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Purdue's vet school has a larger impact on the community

Purdue's College of Veterinary Science has a plan for a brand new, $108 million dollar vet teaching hospital that would solve all its accreditation problems. All it needs is the funds.

Posted: Mar 6, 2019 7:47 PM
Updated: Mar 7, 2019 11:13 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - As News 18 reported from the statehouse yesterday, Purdue's veterinary school is at risk of losing its accreditation. If the school is put on "probabtionary accreditation," it has two years to fix the problems before it would be shut down completely. It hopes to find out if it has been put on this probationary status within the next month.

But Purdue's College of Veterinary Science has a plan for a brand new, $108 million dollar vet teaching hospital that would solve all its accreditation problems. All it needs is the funds. Purdue President Mitch Daniels lobbied at the statehouse on Tuesday for $73 million from the state. The university has allocated $35 million of its own funds to go towards the project. It will also continue fundraising efforts.

No current or newly admitted vet students would be impacted by the loss of accreditation. And should the school lose its accreditation in the end, it will stop accepting students to the program and those student in the program at that time will be able to graduate with an accredited degree. 

Vet School Dean Willie Reed said having a vet hospital like Purdue's in the Hoosier state is crucial.

"Having a college of veterinary medicine in a state like Indiana is just essential in protecting the large animal and agricultural industries that we have," he said. "So not not having a college in this state would be a tremendous loss."

It would have a ripple effect on all the positive things the school is doing to impact the animal care world.

Layla is a retired racehorse. She has chocolate fur, excited eyes, and a love for running on the treadmill. She may not run on the track anymore, but now her job is to run in the classroom. She helps Dr. Laurent Couetil study asthma in racehorses.

"Respiratory diseases are the number two cause of poor performance in our horse athletes so it's a really big problem and horse asthma is the most common," said Couetil, who has worked with horse since he was a young boy living in Normandy, France.

He's developed a special sensor that can detect how much dust is entering a horse's lungs. He said the goal of his research is to make diagnosis easier while also looking at ways to prevent the disease. And with a booming equine industry in Indiana, it's important that Purdue can help keep these horses healthy.

"It has a $2 billion dollar impact on the Indiana economy, and the racehorse industry is a big part of it," he said.

And it's equally important that the vet school keep its accreditation so it can continue research and continue educating future veterinarians. A big part of this is distinguishing the school as a public health entitity. This would mean the state would look at funds for the school separate from the university. Dean Reed said it also just makes sense.

"What we do is absolutely part of public health and public safety," he said. "It's about making sure animals are safe for human consumption and making sure we track diseases that are spread from animals."

It's also about helping train our next generation of veterinarians.

"In 60 years, we have had more than 35,000 students graduate from our school," he said. "And 60% of those graduates stay in Indiana to teach."

It's about keep the veterinary program on par with the rest Purdue's most successful programs.

"When you look at Purdue it's a world class facility, world class engineering, world class astronauts come to Purdue but they also have a world class vet hospital so they need to look world class," said Mike Henry. He and his wife Angela are horse trainers as well as the coaches for Purdue's Western Equestrian Team. They had students looking at one of their horses on Wednesday.

"It would be devestating if the program were to go away," said Angela. "The hospital here has helped us multiple times get through some difficult situations with some of our livestock,"

And if Purdue hospital didn't exist: "The closest facility that has this kind of hospital and stuff like that would be in Lexington, Kentucky," said Mike, which is about 255 miles away from Lafayette.

Dean Reed said the new facility would be state-of-the-art. He thinks current accreditation emphasizes separating species. Meaning equine, food animals, and small animals would all have separate wings of this new facility. He said this is key for helping to ensure public health safety.

Keeping accreditation means important research continues.

"It's important for these studies, not just for their own horses but so that other horses out there can benefit from those findings," said Professor Couetil.

And helping our future vets is what keeping this program alive is all about.

"The way that they teach the kids the ethics, they teach them to care, it's been phenomenal," said Mike.

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