Indiana has something that nearly half of the states in the U.S. don't have- a College of Veterinary Medicine. And Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Various events are planned, but most won't impact farmers directly. However, what does have impact is how the make-up of the Purdue Veterinary School ahs changed over the past 50 years. The dramatic shift reveals a lot about how Hoosier agriculture has changed over the same time frame.
Started in 1959, the Purdue Veterinary School graduated its' first class in 1963. The make-up was 100% male. The first female graduated in 1964. There were only two women in that graduating class. Today, 80% of the graduates each year are women.
"We're one of 28 veterinary schools in the U.S., and the trend is pretty much the same across the country," says Willie Reed, dean of the School of Veterinary medicine at Purdue. "We believe it's a trend that will continue."
A corresponding trend is the shift from large animal to small, companion animal veterinary practices, he notes. In the 1960's most farms still had some livestock, and there were more farms. Today, livestock are concentrated on larger farms, and the pet-related economy in Indiana is much larger.
The shift toward graduating more women students wasn't a conscious one, according to Reed. "Today we pick from as many as 800 applicants for 70 spots in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree program each year," he says. "The large majority of those applicants are women."
But the change in demographics if the student body doesn't explain the shortage of large animal practitioners, Reed explains. "We have women pursuing specialization in large animal medicine and males focusing on small animal medicine. The issues affecting the supply and demand of large animal practitioners are complicated, and primarily related to forces at work in the marketplace," Reed explains.
While there may be areas in the U.S. where large animal needs go unmet, one of the biggest impacts is felt at USDA, where they need veterinarians trained in large animal medicine to do various tasks.
"The big farms in swine or diary will continue having access to a veterinarian- the bigger ones may even have their own vet," he says. "It's the people who raise a small number of large animals, and USDA who probably feel the impact of there being fewer large animal vets today."
Veterinary schools aren't ignoring the need to introduce both young men and women to such fields as veterinary science at a younger age. Last year, in fact, Purdue held it's first Vet camp. The camp was for students entering eighth-grade, and gave both them and their parents a good idea of what kind of activities veterinarians do, and what kind of preparation it takes to get into veterinary school.
"It was one of the best activities we've done here," Reed says. "We're expanding it to a week this year, and opening it to students entering ninth grade as well. We hope to add a camp for older students down the road."
You can learn more about the camps and 50th Anniversary activities at the Purdue Veterinary School Web site. Visit: www.vet.purdue.edu.