May 09, 2023
Future veterinarians will soon be able to seek education in New Jersey, as Rowan University has taken strides toward opening the state's first veterinary school.
Rowan University received a $30 million gift for its Shreiber School of Veterinary Medicine, set to welcome its first class in 2025, university officials announced during a groundbreaking ceremony late last month on Rowan's Harrison Township campus.
The donation came from South Jersey businessman and animal welfare advocate Gerald B. Shreiber, now the vet school's namesake. Shreiber grew up outside Atlantic City and purchased J&J Snack Foods Corp. in 1971, turning it around from a bankrupt soft pretzel provider into a successful snack company with brands such as Icee and Minute Maid. His animal advocacy work includes the creation of the Shreiber Animal Foundation Enterprise, which established a pet therapy program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"Animals are my passion, so I couldn’t think of a better way to give something back to make a positive impact on their lives,” Shreiber said. “I’m excited to see the development of the veterinary school and to know I have a role in that. I believe New Jersey needs better veterinary care and if I can do my small part to help that, I’m happy to.”
Shreiber's gift, the third-largest in Rowan's history, will allow the vet school to offer scholarships. The vet school has also received state funds to move forward. Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy approved $75 million to help support the construction of the veterinary school’s primary academic and clinical facilities.
Once accredited, the vet school, comprising a 108,000-square-foot facility which will stand adjacent to the South Jersey Tech Park on Rowan's West campus, will include a teaching hospital and mobile clinics for large animals. Along with offering the state's first doctoral degree in veterinary medicine, the school will also have a number of veterinary-related undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as internship and residency opportunities for postgraduates.
With the addition of the D.V.M. degree, Rowan will be one of just two universities in the nation to offer three medical degrees: a D.V.M., doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) and M.D.
As Rowan inches closer to opening its vet school, veterinarian shortages continue to affect the U.S. In 2006, the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges — which added Rowan as a provisional member institution in January — predicted that there would be a shortage of 15,000 veterinarians in the nation within two decades.
In 2022, veterinary hospitals, clinics and offices around the U.S. were forced to turn animals away because they were short staffed, The Atlantic reported. There is also an overwhelming shortage of veterinarians to treat farm animals in rural areas.
These shortages are likely exacerbated in part by the pandemic-driven spike in pet ownership, which has led to increased demand for veterinarians, NPR reported.
While vet school applications have been on the rise in recent years, including a 19 percent jump during the 2020-21 admissions cycle, only five of the 33 accredited vet schools in the nation are on the East Coast, including the University of Pennsylvania.
Rowan's new vet school will aim to keep prospective vets in the state, reduce the cost of veterinary education for N.J. residents and attract out-of-state students to New Jersey. Veterinary students currently have to study out-of-state, and many do not return to New Jersey to practice, which could be a contributing factor to short-staffed vet offices locally.
Shreiber School of Veterinary Medicine's founding dean, Matthew Edson, is one such New Jersey resident who had to leave the state to pursue his veterinary degree.
“I’m a Jersey guy. I grew up here and I knew what it was like to have to leave our state to obtain a veterinary education,” Edson said at the groundbreaking ceremony on April 28. “The ability to fix that for future generations is really incredibly important to me."
Rowan expects to welcome 70 students in its first class in the fall of 2025, with enrollment eventually expected to grow to 90 students per class. Pathway programs in collaboration with Rowan's College of Science & Mathematics will provide students with accelerated B.S./D.V.M. degree options, and eight students have already been admitted to the accelerated pathway program.
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