News Article

UMES could soon add a veterinary school — a first for Maryland and public HBCUs
May 13, 2024


By: Pete Pichaske

For the first time in its history, the state of Maryland might soon have a full-service school of veterinary medicine within its borders.

The Maryland Board of Regents approved a proposal to open such a school at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore in December, and in January, the Maryland Higher Education gave its go-ahead.

While some hurdles remain, including accreditation from the American Veterinary Medicine Association Council on Education, UMES is moving ahead with its plans, and hopes to open the school in the fall of 2026.

Although the University of Maryland already offers an education in veterinary medicine through a joint partnership with Virginia Tech, the full clinical services are offered only at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.

“This is an important opportunity for the state of Maryland, for UMES, and for students who have traditionally not been well-represented in the veterinary profession,” said Dr. Heidi M. Anderson UMES president, in an email response to questions about her school’s plans. “If we receive accreditation, this would be the first School of Veterinary Medicine in Maryland, and the first at any public HBCU (Historically Black College or University).

“This school would play an important role in addressing the shortage of veterinarians on the Eastern Shore and throughout Maryland,” she added. “And it will open the door even more widely to create a more diverse profession.”

The demand for veterinarians is expected to increase by 19% over the next seven years, according to Moses Kairo, dean of the UMES School of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. Meanwhile, he added, black veterinarians make up only 3% of the nation’s workforce now, “indicating a tremendous need to diversify.”

Last week, the school received $1 million in federal funding for the new veterinary school. The funds came from the federal funding package passed in March and was requested by Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.

Located in Princess Anne, UMES first opened in 1886 under the auspices of the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Episcopal. It has operated under a variety of names, including the Princess Ann Academy, before it became it gained its current name in 1948, one of a dozen University System of Maryland public institutions.

The school ’plans to offer a three-year veterinary program, shorter than the traditional four years, school officials said. Once it is up and running, officials say the school expects to admit and eventually graduate 100 students a year.

“Our goal is to use student time more effectively in order to graduate students a year earlier,” Kairo said.

Anderson said the new school would be a good fit for her Eastern Shore school.

‘Our new veterinary medicine school will help UMES fill an unmet need on the Eastern Shore and throughout the state,” she explained. “Deeply rooted in our 1890 land-grant mission, this program will enable us to serve farmers, the food industry and the 50% of the Marylanders who own a pet.”

Animal practitioners throughout the state could benefit from an increase of veterinarians, according to John Brooks, past president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association and chairman of the group’s Task Force for the Future of Veterinary Education in Maryland.

“The shortage of veterinarians has impacted pet owners, farmers and production facilities throughout our state,” Brooks said in an email response to questions. “Most animal owners have experienced significant challenges and delays in getting timely care for their pet in times of need.”

The shortage is a national issue, he added, noting that a dozen universities are applying for accreditation for proposed new colleges of veterinary medicine, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education.

His organization’s “sincere hope,” Brooks said, is that the new program will emphasize recruiting students within the state, and that those students “have a passion to enter our field and remain in Maryland to practice veterinary medicine.”

Brooks said the possibility of the planned school boosting the diversity of the veterinarian profession is an added plus.

“We are fully supportive of any program that aims to improve diversity within our profession, provide opportunities for students to enter our field that otherwise may not have been able to and improve Maryland’s veterinary workforce shortages,” he said.