New veterinary school will be a first for Arkansas

Plans are under way to develop a veterinary school and a dental school at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas.
Plans are under way to develop a veterinary school and a dental school at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. © Lyon College

Lyon College in Arkansas is developing plans for what will be the first veterinary school and first dental school in the state.

Pending approval from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education (COE) and the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), inaugural classes could start as early as 2024 or 2025. The schools will be part of the new Lyon College Institute of Health Sciences. The college has identified several potential locations in Little Rock and should finalize the location for the campus soon.

Lyon has entered into a strategic collaboration with OneHealth Education Group (OneHealth). OneHealth uses private sector capital and consultant solutions to support the launch of professional health science programs. The group aims to reduce the debt burden of graduating professionals and to provide solutions for communities that lack ample access to healthcare.

With only 14.3 veterinarians per 100,000 individuals, Arkansas ranks 49th in the country for its veterinarian-population ratio. Agriculture makes up nearly 15% of Arkansas’s economy, with poultry, cattle, and equines accounting for the largest share of that. Demand for vets is expected to increase sharply: A recent study predicts Americans will increase their spending on pet healthcare by 33% in the next decade, while the number of new veterinarians entering the profession each year increases by just 2.7% annually, falling short of the need for 40,000 new veterinarians in the United States by 2030.

Last year, Arkansas ranked 51st in the country for dental health and is experiencing a dentist shortage.

“With no in-state options, aspiring dental students in Arkansas are forced to pay out-of-state tuition, which is significantly greater than in-state tuition fees,” said Andy Goodman, president of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges & Universities. “Once students migrate away from Arkansas for school, they are less likely to return, draining talent and energy from our state.”

About one-quarter of students stay within one hour of where they completed their graduate training, the college said, and it aims to build a workforce of “Made in Arkansas” veterinarians who are highly trained, practice-ready, and willing to work in rural locations.

For guidance in developing the veterinary school, OneHealth has partnered with the Animal Policy Group, which works closely with the veterinary industry and schools in the United States and throughout the world to maximize their success.

Founded by attorney Mark Cushing, a long-time political strategist, government regulatory advisor, corporate executive and former litigator, the Animal Policy Group works with organizations exclusively in the animal healthcare and animal welfare space to develop comprehensive policy strategies, and initiatives. The Animal Policy Group works closely with veterinary schools in the United States to establish new schools and programs, support US accreditation of international programs, and support innovations in animal healthcare.

Lyon College, at the foothills of the Ozarks in Batesville, Arkansas, was founded in 1872 and is the oldest college in the state with its original charter. The private, liberal arts institution was Ranked by US News & World Report as a 2022 “Best College”.

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