University of Arizona’s new veterinary school to graduate first class
TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s back to school week for the last time for the first graduating class of the University of Arizona’s College of Veterinary Medicine. There is a major veterinarian shortage right now, and only 33 veterinary schools in the entire United States, so the new college couldn’t have opened at a better time.
Dean Julie Funk helped build this new college from the ground up, finally opening the campus in Oro Valley in 2020.
“We’re a very unique program,” said Funk. “We’re a three-year accelerated program so our students go all year round, which puts them in the workforce one year sooner than traditional programs.”
That also means less student debt, an idea that was appealing to student Brian Youk, who moved to Arizona last year from Michigan.
“We have much less student debt, so you can earn your salary sooner than later,” said Youk.
Youk also liked the school’s active teaching model, which is designed to put students with animals from day one.
“Out of all the schools, what really convinced me was the flipped classrooms,” said Youk. “It’s like you come to the classroom and you’ll be working in groups on real-life cases”
Students spend some of their time at the new Oro Valley campus in labs and classrooms, and they also learn at the nearby Campus Agricultural Center, which houses horses, sheep and cattle.
“Since we’re working on real-life cases, we’ll be more prepared for the real world,” said Youk.
Getting these students into the real world, and more specifically the workforce is a priority since there is a major veterinarian shortage.
“It’s pretty dire right now. I think if anyone has tried to get an appointment with their veterinarian, they found out that it’s several weeks out before you can get there,” said Funk. “There’s some suggestions we’re going to be short thousands of veterinarians for years because it takes a lot of time to make a new veterinarian.”
The school’s curriculum also includes lessons in emotional well-being.
“Our students should be able to take care of themselves as full human beings. So you’re not just a veterinarian, you’re not just a scientist,” said Funk. “You’re a full person and you should be able to bring your full person and care for your full person during your professional career.”
Managing the stress and the business side of veterinary medicine are skills students will also hone during their final year of school as they rotate through veterinary practices, shelter, and zoos.
“We feel fundamentally that that’s important for them to be day one ready to meet veterinary healthcare needs,” said Funk. “It also gives a great opportunity for Arizona businesses to recruit the talent that’s coming out of our program, which we think is exceptional.”
Last year, the college had almost 1,800 applicants for just 110 spots in the next class. 109 students will make up the first graduating class next August. Dean Funk hopes many of them will choose to stay in Arizona. Youk says that’s likely what he will do.
“I think I’ll stay in Arizona,” said Youk. “I actually really like it. Coming from a snowy state, a cold state, as much as I love the place, the snow - I wasn’t a huge fan. So I plan on staying in either Tucson or Phoenix.”
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