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Murray State University forms task force as board looks to develop potential veterinary school

Digital Media Murray State

Murray State University could be the future home of a veterinary school of medicine.

The school’s board of regents approved a resolution in August to form a task force – including students, professors, farmers and food industry representatives, among others – that will oversee a feasibility study and “work toward the development” of the school at the far western Kentucky institution.

There currently isn’t a veterinary school in the state of Kentucky, and on average 70 Kentucky students go to out-of-state schools because they offer a veterinary medicine program.

Brian Parr, the dean of Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture, is the task force’s co-chair. He said the school has a long history of preparing people for careers in the veterinary field.

“We have a long history of serving students that are interested in vet medicine, and we have a very good success rate of those students getting into vet school after they leave Murray State,” said Parr.

Only 32 veterinary schools in the nation are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Parr said the closest accredited institution to western Kentucky is at the University of Arkansas – which sits nearly 400 miles from Murray State.

Yesenia Hernandez, a pre-vet major at Murray State, is among the students on the task force. The Louisville native sophomore came to the school specifically for the pre-veterinary program, but she said the looming cost of out-of-state tuition for veterinary school has her considering a different career path.

“I was thinking about changing [my major] only because we don’t have a vet school here, and I didn’t want to spend all of that money,” Hernandez said. “But knowing that they’re trying to get one in Kentucky … I know that if I do decide to change my major, I can always go back.”

Parr said, if Murray does develop a veterinary school, that he doesn’t expect it to be traditional. He thinks that, instead of having a large veterinary hospital on campus, the university would rely on area practitioners and veterinarians to allow students to complete clinical rotations.

The agriculture dean also thinks bringing a program like this to Kentucky would help the state solve its shortage of large animal veterinarians, a problem a task force for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is looking to solve. Parr thinks adding an in-state veterinary school will be a key part of the solution.

“When the students are already ingrained in the clinics in the community that are around us here in western Kentucky and in the region, then I think that chance just goes up even further, that that’s where they’re going to work when they finish school,” said Parr.

Parr said the idea of a veterinary school in Murray has been brought up multiple times over the past 50 years. The Board approved a similar resolution to establish a veterinary school in 1973, but no action came of it.

“Since Murray State is not in the center of Kentucky, the school needed statewide support and representation from the agricultural sector, animal and large animal sector and the Kentucky legislative branch for the idea of a potential veterinary school,” said Parr.

The task force will meet throughout the fall semester.

Parr expects the feasibility study to be complete by Christmas. Once complete, it will be presented to the task force and who will then make recommendations to the board of regents.

The full 37-member task force includes:

  • Mr. David Beck, President and COO, Kentucky Venues 
  • Mr. Jeremy Buchanan, Executive Director, Purchase Area Development District 
  • Dr. Johanna Choate, Veterinary Faculty, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University
  • Mr. Seth Clark, Pre-Veterinarian Student, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University 
  • Ms. Sarah Coleman, Executive Director, Kentucky Horse Council 
  • Ms. Nikki Ellis, Executive Director, Kentucky Pork Producers 
  • Dr. Renee Fister, Associate Provost, Murray State  University
  • Dr. Claire Fuller, Dean, Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology, Murray State University
  • Ms. Sharon Furches, Second Vice President, Kentucky Farm Bureau 
  • Mr. Jerry Gilliam, Christian County Judge Executive
  • Mr. Jamie Guffey, Executive Director, Kentucky Poultry Federation 
  • Mr. Daniel Hayden, Program Coordinator, Kentucky Cattlemen's Association
  • Representative Richard Heath, Chairman, House Agriculture Committee
  • Ms. Yesenia Hernandez, Pre-Veterinarian Student, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University
  • Dr. Laura Ken Hoffman, Associate Professor, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University
  • Senator Jason Howell, Chairman, Senate Agriculture Committee 
  • Mr. Stan Humphries, Trigg County Judge Executive
  • Ms. Tara Joiner, Licensed Veterinary Technologist, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University
  • Mr. Nathaniel Keith, Production Manager, Cal Maine Foods
  • Dr. Brittany Kirby, Assistant Professor, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University
  • Dr. John Laster, Executive Board, Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association
  • Mr. Doug Lawson, President/COO, Field and Main Bank
  • Dr. Brent Mayabb, Global Chief Medical Officer, Royal Canin 
  • Ms. Theresa Nichol, Garnett Farms 
  • Dr. Shea Porr, Associate Dean, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University
  • Mr. Ronny Pryor, Representative, Tyson Foods 
  • Dr. Debbie Reed, Director, Breathitt Veterinary Center, Murray State University
  • Representative Steven Rudy, House Majority Floor Leader 
  • Ms. Joanna Shake, Executive Director, Green River Area Development District 
  • Ms. Kristen Stewart, Agriculture Coordinator, Hopkinsville Community College, KCTCS 
  • Dr. Jared Tapp, Veterinarian, Pennyrile Animal Clinic 
  • Mr. Jason Vincent, Executive Director, Pennyrile Area Development District 
  • Co-Chairs: Dr. Brian Parr, Dean, Hutson School of Agriculture, Murray State University, and  Mr. Jordan Smith, Executive Director of Government and Institutional Relations, Murray State University
  • Ex-Officio members: Dr. Robert L Jackson, President, Murray State University;  Dr. Tim Todd, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Murray State University; and Ms. Jackie Dudley, Senior Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services, Murray State University
Zoe Lewis is a first-year sophomore at Murray State University from Benton, Kentucky. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in media production. She enjoys reading, going to movie theaters, spending time with her family and friends, and eating good food. Zoe is an Alpha Omicron Pi sorority member in the Delta Omega chapter. She is very excited to start working at WKMS and work while learning more about NPR, reporting, journalism, and broadcasting.
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