Montana State University

Montanans can now enroll in new veterinary medicine program

August 2, 2013 -- MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN – Montana students now have the opportunity to enroll in the first Montana-centered veterinary medicine program being offered in cooperation with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University.

 Students can apply online through Oct. 2. Classes will begin in August 2014.

Applicants should go to https://portal.vmcas.org/ and apply to the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine as Montana residents, said Rebecca Mattix, a Montana State University teaching professor and pre-veterinary adviser who earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at WSU. A supplemental application will then ask detailed questions about pursuing admission through the Montana Cooperative Veterinary Medicine Program. The Montana Legislature and Gov. Steve Bullock approved the creation of, and funding for, the program during the 2013 legislative session.

Ten Montanans will be chosen for the new Montana Cooperative Veterinary Medicine Program, Mattix said. She added that the admissions committee -- made up of MSU and WSU faculty and representatives from the Montana veterinary and livestock industries – will identify students who have strong ties to Montana and want to work in food animal medicine and other areas of emphasis across the veterinary profession.

Acceptance to the Montana Cooperative Veterinary Medicine Program provides students the unique opportunity to continue their education in Montana, while establishing linkages with the Montana veterinary profession far earlier than what could be done if they attend an out-of-state school, Mattix said.

Students will take their first year of classes in Bozeman, which means small classes with a teacher-student ratio of one to 10. Students will then go to Pullman, Wash., where the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine is located. During their summers, they will have opportunities to work in Montana veterinary practices. Any senior veterinary student from WSU will also be able to rotate through established veterinary practices in Montana. All the Montana students will belong to the Montana Veterinary Medical Association, and Montana veterinarians will participate in the first-year curriculum at Bozeman.

WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is ranked in the top 15 in the nation, has a strong emphasis on livestock medicine, and is the home of the School for Global Animal Health, Mattix said. MSU is the state’s land-grant university and home to the College of Agriculture. It already has a pre-vet advising program.

Mark Jutila, an MSU veterinary immunologist who earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at WSU, said the new program will build on long-standing research collaborations between MSU and WSU in animal health.  It also will be supported by new, state-of-the-art animal facilities, including MSU’s Animal Bioscience Building and containment laboratories that offer valuable training in biosafety related issues associated with infection in livestock, wildlife and other animals, including humans.

The new cooperative will take advantage of the excellence and expertise that MSU faculty have gained in medical education, as well, Jutila said. The Montana Cooperative Veterinary Medicine Program is modeled after the highly successful WWAMI Medical Education Program, which has provided unique and competitive medical training of Montana students for over 40 years. The WWAMI program allows students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho to enroll in the University of Washington Medical School and take their first year of classes in their home state.

Montana has more than 29,000 family farms and ranches covering 66 percent of the state’s land mass, according to the USDA. Of that, 65 percent is in pasture and range. Since Montana has 2.5 million cattle and calves with roughly $1.4 billion in annual livestock sales, the livestock industry accounts for half of the state’s agricultural economy.

Livestock veterinarians play a crucial role in that industry, but Montana has a shortage of 278 livestock veterinarians, according to the Montana Veterinary Medical Association. Besides that, 63 percent of the 125 Montana veterinarians now working in a food animal practice are nearing retirement.

“The decline in number of veterinarians practicing in rural and remote areas of the United States constitutes a serious problem for the security and safety of the national beef industry, as well as for the stability of the rural economy,” said a 2012 National Academies of Science article titled “Workforce Needs in Veterinary Medicine.”

The new veterinary program – endorsed by the Montana Board of Regents and Commissioner of Higher Education -- will help rebuild the veterinarian workforce in rural Montana and provide affordable access to a veterinary medical education, Mattix said.  It will support rural communities and family ranches by bringing new veterinarians into underserved areas.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu


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