With the impending opening of the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, one can wonder about the impact the school may have on established veterinarians in the area.
“I think it’s a positive for not only Lubbock, but the South Plains and really the entire Panhandle,” Timothy Polk, a local veterinarian and member of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) board, said.
Small animal, large animal and mixed animal veterinarians are needed in the surrounding areas, Polk said. Small animals include dog, cats and some exotic animals; large animals include cattle, sheep and other farm animals; mixed animals include both.
Rural Texas has a significant void in regard to veterinarians, Kynan Sturgess, a veterinarian in Hereford, member of the TVMA board and owner of one of the clinics partnering with the new school, said.
“Our whole goal with this program is to, hopefully, select a different type of student,” Sturgess said. “The schools aren’t putting out vets that are willing to go back into rural America, especially Texas.”
Clinics have been trying to hire new veterinarians for years, Sturgess said. For his own clinic, he advertises job openings both in Texas and out of state but rarely receives applicants.
“Very few grew up in a rural community,” Sturgess said. “They grew up in big cities.”
The school is attempting to localize veterinarians not only in the surrounding areas, but also in Texas in general.
In Texas, about 150 students graduate with veterinary degrees each year, Polk said. The Texas State Board of Veterinary Examiners issues about 500 to 600 licenses every year.
“If you do the math, where are the other veterinarians coming from?” Polk said. “From out of state, probably.”
The new Amarillo campus is also a positive for Texas students who want to attend veterinary school, Polk said. Students now have another option, making it less likely they will need to attend school out-of-state and pay higher tuition.
The school will also have a different model that implements a more hands-on approach that many other veterinarian facilities do not have, Polk said. The students will be working with practicing veterinarians in the surrounding areas.
Sturgess, whose practice is a designated training site, said that he would be working directly with students 40 out of 52 weeks in the year.
“My caseload is substantially higher, from a cattle perspective at least, than what any student sees at a current teaching hospital, really, anywhere in the country,” Sturgess said. “They’re going to see it all.”
At a teaching hospital, students typically see one to two cases per day, Sturgess said. At his clinic, students will be presented with about 15 to 20 each day.
The school is aiming to create general practitioners who can handle all types of animals, Sturgess said. By exposing students to different cases instead of different teachers, they can gain more experience.
The new veterinarian school may also affect residents with pets.
“There is healthy competition in the area,” Sara Allen, a senior electronic media and communications major from Andrews, said.
The veterinary clinic where Allen takes her pets is often in high demand, she said.
“Especially after 5 o’clock,” Allen said. “Everyone wants those appointments because that’s when they get off work.”
Although running behind does not affect the quality of care that her pets receive, Allen said, having another veterinarian in office would be beneficial.
Overall, the SVM will add a new breed of student to the South Plains, Polk said.
“It’s a win-win situation for Tech and the Panhandle,” Polk said.