Tag Archives: veterinary medicine

Texas Tech, Texas A&M battle over veterinary medicine

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp came to the Panhandle the other day to announce plans to enhance West Texas A&M’s veterinary medicine education program.

Sharp wants to maintain A&M’s monopoly on veterinary medicine throughout the state. I cannot blame him for looking out for the university system he administers.

Oh, but wait. His plan for WT have the appearance of a sort of pre-emptive strike to prevent Texas Tech University from building a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo, which is a live option on the table for the community … and for Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

Duncan and Sharp have distinct differences of opinion on whether Texas Tech should proceed with construction of a veterinary college in Amarillo. Duncan came to town not long ago to pitch the case to community leaders, suggesting that Tech’s board of regents are committed to establishing a vet school next to Tech’s existing Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.

Sharp, meanwhile, is pulling out many stops to prevent Tech from proceeding. The top Aggie is a savvy enough politician to understand what the announcement that boosts WT’s role in veterinary medicine means to any potential competition. Then again, Duncan has been around the Texas political pea patch a time or two himself, so he must be acutely aware of what Sharp might be trying to accomplish.

I happen to believe that Texas — with 268,000 square miles and 27 million residents — is big enough to accommodate two schools of veterinary medicine. Duncan has high praise for the veterinary education that A&M provides. He also believes Texas Tech can provide a top-drawer education for veterinary medicine students who want to be educated here at home and who might want to remain in the Panhandle after they receive their DVM degrees from Texas Tech.

I happen to agree with Duncan.

I also believe the A&M initiative is good for West Texas A&M, it’s good for the community … but it shouldn’t forestall Texas Tech’s efforts to establish a veterinary medicine presence in Amarillo.

Tech chancellor pushes another ‘big idea’

Bob Duncan is on a mission. It’s simple and complicated at the same time.

The Texas Tech University System chancellor believes Texas is too big a state to have just a single college of veterinary medicine. He wants to establish a second vet school and he wants it to be in Amarillo.

So, here’s the simplicity and complexity of the notion he is proposing.

The Texas Panhandle is at the epicenter of large animal care, given the region’s plethora of livestock in the form of cattle and horses. “The feedlots and dairies are clustered in West Texas, not on the Brazos (River),” he said, alluding to Texas A&M University’s dominance of veterinary medicine education. A&M has the sole such college in Texas, and Duncan wants to rid the Aggies of their vet school monopoly.

In a presentation today to the Rotary Club of Amarillo, Duncan made several key points. He pointed out that Texas Tech was created in 1923 as the result of a “big idea.” He believes the school of veterinary medicine is the university’s next major step forward.

Duncan said Texas has a shortage of veterinarians, 40 percent of whom are educated out of state.

The chancellor said Texas Tech has been consulting with veterinary medicine programs at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Colorado State and University of California-Davis. He also noted that Amarillo is closer to the vet school campuses in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado than it is to College Station, home of Texas A&M University’s flagship campus.

But it gets complicated.

Duncan and his Tech team have been getting serious resistance from A&M, which is led by Chancellor John Sharp, who Duncan describes as a “fine chancellor” who’s also a friend. “We just disagree on this issue,” Duncan said of Sharp.

Sharp has been resisting Tech’s push for a school of veterinary medicine because he apparently believes there’s no need for a second such school in Texas, a state comprising 268,000 square miles and 28 million inhabitants. Indeed, Texas is the second-largest state geographically and second-most populous state in the nation. And we have just a single school of veterinary medicine?

I believe Chancellor Sharp has been bitten by the protectionist bug.

Duncan said he has no desire or intention to denigrate Texas A&M or its school of veterinary medicine. “A&M is considered one of the top 10 vet schools in the nation,” Duncan said, “but A&M cannot accept all the qualified applicants who want to be veterinarians.” He noted that most of the qualified Texas vet school applicants have to go out of state to obtain their doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Texas Tech has received $4.1 million from the Texas Legislature to develop a plan for a vet school in Amarillo, Duncan said, adding that Tech plans to present that plan to the 2019 Legislature, which convenes next January.

Tech plans to locate the campus next to it existing Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and School of Pharmacy campuses in west Amarillo.

But there’s a lot more money to raise, Duncan said, citing a $90 million goal from private, public and foundation sources. He said the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has set aside $15 million in grant funds to assist in that fundraising effort.

“It’s a natural fit,” Duncan said of the vet school plan for the Texas Panhandle.

How confident is the chancellor of success? He didn’t specify.

I’ll just add that Duncan moved into the chancellor’s chair after a highly successful career in the Texas Senate. Many of his former Senate colleagues are still serving there, along with a smattering of those with whom he served in the Texas House. Moreover, Duncan also believes the Panhandle delegation — Sen. Kel Seliger, and Reps. John Smithee, Four Price and Ken King — all are lending their considerable influence to push the vet school over the finish line.

Duncan developed a high degree of respect as a legislator. I believe that respect transfers to the Texas Tech chancellor as he seeks legislative support for what he calls Tech’s next “big idea.”

PAC weighs in on possible vet school for Amarillo

Meanwhile, back home on the High Plains …

While much of the rest of the nation is swirling over news about Russia and other things related to the new president, a political action committee formed to push the interests of the Texas Panhandle has kicked into gear.

Amarillo Matters has decided to pressure the Texas Legislature to approve money for a proposed school of veterinary medicine that would be set up in Amarillo.

The Texas Tech University Board of Regents recently voted to cease the search for money to pay for the vet school in Amarillo, citing tight state money and other priorities that the Texas Tech University should fund first.

I happen to believe the Tech regents made a mistake. I also happen to believe that a veterinary school of medicine in Amarillo is the right ticket not only for Tech, but for the farming and ranching community that is so important to this region’s economic health and well-being.

As the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported: “‘We as a region and as a city need to be standing up for ourselves in Austin and make sure we get a fair share of the pie,’ PAC member and President of Pantera Energy Co. Jason Herrick said.”

I am gratified to see a group formed to apply pressure where it believes it is needed among legislators who control the purse strings for projects such as this one.

I need not remind Amarillo Matters that one of our region’s own — state Sen. Kel Seliger — chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee. Oops! I just did!

Amarillo Matters’ formation piqued my curiosity a few weeks ago. I asked in this blog what it was and wondered for what it stood. Now I think I get it.

Here is what I wrote.

Texas Tech got some push back from Texas A&M University, which has a top-drawer veterinary medicine program, when it first pitched the idea of building a vet school in Amarillo. I presume the Aggies thought Tech would be perhaps too competitive. My own view is that, hey, A&M doesn’t have a veterinary medicine school anywhere near Amarillo … so what’s the problem?

The A-J reports further: “The PAC believes a new school is vital to the state — which experts and lawmakers say is suffering from a lack of veterinarians in rural areas — and is crucial to Texas Panhandle industry, Herrick said. ‘I don’t know that urban and downstate folks understand what a strong cattle and dairy industry we have here in the Panhandle,’ Herrick said.”

This is precisely what PACs do. They “educate” others to the concerns of the regions they serve. I wish Amarillo Matters well in this endeavor.

Tech pulls plug on vet school in Amarillo

I was disappointed to hear the other day that the Texas Tech University Board of Regents has decided against seeking money to create a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

The money would have come from the Texas Legislature, which I am quite certain has gotten its share of pressure from Texas A&M University to spend the money on, um, other priorities.

Tech had floated the notion of creating a veterinary school in Amarillo as a way to create a pool of medical professionals who would serve the cattle and horse industries that are so prevalent in this part of the world.

Tech, though, got some immediate push back from A&M, which has a first-rate veterinary medicine program already — but none in Amarillo or elsewhere in the Texas Panhandle.

The systems happen to be run by two men with extensive legislative experience, I hasten to add. Tech’s chancellor is former state Sen. Bob Duncan, the Lubbock Republican who gave up his Senate seat to take the chancellorship at his alma mater; the A&M chancellor happens to be John Sharp, a former Democratic state senator from Victoria who’s also held elected posts as a Texas railroad commissioner and comptroller of public accounts.

I don’t know what kind of relationship these men have, but they no doubt now are rivals for a depleted source of revenue that would pay for the establishment of a veterinary medicine school.

Let’s also acknowledge the presence of a third state senator with something to say about this notion. That would be Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who happens to chair the Senate’s Higher Education Committee. Didn’t the chairman see a need to fight for Tech’s veterinary school — which would serve his sprawling West Texas Senate district?

I believe a Texas Tech veterinary school would be good for the state, good for Amarillo and the region and good for the university system. A&M officials seemed intent on torpedoing the idea from the get-go, suggesting that there is insufficient demand for a veterinary medicine school to justify an Amarillo campus run by a competing university system.

So, Texas Tech’s regents say they won’t seek money this legislative session to finance development of a veterinary school in Amarillo. They have other pressing needs … they said.

Fine. I just don’t want this idea to get buried under a pile of manure.