Lawmakers consider veterinary school for W.Va.

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 6:27 PM EST
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DUNBAR, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Dr. Jessica Grady received her bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, but her dream of becoming a veterinarian forced her out of state.

That reality could soon change as state lawmakers explore the possibility of funding a veterinary school in West Virginia. Supporters believe it could be key to curing a vet shortage, while keeping more of the state’s best and brightest in West Virginia.

“I think you would have an opportunity, not only for students in state that maybe can’t, don’t have the ability to or the desire to necessarily leave, that they could fulfill that dream here in state, as well as for those folks that we would draw in from out of state,” said Dr. Grady with Dunbar Animal Hospital.

A report prepared for lawmakers found West Virginia has among the fewest veterinarians per household with no registered vet in eight counties, including Clay, Roane and Wirt.

That’s before about 20,000 veterinarians are expected to retire nationwide in the next five to 10 years.

State Sens. Amy Grady, R-Mason, and Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, acknowledge the impact that could have beyond dogs and cats.

“You look at Roane County, it’s very rural,” Grady said Tuesday. “You have a lot of farms. So you have a lot of animals there that need care, and so it’s really, really important to be able to help everybody.”

Both senators note the project would require significant time and financial investment. Yet, the report prepared for lawmakers found West Virginia already spends more than $1 million each year to subsidize out-of-state tuitions for 52 aspiring veterinarians.

Dr. Grady benefited from that program. Yet, she estimates at least half of her classmates who received the West Virginia subsidy started their practice elsewhere -- costing the state treasure and talent.

“There is no silver bullet to that problem,” Sen. Lindsay said. “What you can do, though, is create as much opportunity for folks to stay here, for folks to come back here, and this is just one of those opportunities, so that’s what makes it such a good idea.”

Dr. Grady hopes the proposal moves forward, believing it has potential to help all aspects of the economy.

An select committee studying the matter convened its first meeting in early November.

Lawmakers on that committee will meet again next week in Charleston. The committee cannot create a veterinary school on its own, but it could eventually recommend that the full Legislature consider paying an in-depth study when it returns to session in January.

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