Perspectives Online

Program guarantees vet school seat

Dr. Billy Flowers (right) helped found the program that will enable Food Animal Scholar Lisa Thompson (left) to attend vet school.
Photo by Daniel Kim

Lisa Thompson is planning to go to vet school, and she's confident she'll be accepted, even though she hasn't applied yet.

That's because Thompson, a junior from Princeton, is a Food Animal Scholar in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. If Thompson keeps her grades up and meets the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine entrance requirements, she's guaranteed a seat in the vet school's class of 2008.

"It takes a huge weight off your shoulders," said Thompson of the Food Animal Scholars Program, adding quickly, "You still have to work very hard."

What became the Food Animal Scholars Program was started in 1992, said Dr. Billy Flowers, professor of animal science, in an effort to encourage students to consider careers in food animal medicine. Flowers was one of the founders of the program. (See College Profile)

It seems there are plenty of students who want to go to vet school, but most of them want to treat companion animals - golden retrievers and house cats. There's a shortage of vets working with pigs, chickens, turkeys, cows and the like.

At first, what was then called the Swine and Poultry Scholars Program accepted just two students each year, one interested in working with pigs and one with poultry, Flowers said. In 2003, the field was expanded to six students, and the name was changed to Food Animal Scholars Program. Flowers credits Dr. James Floyd, head of the College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, with seeing the value of the program and persuading the vet school admissions committee to set aside six slots each year.

Food Animal Scholars are selected in the second semester of their sophomore year. The program includes a mentoring component. Each student is assigned two mentors, one in CALS and one in CVM. Mentors monitor student progress, aid in finding internships and offer guidance on careers.

"It's kind of like your own team," said Thompson.

The program is open to students at N.C. State and N.C. A&T State University majoring in animal or poultry science. Flowers thinks N.C. State is the first university in the country to offer such a program.

And at least where Thompson is concerned, the program is working just the way it was designed to.

"I've always wanted to go to vet school," she said. "I've always had a thing for animals." She plans to focus on pigs in vet school and hopes after graduation to work for a corporate swine producer or perhaps for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Food Animal Scholars Program ensures that opportunity.

- Dave Caldwell