The University of Arizona received approval from the American Veterinary Medical Assn. Oct. 17 to open Arizona's first public College of Veterinary Medicine.
The "Letter of Reasonable Assurance," granted by the AVMA Council on Education (COE), affirms the results of the COE site visit in May. New veterinary schools are evaluated regularly and are eligible for full accreditation after the graduation of their first class of students.
"Agricultural, ranching and related industries drive strong demand for veterinarians in our state and across the nation, and Arizona students will now be able to take advantage of an innovative doctor of veterinary medicine program situated within the land-grant, Research-1 setting provided by the University of Arizona at in-state tuition rates," University of Arizona president Robert C. Robbins said. "This show of support from AVMA paves the way for the University of Arizona to become a leader in veterinary medical education."
The University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine is designed as a competency-based, year-round curriculum that will graduate students in three years, allowing them to enter the workforce a year earlier than traditional programs. Students will spend their first two years in preclinical courses that focus on active learning experiences rather than lectures.
"Our goal is that students will have their hands on animals in the first week and all the way through the curriculum," College of Veterinary Medicine dean Julie Funk said. "We have a real focus on making sure that students are learning veterinary medicine in context, looking at what they're learning in the classroom and how that relates to what they're going to do in practice."
Rather than relying on a teaching hospital, the hybrid-distributive teaching model will utilize University of Arizona facilities, including the Campus Agricultural Center and a network of more than 250 veterinary practices committed to serving as clinical training sites, the university explained. Students will spend their third year in clinical training rotations at private and corporate practices throughout the Southwest, ranging in scope from specialty hospitals in metro areas to mixed-animal practices in rural areas and zoological facilities such as the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Ariz.
The University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine will help fill a need for qualified veterinarians both within the state and nationally, the announcement said, noting that the need is especially high in rural areas. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Arizona has four regions of designated veterinarian shortage situations, including areas of Maricopa, Pinal, Cochise, Pima, Santa Cruz, Navajo, Southern Apache and Yuma counties.
"We are also focusing on the needs of rural and other underserved areas for veterinary medicine," Funk said. "We are hopeful that by being able to offer these highly skilled people a professional degree in state, they're more likely to stay in Arizona and serve the people of Arizona."
The "Letter of Reasonable Assurance" is the first step toward full accreditation by the AVMA COE, which will continue to monitor the Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine until its first cohort graduates in 2023. During the provisional accreditation period, graduates are fully eligible to sit for licensure to practice veterinary medicine, the university said.