UAF nearing partnership for veterinary program

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The University of Alaska Fairbanks is finalizing details on a partnership that would establish a new veterinary medicine program by 2015.

The proposal would allow the school and Colorado State University to jointly offer a veterinary degree, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Thursday. Under terms of the deal, which is still being worked out, UAF would provide the first two years of graduate-level study and Colorado State would provide the final two.

The arrangement would allow UAF to provide a limited number of students with access to a top-tier veterinary school without the expense of maintaining a full program.

Paul Layer, dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics at UAF, said Alaska is currently the only state that doesn’t have a veterinary school or a partnership with a state that does.

He said the university is hiring a faculty position in anatomy and plans to add a position that will be divided between veterinary classes and the cooperative extension program. The remainder of classes will be taught by existing UAF faculty and part-time instructors in the community, along with Colorado State faculty during the program’s early years.

Alaskans will get preferential treatment when applying to the joint veterinary program but admissions standards still must be met. Tuition will be charged at Colorado State levels, whether the student is studying in Alaska or Colorado. The program will have room for about 10 students.

Layer said Colorado State would benefit from the arrangement by filling some openings in its upper-division classes with UAF transfers. With natural attrition, there are more empty seats in the final two years of veterinary classes than the first.

When the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted in 2011 to pursue the partnership, some clinic owners testified about the need for a program to train more veterinarians in Alaska.

Layer said there is currently a shortage of vets in some rural areas.

But Denali Lovely, a North Pole veterinarian and president of the Alaska State Veterinary Medical Association, said she doesn’t see much evidence of a veterinarian shortage in the state and said some areas have reached a saturation point.

Still, she said with the number of students who will be enrolled in the program, she doesn’t see a problem.

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