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Murray State University regents to explore development of veterinary medicine school

Murray State University

People hoping to complete a degree in veterinary medicine could one day complete their studies at Murray State University.

MSU’s board of regents unanimously adopted on Friday a resolution to create a task force, begin a feasibility study to examine Kentucky’s veterinarian shortage and “work toward the development” of a school of veterinary medicine at the far western Kentucky institution.

University president Bob Jackson said that Murray State has considered developing a veterinary medicine college in recent decades, and passed a similar resolution just over 50 years ago. He said the institution has an obligation to identify and address needs in the region, like a lack of veterinarians.

“Fifty years. That’s a long time ago and nothing’s happened. We need to advance that initiative further,” Jackson said. “There’s a tremendous shortage of veterinarians in this country. There’s a tremendous shortage of veterinarians in Kentucky. There’s especially a tremendous shortage of large animal veterinarians. I think the time is here, the time is right.”

The composition and size of the taskforce has not yet been determined, though Jackson said it will include “anyone that would be impacted” by such a school. The president also estimated that the feasibility study will be complete this fall.

There are 32 veterinary colleges in the U.S. accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), but none of them are in the Bluegrass State.

Though there isn’t a veterinary college in the state, around 70 Kentuckians are accepted each year to out-of-state schools that do offer a program. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows there are just over 86,000 veterinarians in the country and projects the occupation will grow 19% by 2031. The number of veterinary technicians is also expected to increase by 20% in that period.

The Hutson School of Agriculture at Murray State already has the largest pre-veterinary medicine enrollment among Kentucky universities. It’s also one of three schools in the state whose pre-vet program is fully accredited by the AVMA. The school also houses the Breathitt Veterinary Center in Christian County, a “disease diagnostic laboratory dedicated to protecting the invaluable assets of Kentucky’s equine, livestock and poultry industries.”

Brian Parr, the dean of MSU’s Hutson School of Agriculture, said he’s excited about the prospect of veterinary medicine school because it seems like a natural evolution for Murray State.

“The PreVet/Vet Tech program in the Hutson School of Agriculture has long been a program of excellence that has seen great growth over the last two decades,” he said. “I believe that this initiative is the next logical step in the development of our school to help meet the needs of the agricultural industry.”

A working group established by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is also looking at the veterinary shortage, as well as veterinary retirements and other issues. A final report is expected to be delivered in November.

“I am very excited about this potential opportunity for our students and for our state,” Parr said. “This effort represents a great need in the field of animal agriculture.”

In other Murray State business, the Arboretum at Murray State University will soon be named the Doran Family Arboretum. The Doran family — who were neighbors and friends to Mabel Pullen, who donated the farmland that became the arboretum to the school — are longtime supporters of the university, having given more than $1.5 million in support funds.

Also, MSU’s director of facilities management Jason Youngblood gave an update on the new planned nursing building’s timeline. The design phase of the project began earlier this year. Construction is expected to start in 2024 with the first classes expected to be held in the building in 2026.

The entire Murray State University board of regents meeting can be streamed online.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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