ABAC & UGA Awarded Grant to Direct More Veterinarians to Rural South Georgia

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has been awarded a three-year $297,000 collaborative grant with the University of Georgia (UGA) Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory (TVDIL) to encourage more veterinary medicine students to practice in rural South Georgia.  

Activities will center around student recruitment, retention, and experiential learning at the UGA diagnostic lab aimed at increasing the overall number of underrepresented and rural undergraduate students qualified to apply to veterinary medicine programs.

Dr. Matthew Anderson, Dean of the ABAC School of Arts and Sciences, serves as the director for the project.

“ABAC students will benefit tremendously from the experiences this grant will support, and it will help them be more competitive when applying to vet school,” Anderson said. “Our hope is that they are successful in applying to vet school, and that they return to serve the region following their veterinary training.”

Anderson said the goal of the project is at least a 10 per cent increase in students being admitted into veterinary or graduate school.

 Dr. Jennifer Harper, Professor of Biology at ABAC, and Dr. Hemant Naikare, Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and Director of the TVDIL, will serve as co-directors.

Naikare is enthusiastic about the USDA-NIFA funded grant.

“The hands-on experiential learning opportunities in a disease diagnostics and surveillance testing facility will be excellent for the ABAC students,” Naikare said.

During the three years of the grant, ABAC students will be recruited to attend monthly seminars and participate in day-long workshops. Students who demonstrate elevated interest and aptitude will be candidates for research experiences, diagnostic specific courses, and paid internships utilizing the TVDIL facilities.

Scott Pierce, Director of Sponsored Programs at ABAC said, “This is such a great project. It will do a fantastic piece of work, but it’s also the first time ABAC has been funded through this mechanism with the USDA. This is new Federal money put to good use in South Georgia. It will allow us to train more students for success in high-need areas of veterinary science and medicine.”

Harper also believes it will increase the number of veterinarians in rural Georgia.

“It is the only grant offering such opportunities to college students in the state of Georgia,” Harper said.  “Not only are very few students from the rural areas of Georgia applying to vet school, but there is also a very poor return of graduating veterinarians deciding to practice in rural areas, leaving these areas in great need of professionals.

“An overall goal for this project is to increase the number of students who come from rural and socioeconomically challenged areas being admitted into vet school. Students with a rural background would be more likely to return to work in a similar area than would students with urban backgrounds.”

While the project targets students interested in veterinary medicine, students with an interest in graduate school or other medical fields such as medicine, dentistry, or pharmacy are also great candidates for the project.

The TVDIL is a member of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and is fully accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.

For more information on the grant or the project, interested persons can contact Harper at [email protected].