Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SNRE offers pre-veterinary track

The School of Natural Resources and Extension has added a pre-veterinary track for undergraduate students.

The program will have an emphasis on agriculture and natural resources.

"Pre-vet is the pipeline for our success," said Dr. Todd O'Hara, coordinator of pre-vet and veterinary student affairs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks  Department of Veterinary Medicine, College of Natural Science and Mathematics. "This will get the appropriate students into the pipeline and properly prepared for study in veterinary medicine.”

From left, SNRE Interim Dean Stephen Sparrow, Professor Milan Shipka, Dr. Todd O'Hara and Dr. Arleigh Reynolds discuss plans for the new pre-vet undergraduate track that SNRE will offer starting fall semester 2014.
There are four general paths at UAF for students to prepare for the study of veterinary medicine: biology and wildlife, physiology and cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry and now agriculture and natural resources. Colorado State University, UAF's partner in professional veterinary medicine, sees animal science and sustainable agriculture in a positive light, O'Hara said.

"If we offer the pre-vet track in agriculture and natural resources, students will have a good chance of getting into CSU. Students who show no intention of studying food animals or large animals are going to get dinged. Food animals and equine areas are underserved by veterinarians in Alaska and nationwide."

"We're looking at what CSU requires," said Milan Shipka, professor of animal science. "This will add 14 credits to our degree program. Our program in the natural resources management degree is currently the only track specifically labeled pre-veterinary medicine."

A new three-credit course, introduction to sustainable agriculture, will be added for fall semester. Shipka, Professor Meriam Karlsson and Professor Mingchu Zhang will teach the course. Other courses, such as animal science and sustainable livestock production will be part of the course offering.

Dr. Arleigh Reynolds, associate dean of the UAF Department of Veterinary Medicine, explained that the One Health Initiative, a movement to forge collaborations between physicians, osteopaths, veterinarians, dentists, nurses and other scientific health and environmental related disciplines, is important to CSU leaders. "The profession is adjusting," Reynolds said. "Veterinarians will be more involved in human health. CSU sees tying with Alaska a way to address that diversity."

Reynolds said his vision is to focus on rural Alaska. "For this program to serve Alaska we have to produce vets who will fill the needs in Alaska and there is a huge veterinary need in villages."

An added bonus for SNRE's pre-vet track is the school's Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer where cattle are raised and researched. "We want to get students down there," Reynolds said. "There are a lot of opportunities there; it's the agricultural center of the state and it's a good place to bring students from Anchorage and Fairbanks to experience agriculture. We haven't defined anything yet but we look forward to working closely with SNRE and taking advantage of things we have in the state already."

SNRE Interim Dean Stephen Sparrow said he is excited about the opportunities the pre-vet track will offer students. “We recognized a need and now we can begin to prepare students for veterinary school and eventually for careers and service in Alaska communities,” he said.

Students interested in the pre-vet track should contact Professor Shipka, 907-474-7429 or Martha Westphal, SNRE enrollment and administrative coordinator, 907-474-5276.

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