LSU Vet Med launches growth initiative to help relieve vet shortage and prepare world-class veterinarians
June 08, 2022
LSU School of Veterinary Medicine has activated a plan to nearly double its entering class size to 200 students by 2024 and to expand the veterinary services it offers in response to the growing need for veterinary care.
“Increasing the number of students we teach and the ways we teach them will help us better meet the needs of our clients and patients while also strengthening our school so that we can best serve the needs of Louisiana and beyond,” said Dean Oliver Garden, who assumed leadership of LSU Vet Med in August 2021.
The overarching plan, I2C / Innovate, Invest, Communicate: a bold roadmap for growth, calls for LSU Vet Med to embark upon a comprehensive and sustained initiative to grow in excellence, reputation, and service to the veterinary medical profession.
The I2C initiative is built upon the following imperatives:
We think beyond conventional paradigms to deliver outstanding world-firsts in teaching, healing, discovery, and protection—to better lives.
We generate novel funding capacity by augmenting state support, philanthropy, self- generated revenue, and extramural research grants to enable continued investment in our people, programs, and facilities—to drive growth.
We message our successes in an energetic, relentless, and multimodal manner to raise our state, regional, national, and international visibility as an academic powerhouse—to elevate reputation.
One of first steps the school will take toward accomplishing the imperatives is to increase the student cohort size. Doing so in response to the call from the veterinary profession will result in LSU Vet Med graduating more veterinarians to help reduce the shortage while fulfilling its missions to teach, heal, discover, and protect.
“Many veterinary clinics are short staffed. There is a workforce shortage, especially in rural and large animal practices,” said Associate Dean for Educational Strategy and Associate Professor of Equine Medicine Heidi Banse, who surveyed Louisiana veterinarians through the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association.
The plan encompasses significant changes within multiple areas of LSU Vet Med, including student admissions, curriculum, and veterinary care services delivered in the school’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital and its new Stephenson Pet Clinic.
Growth has already begun. More students have accepted offers of admission from LSU Vet Med for this fall’s entering class than ever before. LSU Vet Med’s robust admissions process evaluates candidates on both subjective and objective criteria, with an increasing focus on holistic considerations. Like most veterinary schools in the U.S., LSU Vet Med has relinquished the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which has been recognized to create a bias against underrepresented minority applicants.
Accepting more students creates a need for more teaching space and more professors to accommodate the greater numbers. Two major teaching spaces will be expanded and renovated. The 1970s-era auditorium will be updated to meet contemporary instructional needs, including flexible learning space that can accommodate both small and large group learning. The Junior Surgery area will be expanded from 14 surgical bays to 28 to train 70 students at a time in teams of three. Kennel space will be increased in Junior Surgery, as well.
The school is currently recruiting for 10 positions within Veterinary Clinical Sciences and adding six new positions over the next two years—three faculty members and three veterinary technicians—to teach clinical skills and surgical skills to help ensure third- and fourth-year students get hands-on experience treating animals.
“Our teaching is at the heart of all we do. We wouldn’t be here without it,” Dr. Banse said.
Primary care services within the Veterinary Teaching Hospital will be reconfigured under one umbrella. These services include Community Practice (general practice), Shelter Medicine, Equine, Food Animal/ambulatory, and Community Outreach/mobile unit. Community Practice and Shelter Medicine will expand. Equine and Food Animal both offer in-house/hospital services and ambulatory/field service or farm calls.
Expanded clinical services not only serve clients and patients but also expand hands-on learning for third- and fourth-year students.
Dr. Banse is taking the lead on the school’s competency-based, student-centered curricular reform, which will take effect in Fall 2023. She said faculty will work in teams to determine methods of delivery.
“The curriculum will focus on integration of skills, knowledge, and behaviors and will be an active, engaging, experiential learning process so that our graduates are Day 1 ready—prepared for practice upon graduation. A competency-based curriculum involves reframing the role of instructors to teacher-coaches, rather than simply lecturers and test-givers,” Dr. Banse said.
Taking these deliberate steps will allow LSU Vet Med to reinvest in its people, programs, and facilities with the aim of rising to the ranks of the very best in veterinary medicine.
“We already have what it takes to claim our place among the best. We simply need to take some bold steps to get us there,” Dean Garden said.