September marks our school's fifth birthday. During this month in 2018, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board added the School of Veterinary Medicine to Texas' program inventory that defines Texas Tech University's administrative structure. This seemingly low-key action ultimately led to a transformational veterinary educational program right here in Amarillo.
All stories have beginnings and the school's story actually began much earlier than 2018; in fact, it started five decades prior. Back then, only 26 years after the end of World War II in 1945, the forerunner of the Coordinating Board similarly approved Texas Tech to offer a veterinary medical degree. Texas Tech's plans even included a large-animal veterinary hospital that was to be built on the campus of what was known at the time as West Texas State University. Ultimately, that initial effort was not to be, and the initial Coordinating Board approval lapsed in the intervening years.
Thankfully, the school's second official launch, this time in 2018, was different. Its purpose and vision caught the imagination and hope of the veterinary profession, agricultural industry leaders, our elected officials, Amarillo citizens, and so many others.
Fast forward a mere five years to this semester and we welcomed 100 new students from all over Texas and New Mexico to our DVM program. We are rooted in our purpose of service to rural and regional communities, and all our students have deep life experiences across rural and regional areas. They represent the future of veterinary medicine and the newest cohort is our third class of veterinary students. That means our inaugural class is now in its third year of a four-year veterinary medical degree.
Somewhat of a surprise to me is the incredible anticipation and excitement within the veterinary profession for our students to graduate. In fact, quite a few of our students were courted by practices over the summer despite being almost two years out from getting their degrees. It follows then that while our students were out working in practices over the summer, we received great comments from the veterinarians supervising them. One such comment was, “If they're all as good as this one, you all are really on to something.”
In our students, I reckon we are indeed on to something really good. That is thanks to our Admissions Committee. They have worked incredibly hard to build and refine a system to select great students. More than that, they invest hours and hours to collectively select those students who most align with our purpose. Their work over the years and the quality of students now in our program is evidenced by comments like the one above.
Our next big thing to launch at the school is the students' clinical year. This commences May 2024, and has been in the designing, refining, testing and rehearsal phase for quite some time now. The School's Office of Clinical Programs has meticulously prepared to launch the clinical year for many years now. The structure of the year is distinct to what other institutions employ. A key element making our program unique is the commitment and investment of carefully selected practices across rural and regional communities. As two examples, Hereford Veterinary Clinic in Hereford, and Mobile Veterinary Practice in Amarillo are constructing new facilities to support both their practices and our students. They also plan to host our veterinary faculty to help supervise our students and to deliver expanded veterinary medical services for animal owners. For us, we look at these two practices as Instructional Centers of Excellence for training in food-animal and equine medicine and surgery. In addition, we are working closely with dozens of other practices, regionally and across the state, to mentor and provide outstanding clinical settings for our students as they progress along their educational journey to becoming licensed veterinarians.
Despite living it for a few years now, it still seems odd to me that even though we just started the fall semester with 100 new veterinary students, the application period for those who want to be students in our program starting next fall is about to close. For institutions and wannabe students across the U.S., the admission process is a complicated multistep dance that lasts almost 15 months. So far, more than 1,300 hopefuls have started an application to come to Amarillo and be a part of our school. With 100 spots available for the Class of 2028, the Admissions Committee members have their work cut out for them!
Last week we interviewed a potential new faculty member. In one of the meetings, the candidate posed an interesting question, “What has surprised you the most about being part of building a new school?” My reply did not take long to formulate. It was, “While I was anticipating good students, I didn't expect them to be this good.” In fact, they ooze purpose, common sense, values, and determination. They lead by example. I readily admit I am biased. But if you hear someone on TV or the radio lamenting about “kids these days…” that person hasn't been to Amarillo lately! The veterinary profession is in good hands and its future is hard at work right here in Amarillo.