Since Texas Tech announced its plans for a Veterinary School of Medicine in 2015 in order to meet the needs of rural animal healthcare and the livestock industry, it has become apparent that Texas is in need of another vet school.
Texas is growing so rapidly that just one vet school is no longer sufficient. Texas leads the nation in cattle, sheep, goat and mohair production, and has the highest number of horses and food and fiber animals in the U.S. Yet, the current Texas veterinary program graduates less than 25 percent of the veterinary workforce.
Since the 1970s, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has cited the shortage of veterinarians who practice in small, agricultural communities as an issue for the state. This negatively impacts West Texas, because the largest shares of veterinarians currently practice in the eastern half of the state. Many rural counties have less than a handful of veterinarians, if any at all. Most veterinarians in Texas treat small animals, not livestock that are more essential in ranching and farming communities. More than 40 percent of licensed veterinarians in rural areas are over the age of 60.
In 2017 there were nearly 600 applicants for the existing Texas veterinarian program, but only 136 were accepted due to the program's capacity. Due to having such a low capacity, more students went out of state to study veterinary medicine than those who enrolled in state. About 75 percent of the Texas veterinary workforce is supplied by educational programs that are out of state or outside the U.S.
The Texas Tech vet school curriculum is designed to recruit and train students with a passion for ranching communities in rural portions of the state where there is a wide gap in the current veterinarian workforce. The model will utilize veterinarians and their expertise which will eliminate the need for a traditional teaching hospital. This approach will provide students with more hands-on learning experiences and opportunities.
Texas Tech adapted its veterinary program from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. This program was created in 2005 to address similar needs for veterinarians in rural areas. The program has proved to be cost-efficient, successful and fully accredited by the American Medical Association.
Texas Tech has conducted a feasibility assessment, developed a curriculum, designed facilities, and secured support from the community as well as the veterinary industry. The 85th Texas Legislature appropriated $4.17 million to the Texas Tech vet school in 2017. The current 86th Texas Legislature has proposed $17.35 million in the House while the Senate proposed $4.2 million in their budget. Texas Tech has independently raised $90 million to fund the infrastructure which will maximize the state’s investment.
The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce was honored to visit Amarillo earlier this year to contribute $15,000 from the Lubbock Chamber PAC to the Amarillo Matters PAC, which has been helping to lead the fight for the Texas Tech Vet School. Securing funding from the legislature for the Texas Tech Vet School is the Chamber’s top priority during this legislative session.
Amarillo Matters recently announced a grassroots effort to help build support for the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine. The goal is to give everyone who supports the school a voice and the opportunity to stand up and support the project. This is the first step in assembling a broad coalition of supporters, and organizations who believe in the vision of Texas Tech's veterinary school.
How can you help? By visiting unmetvetdemand and signing an online petition to voice your support. After you sign the petition, we hope that you'll share it with at least 10 of your friends or family members. Then, stay engaged in the process. We must continue to work together to make the school a reality.
With the immense economic impact that farming and ranching have on the Texas economy, it is critical that our state supplies our workforce with an adequate number of veterinarians. The good news is, there are great people at Texas Tech, throughout West Texas, and representing us in Austin working diligently to address this need.