Tech will finally be moving forward."
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Loneragan explained that Texas Tech has continued with their goal of building a veterinary school to train rural veterinarians who could provide assistance to the less populated and more agriculturally-based communities in Texas.
"We need to produce veterinarians who are willing to serve rural America, that's really where the shortage is," he said.
Loneragan said for the university that means selecting students with the desire to work in rural America and then providing them the training they will need to practice veterinary medicine in rural communities.
Tech is now looking for guidance from consultants and other universities.
"We've been working with the University of Calgary where they have a new model where they've graduated students and they've been able to produce students way above the North American average that go and work in rural America," Loneragan explained."So we want to take the strengths of what they're doing and implement them in West Texas."
Part of that goal involves partnering with local veterinarians to create mutually beneficial relationships which provide mentoring for students and energized young talent to local veterinary clinics.
Loneragan added that they hope to have approximately 6 students in each year, for a total of around 240 students. He said that TTU is hoping to make their veterinary school endeavor not prohibitively expensive for the students or the university.
"So veterinary education at the moment is one of those programs where there's large debt per student for graduates on average, so that's what we've been tasked to do is re-think the education model so that the graduates that we see have a much lower debt than the average," Loneragan said. "And we can do it [through] taking the best that we've learned from other schools on how to collaborate for a local communities."
Instead of having a large veterinary hospital on campus as many vet schools do, Texas Tech's main focus will be in pairing their 4th year students with rural private practices where they will gain hands-on experience.
"[These private practices] get the benefit of having a competent student contribute to their practice, and the student gets the benefit of having a really engaged mentor in the program," Loneragan explained. "It's been far more effective than we even hoped for, we've had vet practices that have volunteered to sign up already and we're still many years away from the program."
Loneragan explained that the next step for Texas Tech is to present their plans before the State Legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating board for approval, a process he hopes will begin this summer.