Many Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) states offer programs in veterinary medicine at established colleges, but historically residents of Montana have not had a school program within their state. Now that has changed. A new program in conjunction with Washington State University’s veterinary school is enabling students to enroll in the Montana Cooperative Veterinary Medicine Program.
An admissions committee was tasked with finding 10 students to begin this program in August 2014. The committee was composed of health sciences faculty from both Montana State and Washington State Universities collaborating with representatives from the Montana veterinary and livestock industries.
Because of the shortage of livestock veterinarians in Montana, estimated by the Montana Veterinary Medical Association to be nearly 300 practitioners, there is particular interest in students motivated to pursue food animal medicine and rural practice in Montana. This shortage is compounded by the upcoming retirement of nearly 63% of the current livestock veterinary workforce.
Students accepted into the cooperative veterinary program will begin their first year of study in Bozeman, then transition to Washington State to complete their veterinary medical training. In addition, WSU senior vet students will have the opportunity to pursue internships and externships in Montana veterinary practices. The idea is to enable veterinary students to build strong ties in the Montana communities that will help establish them in the area early on.
A similar program (WWAMI Medical Education Program) at the Washington State School of Medicine has yielded great success for the past 40 years, enabling students from Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska and Idaho to pursue their first year of studies in their home states.
Montana is not the only state to cooperate in this veterinary venture with WSU; the University of Idaho and Utah State University along with Montana State now form a Regional Cooperative Program in Veterinary Medical Education. This newfound approach will provide a cost-effective means for students to pursue their medical education while including prospective veterinary graduates in their states’ workforces to care for all species.