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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Prepares Students for Vet School

LAS CRUCES -- Horses, and cows and dogs, oh my!

For students with a yen for dealing with creatures big and small, New Mexico State University offers a pre-veterinary program through the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences .

"Our goal is to prepare our students to get into the veterinary schools," said James Strickland, animal scientist and pre-vet program adviser.

Since New Mexico doesn't have a veterinary school, 17 seats are available to students from the state at cooperating universities through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). The largest number head each year for Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Other New Mexico students may go to the vet schools at Oregon State University, Washington State University, Tufts University in Boston, or the University of California at Davis.

"It works well," said Tim Ross, an NMSU animal scientist and adviser to the college's Pre-Vet Club. "New Mexico pays the out-of-state portion of the students' tuition, which is a good deal for the state, because New Mexico's population wouldn't be able to support a vet school of its own. Then after finishing vet school, the majority return to work in New Mexico."

Warren Franklin, a 1983 NMSU pre-vet/animal science graduate, went on to vet school at CSU. Afterwards, he came back to the state and worked strictly with race horses with another veterinarian for three years, before starting his own large and small animal practice in Glencoe.

"I think NMSU's program is excellent," he said. "It gives you a well-rounded background. Some of the most helpful classes were the animal science ones like husbandry, nutrition and genetics."

Amber Dennis Thompson completed three years in the pre-vet program in spring 1992, before heading for CSU. "The program's degree of difficulty prepares you very well," she said. After graduating from CSU this year, she began working as a vet in Las Cruces.

About 50 percent of NMSU's animal and range science undergraduates begin their freshman year with ambitions of becoming veterinarians, Ross said.

All together, there are about 70 to 100 students in the pre-vet program at a time. Some students change their career goals during their first few years, leaving about 10 in the program who actually apply to the veterinary schools each year.

Since pre-vet is a program at NMSU not a degree, students often major in something else like animal science or biology.

"Even though they don't have to complete their bachelor's degrees to get into vet school, we encourage our students to stick it out. It gives them a better chance of getting in, and they always have something to fall back on," said James Strickland, animal scientist and pre-vet adviser.

Students in the program take core courses like chemistry, biology, statistics and physics. They're also encouraged to take some animal science classes such as animal nutrition, reproductive physiology, breeding and genetics. "I think the animal science classes really increase the students' success in vet school," Ross said.

Strickland added that the nutrition classes are especially valuable for future veterinarians, because nutrition isn't always emphasized in the vet schools.

Besides the program, pre-vet students find support and camaraderie in the Pre-Veterinary Club. "We support students' interests," said Lisa Zigment, a junior in the pre-vet program and president of the club. "We have guest speakers from the vet schools who keep us informed on application requirements."

The club takes several field trips each year to zoos, race tracks and the open house at CSU.

"We're an active group, and we do service projects like dog washes and taking puppies from the Humane Society to area nursing homes for visits," Zigment said.