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Statement on Need of a College of Veterinary Medicine in Virginia

by Dr. T. Marshall Hahn, Jr.
President, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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To: Commission to Study the Need for Establishment of a School of Veterinary Medicine
Richmond, Virginia, October 15, 1973

Thank you for the opportunity to offer these observations to you today on veterinary medical services in Virginia and the need for additional opportunities for Virginians to pursue studies in veterinary medicine. For many years, we at Virginia's Land-Grant University have taken a great deal of interest in this subject. As you know, Virginia Tech administers Virginia's veterinary medicine program with the University of Georgia through the Southern Regional Education Board, and has done so since that program's beginning. We have helped hundreds of Virginians obtain their veterinary medical education out of state, and I regret there were no opportunities out of state for hundreds more we have tried to help. Most of the young people who are interested in veterinary medicine have been our undergraduates, who have come to us because of our tradition and history of interest in veterinary science.

As you also know, Virginia Tech had the Commonwealth's only Veterinary Science Department, an active, nationally known department employing 12 scientists and a staff of 27 with a budget of about $525,000 per year. The Department's program includes an active veterinary science extensions program that reaches throughout the State and is know across the nation. In addition, we have the Anaerobic Bacteria Laboratory, world center for research in the exciting field of anaerobes, which until recently was part of our Department of Veterinary Science. And, of course, our College of Agriculture and Life Sciences includes large, well-established departments in dairy science, poultry science, animal science, forestry and wildlife, and biochemistry and nutrition -- all programs directly related to veterinary medicine. Other sciences, such as feed science and technology; entomology; agronomy; microbiology; chemistry; biology; and others in which we traditionally have been strong, contribute also to our interest and expertise in the area of veterinary medicine and science. So you will understand why we feel we can contribute to the discussions about the need for educational opportunities in veterinary medicine and why we are so keenly interested in this subject.

This study commission faces an important responsibility: to assess the need for veterinary medicine study opportunities for Virginians and to determine how to meet that need. We at Virginia Tech have worked with both of those questions for years, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss them.

For many years, legislators have asked me about Virginia's need for a college of veterinary medicine. Until recent years, it was my opinion that Virginia should not invest in a veterinary school as long as its veterinary medical students could be educated in other states at reasonable cost. Under that policy, we assisted hundreds of young Virginians to go to Texas, Georgia, Ohio or other states to pursue veterinary medicine study -- many of them never to return, despite State assistance. Even with the loss of some of our finest young people under this policy, it did meet our need at one time, and it did so at a cost less than the cost of establishing and operating a college of veterinary medicine.

The situation, however, has changed radically in recent years. At present, this policy does not approach meeting Virginia's need, and the situation truly has become critical.

Perhaps last year's experience will demonstrate the situation most clearly. As you know, through our SREB compact, The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine generously agrees to offer admission to as many as fifteen Virginia students each year; and Ohio State University, through a separate agreement, has made up to three openings available to Virginians annually. This past year, we received 130 applications from Virginia students for those 18 openings. We screened the applications and selected 62 as fully qualified for admission to either of the two schools. The two schools then screened them further and made offers to eighteen. Since two of the applicants were offered admission to both schools and since neither school would make up for the duplication, only 16 students actually were able to enroll in schools of veterinary medicine. This means that only 12 per cent of the applicants -- only 25 per cent of the fully qualified applicants -- actually were offered admission to veterinary school.

We have tried for years to find opportunities for Virginia students in other states, without success. We have negotiated with Kansas and Texas, but the negotiations were unsuccessful. As Dean Talbot will tell you, we have asked Georgia to increase the quota of Virginia students at his institution, again without success because of the pressures he faces in his own state. We have made similar overtures to Ohio State with similar results. We have appealed to virtually all states with colleges of veterinary medicine, including Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Alabama, to name only a few. There is little question the Commonwealth will pay any reasonable price for additional educational opportunities in veterinary medicine in other states, and we will send our students anywhere we can find openings. Unfortunately, the openings just don't exist.

The reason for this situation, of course, is that about 30 other states are in precisely the same situation in which Virginia finds itself. The shortage of veterinary medicine education opportunities is a national one. Both state and national statistics tell the story.

You are aware of the SREB study which shows a need of 906 veterinarians in Virginia by 1980, compared to about 500 veterinarians now in the State. Another study shows a ratio of 6.6 practicing veterinarians per 100,000 population in Virginia today, compared to a projected need of 17.5 veterinarians per 100,000 population by 1980. All studies are not unanimous, of course; another study indicated the need will be 11 to 13 veterinarians per 100,000 population in Virginia in 1980. Even this study, however, shows the need is far beyond the supply.

The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates there are now 28,300 active veterinarians in the United States, and the need by 1980 will be for 40,075. Unless enrollment in colleges of veterinary medicine increases substantially, according to the Joint Committee on Veterinary Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, less than 33,000 veterinarians will be available in 1980 -- a shortage of over 7,000. And this assumes the opening of proposed schools at Louisiana State University and Florida at full capacity. The Joint Committee's report, dated May, 1973, which all of you should read if you have not yet done so, states there must be a 25 per cent increase in veterinary teaching resources in the form of additional colleges and expansion of existing colleges. Even with expansion of existing colleges, the report indicates, the need will not be met without opening new colleges. This, of course, refers to the national problem; even if additional colleges are started in other states -- and this is far from certain, or even likely -- Virginia's needs still probably will not be met, so great is the need.

Another perspective on this need can be gained from international figures. In Russia, according to the Journal of the British Veterinary Association, there are between 1,500 and 2,000 livestock units per veterinarian. In Great Britain, that number is about 2,600 -- far behind Russia. But in this country, the estimate is over 5,000 livestock units per veterinarian, far behind Great Britain. While our country trails those two countries in veterinary medical education, Virginia trails our country.

I am aware there are conflicting, sometimes confusing, statistics about the need for educational opportunities in veterinary medicine. As I already have indicated, different studies provide different figures, but surely you must accept that there is a need -- an exceptional need -- for more veterinarians and more veterinary medicine study opportunities. To those of us at Virginia Tech who have seen outstanding honor students fail to achieve lifelong ambitions in veterinary medicine because of lack of study opportunities, the need is very real. I am only thankful that Georgia in 1946 had the foresight to establish its college of veterinary medicine, where our students now can borrow their education. Think of the benefit that has accrued to Georgia because of that foresight. I hope Virginia will have the same foresight now.

Any discussion of veterinary medicine needs in this area must encompass the possibility of regional colleges of veterinary medicine. Virginia lies in the middle of a rather large segment of the country that does not have a veterinary school. On all sides of us are states which do not have veterinary colleges -- Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. It is interesting to note that, outside New England, Virginia and Montana are the only states in the Union that not only lack colleges of veterinary medicine but also do not abut states with veterinary schools. A regional study certainly would find that this region needs at least one college of veterinary medicine. I have shared with each of you a copy of a map showing the states of the union without veterinary schools. It graphically illustrates the large region surrounding Virginia that is in such need of one or more veterinary colleges.

Can there be any doubt whatsoever that a new veterinary school is needed in this region? And is there any doubt whatsoever that Virginia would benefit greatly if the school were located within our borders? It would be my hope that Virginia would take the initiative and build a college of veterinary medicine promptly, to meet a need that long since has passed the critical point, not only in Virginia but throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. If Virginia doesn't, I suspect another state in the region will. When and if that happens, of course, we will welcome the opportunity to join with that state, to find another few spots open to our students, to send our students to that state, paying the cost of their education, and to help that State operate its veterinary school. However, would it not be wiser for Virginia to take the leadership and proceed with a college of veterinary medicine, so that other states could send their students here? Our experience has shown that we have lost one-third of the veterinary students we have sent to Georgia; by opening a college in Virginia, we will be in the enviable position of retaining veterinary students from other states, rather than sending them away. Studies have shown that the states without colleges of veterinary medicine have 26 per cent fewer veterinarians than those states with colleges of veterinary medicine.

If a veterinary school is to be established in Virginia, let me say frankly that we at Virginia Tech are strongly interested in establishing it on our campus. We want the school. We will work hard to establish it successfully. As the only university in Virginia with a tradition of interest and activity in veterinary science, as well as with a Department of Veterinary Science, an extension program in veterinary science, with the support that we would generate for the school, and with our can-do reputation, we consider Virginia Tech as uniquely qualified as the site for a veterinary college in Virginia. We are confident we could establish the school with maximum efficiency and quality, and at lowest cost.

One of the chief activities of a college of veterinary medicine, in addition to education of students, is to conduct veterinary research. At Virginia Tech, animal research is funded already at a level of 2 1/2 million dollars per year. Livestock and poultry losses to diseases amount to 2.7 billion dollars per year in this country, and research to reduce this loss is one of the big challenges confronting veterinarians. Virginia Tech alone in Virginia is already heavily committed to the solution of these problems.

A large proportion of veterinarians enter private practice, to provide health services for animals, including the food-producing species such as cattle, swine, sheep, and poultry, as well as for companion animals. Virginia Tech is uniquely qualified in both of these areas. Certainly no other institution in Virginia can compare with our experience, faculty, expertise, and facilities for work with cattle, swine, sheep, poultry and other food-producing animals. Although no institution in Virginia has had great experience in working with companion animals, our work with all animals places us well ahead of others, and the rapidly growing population in our immediate area, plus our proximity to the Roanoke metropolitan area, provide us with a population base that offers students great opportunity for clinical experience with small animals.

Virginia Tech has research and continuing education centers located across the State, such as those at Blackstone and Holland, which offer access to additional centers of food animal population, thus providing additional clinical material for our students. This might be compared to the New Bolton Center which the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine has established some 40 miles from its Philadelphia location.

Of increasing importance in veterinary medicine is the critical shortage of food, and animals play a critical role in the production of food. Again, programs at VPI are and have been for many years heavily involved in animal production, food production, and both human and animal nutrition.

Perhaps of greatest importance, a veterinary school in Virginia must have the support of the industry of agriculture, if it is to succeed. The industry of agriculture is Virginia's biggest revenue producer. Animal industries in Virginia employ hundreds of thousands and produce goods valued at more than one billion dollars per year. As one example, the Virginia Horse Council advises there are 125,000 horses in Virginia, 60,000 horse owners, and another 20,000 persons employed in the industry. This industry, one of the smaller animal industries, contributes over 100 million dollars each year to the State's economy.

To consider other animal industries, there are more than 1.2 million beef cattle in Virginia with an annual gross produce valued at $342 million. The dairy industry includes more than 5,000 farms producing milk and dairy products with a gross value of more than $265 million per year. The poultry industry, which employs 75,000 persons in Virginia, has produce with gross value of $155 million per year; the gross value of swine industry products per year exceeds $320 million; and the equivalent figure for the sheep industry is $57 million per year. Add these figures -- and they are all conservative -- and you reach an annual production with gross value of more than 1.2 billion dollars from Virginia's animal industries. You may be assured all of these industries are vitally interested in a college of veterinary medicine in Virginia.

Gentlemen, a college of veterinary medicine in Virginia cannot succeed without strong support of these industries, and Virginia Tech enjoys a history of their support, a tradition of working with them. I was pleased to receive just last week an unsolicited statement from the Virginia Poultry Federation that if a college of veterinary medicine is to be located in Virginia, the Poultry Federation states it definitely should be located on the campus of the land-grant university. Other associations in Virginia, representing the various animal industries, I am confident would strongly favor locating the school at Blacksburg.

This support is a necessity and would be invaluable. These animal industries can help to develop a college of veterinary medicine of the very highest quality; that quality will be available to all who are served by veterinarians in Virginia. The quality that these industries will help develop will improve veterinary service for small animals, for dogs, and cats, and other companion animals, as well as for the food animals most directly associated with the animal industries.

Veterinary service to companion animals, of course, is of major and growing importance. Dog food sales, alone, lead all other items in sales at retail food outlets. Small animals and companion animals will be served best by a college of veterinary medicine of the quality that can be built in Virginia only with the backing of our agricultural industries.

Because of the experience, expertise, and facilities already available at your land-grant university, the opening of a College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech would be at minimal cost.

The course requirements during the first two years of veterinary medicine study include courses in biochemistry, anatomy, histology, microbiology, physiology, pharmacology, therapeutics, pathology, and parasitology. VPI already has some faculty resources in all of these disciplines except anatomy, and it has laboratory and clinical facilities that could be used for many of these areas. The development of courses for the last two years of the program could flow directly form this expertise.

Recently, we reviewed the data and made preliminary estimates of the capital costs of establishing a veterinary college at Virginia Tech. Assuming an enrollment of 64 students per class or a total enrollment of 275, including graduate students; assuming a resulting need for the appropriate number of teaching faculty, research faculty, extension faculty, and administrators; and using State space standards for classrooms, laboratories, offices, library support, research use, extension, administration, plus space required in excess of State standards for animal quarters, lockers, and clean up areas, clinical facilities, and storage facilities; we calculated a need of 275,000 gross square feet. At $50 per square foot, this space would cost $13,750,000. An additional 12,500 gross square feet would be needed for outlying buildings and would cost an estimated $25 per square foot, or a total of $312,500. Thus, the cost of these facilities, to accommodate an enrollment of approximately 275 students, would be an estimated $14,062,250. Another $2 million should be added for equipment, making the total cost about $16 million. Such would be the approximate capital cost of establishing a college of veterinary medicine at Virginia Tech.

We believe establishing the college elsewhere in Virginia would cost at least another $6 million. As you know, Virginia Tech already has enough land for these facilities at a saving we would estimate to be a half million dollars. We already have a large, equipped Veterinary Science building, with numerous laboratories, and a number of barns, other animal facilities, clinical facilities, and laboratories. The total value of these facilities would be an estimated $5 million dollars. The value of research and continuing education centers to the program is estimated at $650,000. The value of land for growing feed and holding areas for animals, land which would have to be supplied at other sites but not at Virginia Tech, is estimated at $250,000, and value of farm equipment needed elsewhere but available at Virginia Tech is estimated at $225,000. We believe total savings at Virginia Tech would be $6.6 million. In short, according to our preliminary estimates, the college could be built at Virginia Tech at a cost of $16,000,000; elsewhere, the cost would be $22,600,000. Total cost to the state would depend on Federal funding. Previous projects have received up to 80 per cent capital costs from Federal sources.

Operating costs have been estimated using the basis and rationale as presented in the study "College of Veterinary Medicine for New England and New Jersey" conducted this year for the New England Board of Higher Education. The costs are based on 60 full-time-equivalent faculty members at a cost of $50,000 each per year, including overhead. Thus, the total cost would be $3,000,000. Tuition, fees, and Federal grants and contracts should reduce the total cost by approximately one-third, or a new cost of approximately $2,000,000 to the State. The net cost will be further reduced by the fees assessed adjoining states who will surely contract for spaces for their students.

The return for this investment would be more than the education of additional veterinarians for Virginia. The college, of course, would attract outstanding out-of-state students, many of whom would remain with us after their professional training. The college would be an important economic asset to the Commonwealth. A major benefit would be the increased income for animal breeders and producers throughout the State. Other benefits include improved economic status of people, improved educational opportunities for our young people, enhancement of technology, and others.

Such a school would directly strengthen all of our research programs in animal food production with immediate benefit to the citizens of the State. It also would strengthen our biological research and teaching programs. Needless to say, our agricultural and biological education and research programs also would strengthen the veterinary college. The cross-fertilization and mutual reinforcement of the various education and research programs would constitute an important asset to the entire State.

Our Extension Division already has an efficient, on-going veterinary science extension program which regularly distributes veterinary science information throughout the Commonwealth. This service could be expanded and improved to fit directly into the program of a college of veterinary medicine, providing continuing education for veterinarians through the State as well as veterinary medical information for all. No other institution in Virginia has this capability.

Virginia Tech could generate widespread public and professional support for such a college. We are confident the agricultural groups who have supported us so generously and loyally in the past will support a veterinary college at Virginia Tech.

All of America's colleges of veterinary medicine are located in land-grant universities, with the exception of one. That one, of course, is the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, which opened before the beginning of land-grant systems. It is our hope that Virginia also will place its veterinary college with its land-grant university.

Virginia Tech -- our faculty, our alumni, and the administration -- would welcome the opportunity to develop a veterinary college in Virginia. We look forward enthusiastically to working with you for that objective.

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Last Updated: March 27, 1997