LOGAN, Utah – The Utah legislature recently approved funding for the new College of Veterinary Medicine at Utah State University. The college will open its doors in the fall of 2024, and when it does, it will be the first of its kind in the Beehive State. School officials believe that along with increasing academic opportunities for Aggies, the college will also help ease the shortage of veterinarians Utah is facing.
In the fall of 2024, the College of Veterinary Medicine will open its doors to students as Utah’s first four-year veterinary program. Currently, USU participates in the Washington-Idaho-Montana-Utah Regional Program in Veterinary Medicine. Students spend their first two years of school at USU and then head off to Washington to finish their degree.
Twenty-five of our 29 counties report that livestock is their number one agricultural commodity,” USU College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Dean Ken White told ABC4. “So certainly, it fits, not only in the tradition of the state, but more importantly, in the tradition of Utah State University. I mean, we started life as the ag college.” The dean’s pride in USU’s commitment to agriculture was clearly evident by his footwear, blue ostrich cowboy boots with the USU logo on the front-facing portion of the boot shaft.
According to the Department of Agriculture, agriculture brings in more than one billion dollars into Utah annually. With the vast majority of Utah agriculture relying on livestock, veterinarians are needed in the state. However, there is currently a shortage. White explained, “We have a very limited number of veterinarians. We’re 42 out of 50 states in the number of veterinarians per capita.”
For veterinarians and USU professors like Kerry Rood, the idea of allowing more people to study veterinary medicine here in Utah is an exciting prospect. Rood added: “As a veterinarian myself, I understand the need we have for veterinarians within our community and broader within the intermountain region.”
That need, White told ABC4, will hopefully be filled (at least in part) by the creation of the new college. “We need these new veterinarians, we need them to stay in Utah, we need them to be able to relocate to some of the more rural parts of the state, and so I think that’s going to be a big boom to Utah’s economy,” White stated.
Kerry Rood emphasized that Utah needs more veterinarians for several reasons. While they will make sure your dog or cat is healthy, their commitment to the health of livestock may have a direct impact on your wellbeing. “This program will also train the future professionals who guard our food supply and the safety and quality of our food,” Rood stated. He also told ABC4 that veterinarians help public officials make decisions on best practices across the state to ensure the livestock raised for food in Utah is healthy and treated humanely.
The first class of the new program will have about 45 students and will eventually grow to around 300 students.