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Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine approaches milestone

Nebraska

A unique program that enables the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to help educate future veterinarians is about to reach a milestone.

Twenty-four students in the inaugural class of the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine offered by Iowa State University and UNL will complete the UNL portion of the program in May and begin the ISU portion this fall. An awards banquet to recognize students and faculty in the program was held April 3.

The cooperative program is a national model and is attracting interest from universities in other states, said David Hardin, head of the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at UNL and associate dean of the program.

"I'm very pleased with the program," Hardin said. "We've got excellent students who have really been very open to taking risks. There is a risk anytime you start a new program."

The program, also known as the 2+2 program, was developed between UNL and ISU and began in 2007. Nebraska students accepted into the program attend classes at UNL for the first two years, then move to ISU to complete their veterinary degree.

Johanna Fithian of Elkhorn, one of the Nebraska students completing the first half of the program, said it was such an attractive program that it was the only one she considered.

"I am perpetually grateful to be a student in this program," she said. "In a relatively short time, the administration here has been able to build this program from the ground up. We're paving the way for future Nebraska students to become veterinarians, and our experience will be applied to make their journey that much smoother."

While students from Nebraska ordinarily would pay the higher out-state tuition rate while attending ISU, the 2+2 program allows them to continue paying the in-state tuition rate during their ISU studies. The state of Nebraska pays the difference between the two rates to ISU.

The in-state tuition rate was one of the factors that attracted Robert Reid of Crawford to the program. He decided to pursue veterinary studies after working as a farrier for 10 years.

"The small class size, individual attention, in-state tuition and smaller applicant pool were a few of the things that drew me to Lincoln," Reid said.

Before this program, Nebraska students studied for four years at Kansas State University, with the state of Nebraska paying the difference in rates for all four years. State funds for that program were reduced, forcing UNL to look for another way to offer a veterinary education.

UNL sought a proposal to work jointly with another university, and selected the ISU offer because of its uniqueness, Hardin said. The 2+2 program currently is the only such program in the country. Other universities in the nation are looking at the UNL/ISU program in hopes of adopting something similar, Hardin said.

The 2+2 program was given final approval the day that Hardin started at UNL in June 2006. Hardin, a veterinarian himself who worked in a food animal practice in Missouri before going into academia, said the program was designed knowing there is a shortage of veterinarians and U.S. schools are struggling with ways to increase student capacity.

"It's really become a facilities issue," Hardin said, adding that schools are unable to get the money they need to expand building sizes so that more students can be admitted.

When UNL entered into the 2+2 program, it was able to renovate rooms at the Animal Science Complex building to create the classroom space it needed as well as an anatomy lab, Hardin said.

While in Lincoln, students take basic science classes with UNL faculty and distance classes taught by ISU faculty, Hardin said. Clinical studies occur in the second half of the program.

Fithian, who has wanted to be a veterinarian since she was a child and has an interest in working with large animals, feels ready to begin the second half of the program.

"I'm extremely excited about making the transition to Iowa State and I feel very prepared to do so," she said.

The UNL faculty have mixed feelings about the students' transition.

"Especially since they are the first class, there will be many people here sad to see them go," Hardin said.



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