CSU rolls out country's first veterinary-business program


Fort Collins, Colo.-To teach students what it takes to run and manage a business, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU) plans to launch a combined DVM/MBA program next fall.

Fort Collins, Colo.-To teach students what it takes to run andmanage a business, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciencesat Colorado State University (CSU) plans to launch a combined DVM/MBA programnext fall.

Five students will make up its inaugural class.

The five-year program was created in response to what Assistant DeanDr. Marty Fettman calls the "wake-up call"-the famed KPMG studyof 1998. Commissioned by top agencies such as the American Veterinary MedicalAssociation and the American Animal Hospital Association, KPMG study revealedthe veterinary community's lack of business and economic sense. It warnsthat business opportunities might not be realized unless the profession"is able to adapt and change our current business practice and attitudes,and habitual ways of delivering services that may be incompatible with ourfuture success."

It underscored the need for business training, says Fettman. "Themajority of a veterinarian's time is spent running a business, and thiscombined program will fully answer those needs."

How times change

As a Cornell University student 25 years ago, Fettman was taught managementconcepts is the same class with jurisprudence and ethics studies.

Today, he's led CSU to incorporate the largest management course of allthe colleges, totaling four credits, into its already intense course load.So naturally, the next step was to add another year of school, Fettman says,and hence, the MBA/DVM program was born.

"We've got quite a bit in the curriculum already; all the basicfinancial information," he says. "But fitting all the managementinformation in the curriculum that a student needs is a problem at large.Every day, there's more information in all subjects that exist. That's whywe're offering another year of study."

Course particulars

The program is ideal for students who want to become veterinary businessconsultants or manage multiple practices, Fettman says.

The enrollee's first year will consist solely of requirements for theMBA while a slot for the first-year veterinary student will be held forthe following year. Remaining MBA requirements must be completed along withthe student's DVM training.

From now on, CSU will always give the MBA/DVM option to incoming students,even though the college doesn't plan to take more than five candidates ayear.

"That's because we can only guarantee five seats in the veterinarycollege right now," Fettman says. "But if this is a raging success,we'll have to rethink that."

Heightened costs

To offset the cost of a fifth year, students enrolled in the CSU programshould receive financial support from fellowships and graduate assistanceprograms, Fettman says.

But the thought of a near 25 percent increase is too much for studentsat Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine to bear, says Dr. AnthonySchwartz, associate dean for academic affairs.

"Student debt is already so high, unless there's a compelling need,we won't add another year," he says. "But we are considering addingmore business curriculum to our current course load, especially since there'san increased sensitivity to the need of business training for students nationally.

"Based on the studies that have been done, pretty much every schoolis probably rethinking what it's teaching right now."

Course load at NCSU

Like CSU and Tufts, North Carolina State University's College of VeterinaryMedicine (NCSU) also is looking into altering its curriculum to incorporatemore business and management learning.

In fact, it has hired a management expert with the sole purpose of programmingand teaching management and business classes.

Eleanor Stell, once a NCSU public relations consultant, now teaches businessto the colleges veterinary classes, including a newly required managementcourse for third-year students. In addition, she's programmed an extendedorientation for first-year students and offers elective workshops, customerrelations and communication classes.

"We started rolling this stuff right into the regular curriculumthree years ago," she says. "We've also shifted some of the responsibilitybackward, changing the requirements for college entry and asking studentsto have business and management courses."

But as much as Stell's worked to make changes, she says the college,like many others, still needs to grow to keep its students business savvy.

Ideally, she wants to see business knowledge, case management and problem-solvinglessons incorporated in medical courses as well as have externships added.

"I'm sure it will take a while," she says, "but businessmanagement doesn't happen just outside the veterinary practice. I don'tthink it should be left outside the classroom, either."

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