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New Vet Program is First of Its Kind in Alaska

Fairbanks, AK - The University of Alaska, Fairbanks signed an agreement with Colorado State University last month to establish a professional veterinary medicine program in Alaska.  It’s the first program of its kind in the state.

The University of Alaska, Fairbanks can’t afford to build a teaching hospital for a veterinary medicine program.  The school also can’t obtain accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association in order to offer a certified teaching program.  That’s why Doctor Todd O’Hara says a partnership with Colorado State is the perfect scenario for students who want to enroll in a new vet program at UAF.
“Under the current circumstances they have compete as out of state students in other programs," says O'Hara, "and the odds of getting in are very low and if they do get in, they usually pay two to three times as much in tuition as instate students would.”

O’Hara is the program Coordinator.  He says the partnership between UAF and CSU is modelled after a similar program between the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Iowa State. “The large school will have the students in their final years, years three and four, where they’ll be working on clinical skills," explains O'Hara.  "For years one and two at UAF, they will get their basic science courses for example in anatomy and physiology that prepare them for work at the teaching hospital and the more intensive clinical work.”

O’Hara says unlike other programs, this one is also Alaska specific.  They will involves classes that address marine and terrestrial wildlife, fish, sled dog husbandry, sled dog sports medicine, non-traditional livestock, for example bison, yaks, reindeer.  We have a great variety of species here in Alaska that will be very attractive to people at Colorado State,” he says.

Classes are slated to begin in the fall of 2015.  Enrollment preference will be given to Alaska residents.  Funding comes in part from UAF and money approved by the legislature, but O’Hara says the program is mostly funded through student tuition.

*KUAC's Tim Ellis contributed to the production of this story.