Texas A&M System officials announced Tuesday a $5 million commitment for the veterinary outreach program at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, just south of Amarillo.

A Tuesday press release indicated that the funding will go to the Veterinary Education, Research & Outreach (VERO) program through the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, which focuses on large animals’ needs in rural communities. The additional funding from the A&M System will be used to increase faculty members from 5 to 23 for the VERO program, according to the release.

“We are pleased to expand our veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences program to the campus of West Texas A&M University,” Texas A&M President Michael K. Young said in a statement.

In 2019, the system committed $90 million for the establishment of a 22,000-square-foot VERO facility to house a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) curriculum and externship programs for the new clinical rotations in the Texas Panhandle, as well as the “2+2 program,” which will allow Texas A&M veterinary students to elect to spend their first two years in Canyon on the West Texas A&M campus. 

“Texas A&M’s 100-year-old veterinary program is an established, accredited route for students seeking their DVM degree,” Walter V. Wendler, who is president of West Texas A&M, said in a release. “Paired with WT’s prime location for the cattle industry with ample opportunities to work with large animals through extern- and internships is a recipe for a prosperous veterinary services industry in Texas. We are thrilled with the seamless collaboration between these two campuses and eager to be a part of educating Texas A&M veterinary students on WT’s campus.”

The inaugural cohort of fourth-year veterinary students will begin clinical rotations at the Agricultural Sciences Complex on West Texas A&M’s campus starting in summer 2020. The first cohort of as many as 18 first-year veterinary students will begin their DVM education at the VERO in fall 2021.

Every year after, there will be two cohorts at one time cycling through the Canyon location before their third year at the College of Veterinary Medicine in College Station, with the option of returning to Canyon a portion of their fourth-year clinical rotations.

“Through our VERO program, Texas A&M, the CVM and WT are prioritizing the need for rural and food animal veterinarians, needs that affect citizens of the Texas Panhandle and citizens in rural communities across the state,” said Eleanor M. Green, dean of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M.

“Our VERO educational team, led by Dr. Dan Posey, is working to meet these needs by helping West Texas A&M gather and mentor regional students, to help them produce the best veterinary school application possible. In just three and a half years, under Dr. Posey’s leadership, the number of successful veterinary college applications from West Texas A&M has tripled,” Green continued. “The next step is to bring them back home to serve their hometowns in the Texas Panhandle region, and the 2+2 program will be a key part of this critical next step.”

Approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents and the Council of Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association to finalize the program is pending, according to the release.

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