Universities Start Unique Veterinary Medicine Program to Benefit Alaska and Colorado

Sled dogs, reindeer and musk oxen will join the animals of interest as Colorado State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks launch a collaborative veterinary training program, allowing students from a subarctic home base to polish their learning and earn degrees from CSU’s renowned Professional Veterinary Medicine Program, the No. 3 vet school in the nation.

The novel partnership, starting in fall 2015, will introduce a rigorous veterinary curriculum at UAF, opening doors for students who want to pursue veterinary careers in Alaska. Meantime, the partnership will present new and compelling research opportunities for CSU faculty and graduate students. Among these will be One Health investigations at the juncture of human, animal, and environmental health, conducted in the remote state uniquely rich in natural resources.

Officials at the two institutions, including UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers and CSU President Tony Frank, signed an agreement to formalize the veterinary partnership on the CSU campus in Fort Collins, Colo., on Thursday afternoon.

“We are pleased to partner with another land-grant university to begin offering first-rate veterinary education in a state where veterinarians are in high demand and where they don’t have the cutting-edge teaching and research opportunities for which our program is widely known,” Frank said. “Our collaboration will also extend frontiers of discovery for students and scientists based here in Colorado.”

Leaders at the two universities agreed that the future of public higher education depends in part on innovative partnerships that offer cost-effective ways to improve teaching and research. In fact, the partnership makes veterinary education viable at UAF, where developing a standalone program would be cost-prohibitive.

“Our partnership is paving the way for new educational opportunities that didn’t exist going in,” said Paul Layer, dean of the UAF College of Natural Science and Mathematics, where Alaska students will begin studies in veterinary medicine.

The collaborative veterinary program will start in 2015 at UAF and will admit 10 students each year, with preference given to students from Alaska; these students must meet the steep admissions standards already established for the CSU Professional Veterinary Medicine Program.

Students enrolled ultimately will study for two years on the Fairbanks campus, and will move to Colorado State’s campus in Fort Collins for their final two years of veterinary training. CSU will confer the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to students in the program, and veterinary graduates will return to Alaska to pursue careers.

CSU annually admits about 140 students to its highly competitive vet school, which is ranked No. 3 in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2014 Best Graduate Schools.

Students coming from UAF are expected to fill the spots vacated by those who leave the CSU veterinary program through typical attrition, a model that will maintain both tuition revenue and instructional quality at CSU, said Dean Hendrickson, associate dean for Professional Veterinary Medicine in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Alaska residents admitted to the collaborative veterinary program will pay annual tuition equivalent to that of Colorado residents admitted to CSU’s veterinary school; this is expected to total just under $27,000 when the collaborative program starts in fall 2015.

Students will pay CSU non-resident tuition when they move from the Fairbanks campus to the Fort Collins campus for their final years of veterinary study; the non-resident tuition rate is expected to total about $54,000 when the program’s first class arrives at CSU.

The program is the first of its kind for the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. CSU has established several other “plus” programs with partner universities in China; students in the programs start studies on one campus and complete studies on another.

A few other U.S. veterinary schools have started similar programs in recent years, but the collaboration between CSU and UAF is distinctive for the unique qualities of the two campuses and for full integration of veterinary curriculum, Hendrickson said.

“They are drawing on our expertise, and we are taking advantage of their expertise,” he said. “We believe that with partners like the University of Alaska, we can help prepare veterinary students for long-term career opportunities by exposing them to new and different types of learning.”

Mark Stetter, dean of the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the collaboration with UAF will provide CSU graduate students and scientists with teaching and research possibilities on topics including wildlife disease and health, marine-animal science, sports medicine and rehabilitation with sled dogs, and a variety of global public-health challenges that involve both human and veterinary medicine.

“Alaska is fertile soil for One Health studies, and we’re really excited about that,” Stetter said. “The One Health concept of looking holistically at human, animal and environmental health is critically important as our university seeks solutions to complex global challenges.”