$9 Million Gift to Support the University of Arizona’s Veterinary Medical and Surgical Program

The 160-acre Campus Agricultural Center is the site for the UA Veterinary Medical & Surgical Program (Photo courtesy of UA/Judy A. Davis)

The 160-acre Campus Agricultural Center is the site for the UA Veterinary Medical & Surgical Program (Photo courtesy of UA/Judy A. Davis)

A foundational gift of $9 million from the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation will support the state’s first public veterinary medical and surgical program to train Doctors of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Arizona. The program is targeting a 2015 fall semester launch.

The UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has been actively developing the program to address Arizona’s critical veterinary needs, including training more veterinarians, and improving animal and public health. A consultative site visit by the American Veterinary Medical Association occurred in January. A comprehensive AVMA site visit for program accreditation will happen soon.

“This program is incredibly important to Arizona and I thank the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation for their generous support,” said Ann Weaver Hart, UA president. “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.”

Established in 1990, the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation has previously invested in the UA in providing private support for the Marley Building and endowing Project CENTRL, a rural leadership initiative. In 2012, the foundation also made a $4.5 million gift to the UA Foundation to endow a research and extension program in sustainable rangeland stewardship.

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 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.

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 UA 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.

“Arizona students pay higher costs through non-resident or private tuition, incur more debt and often stay in the practices, or seek employment with, the out-of-state veterinary practices and companies where they intern as part of the out-of-state education,” said Shane Burgess. “We need the smart and dedicated people we train to stay here. Arizona’s hard-earned tax dollars need to promote Arizona’s future.”

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