Back in the 1940s, I packed a suitcase and headed for Texas A&M University. Having just landed a basketball scholarship, I had big dreams and confidence. My plans, at the time, were to become a veterinarian, and I enrolled in some animal husbandry courses to achieve my goals.
My basketball prowess, sadly, was not as great as I thought, and soon the school failed to renew my $25 a month basketball scholarship. I withdrew from Texas A&M and headed north to Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State University. Ultimately, I switched majors, ventured into the oil and gas business and had some pretty profound impact in the energy space and with retooling corporate America.
Since then, however, Texas A&M continues to operate one of the best veterinary programs in the country. It also happens to currently be the only veterinary school in Texas.
In fact, Texas A&M has been the only veterinary school option for Texas students for more than a century. For the last many years, Texas students were forced to turn to vet schools outside of Texas, and even outside the U.S. In 2017, there were almost 600 applicants for the existing veterinary program in Texas, but due to limited capacity, only 142 students were accepted and enrolled. This forced students to leave the state to pursue an education in veterinary medicine.
As Dr. Guy Loneragan, Dean of the Texas Tech veterinary school, says: “Texas has one of the best veterinary institutions in the country, but it can only supply about 25 percent of the new veterinary workforce every year. The state has outgrown what any one institution can provide by many fold over.”
To address this problem that our state is facing, state legislators and the governor recently approved a budget that fully funds the appropriation requested for this session ($17.4 million) for the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine to be located in Amarillo. The new school will be located on the same campus as the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, bringing a new and innovative approach to veterinary education to our state.
Texas Tech’s veterinary school will support the agricultural community, an important industry that fuels our state’s economy, and it will provide educational opportunities for new generations of Texans. State funding will unlock more than $90 million that has been raised by generous donors and communities in Texas who strongly believe in Texas Tech’s veterinary school.
As Texas rancher Coleman Hudgins Locke said in an op-ed that he wrote for the Austin-American Statesman, “Texas is home to 13 medical schools, three dental schools, and nine law schools. There is certainly a need, and room for, a second veterinary school in the great state of Texas.”
Texas Tech’s veterinary program will be distinct from yet complementary to the program at Texas A&M. Having both programs will better serve Texans in the process.
I thank the governor and Texas legislators for believing in Texas Tech’s veterinary school and for taking action to make it a reality. This new program will help the Texas veterinary workforce, support our state’s agricultural industry, and ultimately enhance and protect our food supply.