Veterinary college gives boost to Southwest Virginia farmers

virginia logoLocal farmers were among visitors during a Sept. 21 tour of Lincoln Memorial University’s College of Veterinary Medicine campus. They likely saw where their next livestock vets are training.

The Harrogate, Tenn.-based university launched the veterinary school in Lee County in 2014, and the first class graduated last spring. Each graduate immediately had job offers, said Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk, chairman of the LMU board of trustees.

“We’re out in a rural area; we’re not in a city where you are going to have a lot of cats and dogs and smaller animals,” DeBusk noted. “And one of things we knew is missing today in veterinary medicine is a more intense, thorough course in large animal medicine. So we decided that would be our specialty.”

Emily Fisher Edmondson, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation board member who farms in Tazewell County, said the school “is already starting to produce veterinarians who are serving us in Virginia. Four of the graduates have taken jobs in Southwest Virginia. So we have new vets, and they’re very well trained. I know personally, because two of them have been to my farm and pregnancy-checked my cattle. They did a great job.”

LMU veterinary students take academic courses on the university’s Tennessee campus but spend most of their study time just across the state line in Virginia. The veterinary campus is only 15 minutes from the Cumberland Gap, where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet.

LMU was founded in 1897 with the mission of helping Appalachian residents have a better life. A focus on learning about the types of animals owned by Appalachian farmers was a natural fit, explained Dr. Randall Thompson, medical director of the DeBusk veterinary teaching center. Each student spends his or her fourth year interning in a veterinary practice.

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