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Kentucky lawmakers grapple with veterinary school bill
Kentucky Ag Connection - 02/09/2024

A proposed bill would allow Murray State University to establish Kentucky's first veterinary school, sparking debate among lawmakers and industry experts. Proponents argue the school would address the state's veterinarian shortage, especially for large animals. Opponents raise concerns about its impact on existing relationships with other programs and the proposed distributed education model.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Heath, would amend state statutes to allow Murray State to offer veterinary degrees. Kentucky currently lacks an accredited vet school but has contracts with Alabama universities for limited seats for Kentucky residents.

Murray State argues its program, admitting 70 students annually, would address the shortage, particularly in rural areas. They propose a distributed model with pre-clinical training on campus and clinical training at partnered practices, aiming to reduce costs and expose students to real-world settings.

However, the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association (KVMA) expressed concerns. They worry about losing existing contract seats and the model potentially neglecting mixed animal practitioners, crucial in rural areas. They suggest expanding existing partnerships instead.

Veterinarian Tammy Smith raised concerns about the distributed model's inconsistency in student experiences and preparedness.

Lawmakers acknowledged these concerns and the need for careful evaluation before voting on the bill on the House floor. Rep. Chad Aull, torn due to his personal connection to agriculture, highlighted the potential economic impact and the difficult choice between funding a new school or continuing established partnerships.

The bill's progress hinges on addressing these concerns and finding a solution that effectively addresses Kentucky's veterinarian needs while considering existing partnerships and educational models.

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