Plans for the long-awaited Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine reached an important milestone, moving one step closer to becoming a reality.
Last week, the university’s Board of Regents voted to approve a feasibility study that will allow Tech officials to contract with a design professional who can lay out concept plans and identify associated costs and logistics for a vet school.
Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan told Breitbart Texas by email, “We are working to address a critical shortage of farm animal veterinarians in rural areas with an innovative model that will help our state and nation.”
The Lone Star State leads the nation in cattle production, a $10.5 billion industry as of 2012, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture which also accounted for $1.8 billion from the dairy industry. Additionally, Texas has more than 248,000 farms and ranches, the most in any U.S. state. Moreover, 12 percent of Texans reside in rural areas and rural land comprises 84 percent of the state’s total land. Yet, in 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ranked Texas 45th in the number of active veterinarians per 100,000 of the population.
The Tech feasibility study will address the state’s shortage of large animal and rural veterinarians for the proposed School of Veterinary Medicine. Breitbart Texas obtained information from Tech that shows the university intends to establish a fully operational four-year veterinary medicine school that also conducts clinical research and serves approximately 240 students with an additional 150 to 200 non-DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) graduate students, and a full time academic staff of 90 professionals.
The project will “create a top-tier facility for students, teachers and clinicians and – just as importantly – ensure the project benefits the regional food industry and veterinary community by providing lifelong learning facilities, research and commercial opportunities to work with the University,” according to the Tech documentation which stated the vice president for administration and finance and chief financial officer verified the source of funds.
The proposed vet school will be built northwest of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy in Amarillo. The Amarillo Globe-Newsreported Tech is also looking to purchase land about two miles away, for a proposed large animal facility.
Officials contemplate having two facilities in separate locations to facilitate the various components of the program. According to Tech, each venue will be designed to accommodate the program’s growth.
The university must raise a projected $90 million for the vet school. Reportedly, Duncan is committed to raising these funds. Texas Tech University System Vice Chancellor Brett Ashworth told Breitbart Texas, “We do not have a number to share at this time, however, fundraising efforts continue.”
Breitbart Texas reported the road to Tech’s vet school has been full of stops and starts. The university originally announced it wanted to open a vet school in 2015. Representative John Smithee (R-Amarillo) previously said Texas has needed a second veterinary medicine school for four decades.
Despite the need, Texas A&M staunchly opposed Tech building a vet school, resulting in pushback. The Texas Tribune reported that A&M Chancellor John Sharp “aggressively fought Texas Tech University’s plan to open a new veterinary school in Amarillo – which would end the A&M veterinary school’s status as the only one in Texas.”
Finally, this year, lawmakers allocated $4.17 million in seed money to Tech during the 2017 legislative session, the result of unwavering efforts by numerous West Texas legislators and support from the state’s House of Representatives.
The university estimated the feasibility plan’s cost at around $242,000. It will be funded through the $4-plus million the state appropriated to Tech. Ashworth told Breitbart Texas that once the study is complete university officials will review the findings “and take appropriate actions as needed.”
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.
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