Home » Proposed Murray State school of veterinary medicine gaining momentum

Proposed Murray State school of veterinary medicine gaining momentum

Underserved Kentucky has 42,500 head of livestock per large animal vet
Approximately 450 students are currently enrolled in Murray
State University’s Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary
Technology making it the largest of these programs in Kentucky

By Kristen Roberts

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Prospects for establishing Kentucky’s first veterinary school of medicine at Murray State University are advancing.

“We’re hopeful within the next month or so it will pass through the House and the Senate, and then we can begin to look at funding and how to make it possible,” Brian Parr, Murray State dean of the Hudson School of Agriculture said. “It’s a big venture and likely it’ll take about three years to complete if everything is approved.”

The House Agriculture Committee has advanced HB 400, which would make it possible for Murray State to build a vet school. SB 189 is a companion measure in the Senate.

Funding measures would have to pass both houses in the General Assembly, as well as being approved by Governor Andy Beshear.

In October 2023, Murray State decided to conduct a feasibility study to examine why Kentucky has a statewide shortage of veterinarians, especially in large animals, and how to solve this problem.

The feasibility study recommended the addition of an accredited veterinary school of medicine at Murray State, which would be attached to the Hudson School of Agriculture. You can view the entire feasibility study at this link.

According to the study, estimated initial costs and benefits include:

  • $89 million to build a school of veterinary medicine
  • $142.4 million in economic output resulting from the construction project
  • $36.2 million final demand earnings, which represents the change in earnings in the construction industry resulting from the estimated construction expenditures
  • 679 jobs in the construction industry over the period of the construction phase of the project

Parr reiterated what was found from conducting the feasibility study, which is that Kentucky has a severe shortage of rural veterinarians that practice on large animals. He said a state-based school is needed to serve those rural communities.

The study found that there are only 54 vets across the state dedicated to full-time services of more than 2.3 million large animals, which leaves Kentucky with insufficient means for serving its livestock industry.

“There is only one large animal focused veterinarian per 42,592 head to livestock in Kentucky,” according to the feasibility study.

“For us not to have a vet school is really just something that’s been a problem for ages that really needs to be fixed now, and really the problem has become very apparent in the last two years,” Parr said.

Some students choose to go to one of the neighboring states’ veterinary schools, such as Ohio, Indiana or Alabama, but there are only 33 veterinary colleges in the country accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Each year, approximately 70 Kentucky students are accepted to out-of-state veterinary schools, according to a Murray State University news release.

“For 70 years, we’ve (MSU) been contracting out seats with Auburn University for our students to go to Alabama to vet school,” Parr said.

Auburn University is one of the only schools that allows Kentuckians to receive in-state tuition rates. Auburn has 164 seats — 41 in each year of its four-year program — available for Kentucky students under an agreement set up in 1951. Tuskegee University in Alabama has another 12 seats.

Kentucky is known for its Thoroughbred racehorses and equine industry, poultry production and is the largest cattle state east of the Mississippi. A new Kentucky school would graduate an estimated 50 to 70 veterinarians annually.

Murray in western Kentucky is hundreds of miles from any of the 33 U.S. veterinary schools.
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