ISU early acceptance initiative recruits future production animal veterinarians.

Addressing the veterinarian shortage in rural areas of Iowa and the United States is the goal of an innovative new program at Iowa State University (ISU) that aims to recruit and mentor future animal medicine students.

The joint program between the College of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Animal Science in ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, entitled the Production Animal – Veterinary Early Acceptance Program (PA-VEAP), has been established with the goal of educating more students who wish to practice production animal medicine.

Hopes are that interested students will discover their calling in veterinary medicine and consider practicing in underserved areas of Iowa and throughout the United States.

“Currently there is a shortage of veterinarians across the profession,” said Dan Grooms, the Dr. Stephen G. Juelsgaard Dean of Veterinary Medicine at ISU. “It’s bigger than just rural veterinary medicine, however. Here in rural areas of Iowa where agriculture is extremely important to the economy and community, we’re looking for solutions where we can continue to provide health care, especially to the livestock industry, which depends on care for the health of their animals.

“With the PA-VEAP program, we are helping to address the critical need for veterinarians to support Iowa’s $32 million animal agriculture industry.”

Justin Brown, assistant professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine and director of the program, said the number of students considering production animal veterinary medicine nationwide continues to decline. Finding a solution is imperative, he said.

“The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that less than 4% of veterinarians practice predominantly in food production animal medicine, and those numbers have been trending down since 2013,” Brown said. “Iowa State University is one of the top institutions for production animal veterinary medicine and animal science programs.

“This PA-VEAP will help to recruit individuals to ISU and the profession and address the critical need for production animal veterinarians to support Iowa’s agriculture industry.”

Pictured above:  ISU intern Hannah Hipkiss pairs a newborn calf with its mother after performing a successful C-section. PHOTO / CONRAD SCHMIDT

Interested students

PA-VEAP is an undergraduate program for students majoring in animal science or dairy science at ISU. Students must also be pursuing completion of an undergraduate certificate in beef cattle, dairy cattle, poultry or swine production management.

“This program provides students with a demonstrated interest in production animal medicine a community of support and mentorship while gaining hands-on training and industry experience through the animal science curriculum,” said Jodi Sterle, associate chair of teaching and undergraduate teaching coordinator in the ISU animal science department.

“By participating in this program, students can gain valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges facing production animal veterinarians and prepare themselves for the rigorous veterinary curriculum, as well as a successful career.”

The early acceptance program reserves the student a space in the College of Veterinary Medicine once they’ve completed the pre-vet requirements. The student becomes a part of a group that will be provided with mentoring, hands-on learning, academic assistance and value-added experiences.

“Our goal is to identify students early in their time here at ISU who may be interested in rural vet medicine, and then pave a road toward success for these students as a food animal veterinarian or rural practitioner,” Grooms said. “The earlier we can intervene, the more success we will see.

“Hopefully by doing this, we’re creating more veterinarians interested in rural practice.”

High school students considering agriculture studies at ISU also are being recruited and informed of the new program should they show interest in veterinary medicine.

“If you’re interested in veterinary medicine, and you’re interested in rural or food animal veterinary practice, we have a program here at ISU that you should take a look at,” Grooms said.

10 in first cohort

Initially, PA-VEAP will enroll up to 10 students per year during the three to four year pilot phase of the program. Once enrolled, students will be assigned a program advisor from both the Department of Animal Science and College of Veterinary Medicine.

Students must earn a minimum grade point average of 3.4 while completing all prerequisite courses for admission into the College of Veterinary Medicine. Students must also complete a minimum of 300 hours of approved food animal experience, as well as the undergraduate certificate. Successful completion of the program will result in admission to ISU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Brown said there’s been early interest in the program. Applications were due in December, and interviews will be conducted this month.

“I’ve had numerous students email me or come by my office to discuss the program,” Brown said. “We had an excellent group of students apply for the first cohort, and we will be conducting interviews in the coming weeks to select the students for the program.

“It will be interesting to watch this program grow and develop. Will it expand beyond 10 students per cohort? That’s difficult to say; however, the program will allow each cohort of students to build a community of individuals that are in pursuit of a common goal, and hopefully those relationships persist long after their undergraduate and veterinary school years.”

Jason Ross, ISU animal science department chair, said providing these students with hands-on production animal experience not only is beneficial for their individual growth and development but also serves a greater purpose in training the next generation of veterinary professionals to serve agriculture across the country.

“By partnering with the College of Veterinary Medicine, we have created a program where students gain valuable skills and mentorship while preparing to contribute to the advancement of animal health and welfare,” he said.

In addition, interest has been expressed in providing financial incentives for students. While only an early acceptance program today, Grooms said ISU is looking to build scholarships into PA-VEAP.

“We would love to be able to have some scholarships to help support these students during their undergraduate studies,” Grooms said. “Furthermore, once they matriculate into the College of Veterinary Medicine, we’re hoping to have some financial incentives available.

“That is one of our desires – to connect potential donors with the program and support it financially through scholarships.”