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Texas A&M University: Building Partnerships to Strengthen Relations in Rural Veterinary Medicine

By Dr. Dan Posey

Those of us who have the honor of calling the Texas Panhandle Plains home know the value of an education with agricultural roots.

We also know the value of returning home and serving the rural, agriculturally rich communities that helped feed, cloth, and mold us into the people we are today. But in the last decade, we’ve seen an urgent and growing need for well-trained veterinarians skilled in the care of both large and small animals.

The Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences founded the Veterinary Education, Research, & Outreach (VERO) program to address the continual need for veterinarians who are skilled in mixed animal medicine, who understand the unique needs of agricultural industries and rural communities, and who desire to return to their rural, agricultural roots.

Partnerships within the Panhandle are key to our ability to introduce veterinary students to both rural practice opportunities and to the veterinary needs within agriculture.

As a result, outreach is at the heart of VERO’s mission. VERO provides programming for secondary and undergraduate students as well as livestock workers and industry leaders. We partner with West Texas A&M University’s (WT) Paul Engler College of Agriculture & Natural Sciences to provide mentorship to pre-veterinary students at WT and other regional colleges and universities.

These partnerships help us attract the brightest and best pre-veterinary students from across the state into Texas A&M’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program; our outreach efforts have brought students from Texas A&M, WT, Texas Tech University, and more to our VERO campus.

VERO’s outreach efforts also include partnerships with the livestock and production animal industries. Our partnerships with Panhandle feedyards and dairies are mutually beneficial; industry practices get the opportunity to introduce themselves to some of the brightest veterinary students who will soon be seeking employment back in this region after graduating from Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine.

Reaching Out Through Education

VERO is committed to our vision of serving every Texan everyday by emphasizing unique opportunities and strengths available in the Panhandle Plains. One of the ways we achieve this is through our outreach programs geared toward high school students.

We offer and co-host programs that contribute to the livestock and veterinary career education of 4-H and FFA students. We also provide opportunities for their leaders, agents, and teachers to work with VERO faculty and students.

One of our rewarding outreach programs is VERO’s partnership with Amarillo ISD’s AmTech Career Academy, a career and technical education campus. This partnership allows VERO to work with students who aspire to become veterinarians through traditional classroom means, such as guest lectures, and through strategic community service projects that serve the Texas Panhandle Plains community.

“Every single time I interact with the VERO students and Dr. Posey, it’s really awesome because you can see their motivation and the work that they’re willing to put in to see success in our community,” said Rachel Goehring, an AmTech animal science teacher. “Instead of just benefiting from each other, we try to partner together and benefit the greater good.”

One of VERO and AmTech’s partnership projects includes assisting Animal Management Welfare, a city-run animal shelter, with vaccine clinics. VERO partnered with AmTech, Animal Management Welfare, and Texas Tech to host four vaccination clinics in 2021 at which almost 2,000 animals received vaccines.

In March, we also partnered with WT to host Area FFA Career Development Events (CDE). While the CDE contests took place on the WT campus, VERO hosts other events that invite tomorrow’s agriculture leaders into our facilities, laboratories, and classrooms.

VERO faculty also regularly visit schools that serve at-risk youth to engage students in learning about veterinary careers. Our faculty talk to students at a variety of schools, including students at the Boys Ranch. Our visits with at-risk students introduce the career possibilities that open up with a college education.

Finally, VERO partners with the High Plains Veterinary Medical Association and the Texas Veterinary Medical Association to host continuing education (CE) events for Panhandle-area veterinarians each fall. CE events provide quality, educational training for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and animal producers and help veterinary professionals maintain their continuing educational requirement for their licenses.

At VERO, we are committed to developing a seamless, overarching educational program to serve the Texas Panhandle Plains’ rural community, their children, and their employees.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. The next time you see someone sporting a VERO hat, shirt, or scrub top, take a moment to say “Howdy” and ask about their work.

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