The University of Arizona

UA Dedicates New School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences

By Bethany Rutledge, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences | April 1, 2013
Undergraduates enrolled in food safety and microbiology learn how to conduct microbial analyses on various food products. (Photo courtesy of John Marchello)
Undergraduates enrolled in food safety and microbiology learn how to conduct microbial analyses on various food products. (Photo courtesy of John Marchello)

The UA Faculty Senate approved the creation of the new school on March 4, and it was formally dedicated during a ceremony on March 29.

Sam Garcia, a doctoral candidate in animal sciences, presented a research poster to guests at the school's dedication.
Sam Garcia, a doctoral candidate in animal sciences, presented a research poster to guests at the school's dedication.
Giovanna Martinez, a research technician in the bacteriology section of the Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, examines a bacterial culture plate. (Photo by Sara Plevel)
Giovanna Martinez, a research technician in the bacteriology section of the Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, examines a bacterial culture plate. (Photo by Sara Plevel)

The University of Arizona has established a new School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences that will bring together teaching, research and extension resources from across the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to focus on animal health, growth, nutrition and disease, and human health challenges facing Arizona and the global community.

The UA Faculty Senate approved the creation of the new school on March 4, and it was formally dedicated during a ceremony last week.

The school, which is being developed from the existing department of animal sciences and department of veterinary science and microbiology, will welcome its first undergraduate and graduate class in fall 2013. 

The two departments currently offer undergraduate degree programs that prepare many students for medical or veterinary careers. Beginning this fall, students who join the school will be able to take advantage of a streamlined pre-professional track with access to additional upper-division electives.

The School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences is expected to provide improved degree opportunities and expanded options for interdisciplinary collaboration in the growing fields of animal production, food safety, integrated biomedicine and bioinformatics. Students enrolled in the school will have access to stronger advising services and a range of innovative research facilities and programs.

"The School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences will create new opportunities for our students to engage in internships, research and varied laboratory and field experiences as undergraduates and as graduate students," said Joy Winzerling, Bart Cardon associate dean of academic programs and career development. "Opportunities like these strengthen our students' career skills and make them more competitive as they enter the workforce."

Additionally, the new school likely will host the proposed Arizona Veterinary Medical Education program. The University has petitioned the Arizona Legislature for a $250,000 state appropriation for an initial feasibility study of the program. The proposed program would address rural shortages of large-animal veterinarians and other veterinarians needed in the public health, disease research and food safety industries.

The new school's approval comes several months after the faculty of both departments unanimously voted in favor of its creation. Four teams conducted a planning process during the fall semester. Plans for the new school have been approved by the UA Undergraduate Council, the Graduate Council, the College Academic Administrators Council and the Provost's Council.

Faculty and staff will continue to be housed in the Shantz and Veterinary Science and Microbiology buildings as well as in off-campus facilities.

Since 1915, with the formation of the department of animal husbandry and the establishment of the department of veterinary science in 1938, Arizona's farms and ranching industries have driven the need for research in traditional agricultural disciplines at UA, the state's land-grant university. Globalization has brought new challenges, and scientists today are studying infectious diseases that can travel across species and around the world at a more rapid pace than ever before.

"In comparative biomedical sciences, we are looking at animal health in a very broad manner," said Chuck Sterling, head of the department of veterinary science and microbiology and interim head of the department of animal sciences. "We ask, how does animal health and disease relate to human health and disease?"

According to the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, approximately 75 percent of emerging diseases are zoonotic or have an animal vector in the chain of infection. Comparative biomedical research is based on animal and microbiological models and aims at protecting companion animal health, increasing animal production, achieving biosecurity through safe and ample food supply, and protecting human health from diseases that affect all creatures.

The school also will have a strong emphasis on partnerships with industry, ensuring that students who focus on subjects as diverse as beef production, biotechnology, food microbiology and recreational equine husbandry will be better prepared to compete for jobs.

The veterinary industry generates $7.5 billion nationwide and is responsible for more than 3,000 jobs in Arizona. Animal agriculture contributes some $102 billion to the U.S. economy annually, and more than 14,000 Arizonans are employed in the dairy industry alone.

Arizona's bioscience industry continues to grow at a rapid rate, according to the 2012 Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Industry Development report. Arizona jobs in bioscience industries increased by 30 percent between 2001 and 2010. The new school will address these and other workforce and economic development needs.

More than 200 faculty, staff, students and guests from across the state gathered at the Campus Agricultural Center on Friday to celebrate the new school. Among the guests was Andrew Maccabe, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, former UA President Eugene G. Sander and Wanda Howell, chair of the UA Faculty Senate, who dedicated the school on behalf of the faculty.

"We know the power that pets have on our lives," said Robert F. Moran, chairman and chief executive officer of PetSmart, in his remarks to the group. "Your research will help the animals that make our lives better."

Mara Aspinall, president and chief executive officer of Ventana Medical Systems, noted how closely the human genome matches those of the cow and monkey. A better understanding of animal genomes enhances our knowledge about health and disease in humans. "It starts here, it starts with animals."

Contacts

Chuck Sterling

Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology

520-621-4580

csterlin@email.arizona.edu