College of Veterinary Medicine marks centennial
EAST LANSING, Mich. — One hundred years ago, Michigan's State Board of Agriculture authorized a veterinary division at what was then Michigan Agricultural College, creating the first veterinary college east of the Mississippi River to offer a four-year program.
Horses were the dominant form of transportation, a majority of people lived on farms and pets rarely stayed indoors.
Now, as MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine marks its centennial, the role that veterinarians play has expanded to food safety, public health and research endeavors tackling some of human health's most pressing issues.
With more than 6,000 graduates over its 100-year history, the college - one of 28 in the United States - has continued to adapt how it educates students, Dean Christopher Brown said. For the Class of 2014, that includes 108 students with a mean age of 23 and undergraduate degrees spanning biology, animal science, social work and fine arts, among others.
"The college is continually keeping pace with the changes over the past century," Brown said. "From the decline in family farms to the shift in how companion animals are viewed to the gender shift in veterinary students, we are constantly trying to stay a step ahead and be prepared."
Today, the college is broken down into:
- Two clinical departments: large-animal clinical sciences and small-animal clinical sciences;
- Two service units: the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health;
- Four biomedical science departments: pathobiology and diagnostic investigation, along with the three shared departments of microbiology and molecular genetics, pharmacology and toxicology, and physiology.
- The Center for Integrative Toxicology, where researchers study the health and environmental effects of pollutants.
That breakdown provides an in-depth experience for students and a rich research environment for faculty members, Brown said.
Pat LeBlanc is the director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which handles about 24,000 patient visits each year.
"With the technological advancements made at the hospital, and the vast specialties of our faculty members, our patients have an unmatched experience," he said. "In addition, our students are exposed to the latest and greatest during their clinical studies."
Those technologies include a new large-bore MRI, minimally invasive surgery techniques, an oncology center and artificial elbow replacements. And though many people associate veterinarians with caring only for companion animals, the work with large animals is vital to the agriculture and food industry.
In addition, research into zoonotic diseases - those transmitted to humans from animals - has a huge impact on human health: veterinarians have been on the front line for diseases ranging from West Nile virus to H1N1.
Looking forward, Brown said a focus on specialty practices and the continuing evolution of how animals are used in society will drive what the college does.
"The time to deliver a veterinary education is the same, but we have to deliver so much more," he said. "There is a push across the country to bring veterinary stakeholders together and rethink how we educate students; we are going to look more and more like the human medicine model.
"There will be an increased focus on specialties and new ways of teaching; we must stay ahead of that trend."
Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.