Here we go again

Dean tries to bring University of Arizona a new breed of vet school


The University of Arizona has been kicking around the idea of a vet school for twenty years or so.  

The latest incarnation, a 3 year straight through program focused on producing food animal vets, is described in the headline above from this article by Tom Beal in the Arizona Daily Star.

OK.  I'm all for new schools if they do a better job than our current schools.  Let's see if the thought process here indicates this might be such a proposal....

 UAZ Dean Shane Burgess acknowledges the findings of the 2012 NAS workforce study that "there was no shortage of veterinarians in the United States."  But he maintains the UAZ program is needed to address 

a lack of large-animal veterinarians in some rural counties and growing need for veterinarians in public health, disease research and food safety - areas Burgess said would be the strength of the UA's new school.

Well, here's where we run into some logical inconsistencies.

Even if there is a lack of large animal vets in some rural counties...making more vets won't solve that.  Not even making more large animal vets. I know several large animal vets working in other veterinary fields or even other countries because they can't find paying jobs in this country.  See, that's the rub- those rural counties can't AFFORD a food animal veterinarian.  There's not a shortage of food animal vets.  There's a shortage of money with which to PAY food animal vets.

The article makes this point quite clearly.

The National Research Council study does not hold out hope for that outcome. It found that the perceived need for large-animal vets in rural America is not matched by a need for services. The 1,500 or so U.S. counties that have no vets simply can't support one economically.

Jackson (UAZ Regent) thinks the native Arizonans who enter the program with the goal of working in their rural communities might be able to make that sacrifice if this new program makes it possible to earn a D.V.M. without a mountain of debt.

Yes....or they might use the advantage of being debt free to take a job elsewhere.  How many veterinarians will the program produce every year?  Will they all be expected to be rural Arizonans returning to rural areas of Arizona?  Will the program require payback of the graduate doesn't stay in Arizona working in a rural community?  If repayment is required in that situation, what if there simply isn't a job to be had?

 Is the grad on the hook for repayment in that situation, like Alisha Oehling in this New York Times article?  She ended up closing her practice and moving to get a job that let her pay back her loans, because the poor rural area she was required to locate in simply didn't have enough business to generate the necessary revenue.  

OK, so what about "public health, disease research and food safety," the other areas which Dean Burgess feels justify the development of a veterinary program.  Does UAZ have strong programs in any of those areas now?  It may, I don't know.  The article does discuss some resources in those areas at the University.  I'm not convinced just based on the level of detail presented in the article.

If it does this could be a smart move, capitalizing on pre-existing programs and leveraging the investment the university already has in personnel, equipment and space.  If's a helluva time to be trying to break into a very competitive area of academic endeavor.

Another point to be addressed: this would be a three year program, where students go to school straight through, summers included, with no breaks.  This has been tried before, and abandoned as simply too hard on students.  The goal of halving the debt load is admirable.  I'm just not sure I'd want to be treated by a doctor who crammed four years of education into three, and looking back at vet school I KNOW I couldn't have done it.  Not bragging, but I wasn't exactly a slouch of a student either.

I'm not saying it can't be done but I'd want to see evidence of a lot of thought and planning and research on how to do it right. Seeing inaccuracies like this don't give me any confidence:

"After four years of undergraduate education and four years of veterinary school, new doctors have, on average, $70,000 in debt..."

Ummm.....The average debt load this year FROM VET SCHOOL ALONE was $152,000.

Projected debt loads for 2016 grads are over $200,000.

I'm thinking this plan needs to go back to the drawing board and review the basic data.   The question "How many vets does Arizona need?" should be answered by finding out who is going to pay them, how much, to do what.  

It'd be best if they used realistic facts on how much it's going to cost to educate those vets- before Arizona taxpayers hand over $3 million just to study the idea.

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commented 2017-03-21 06:10:24 -0400 · Flag
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