Long known for its esteemed equestrian program, William Woods University is expanding its offerings for students interested in becoming veterinarians. Through an interdisciplinary initiative involving both equestrian and biology programs, the university is establishing the Center for Equine Medicine.
A full-time doctor of veterinary medicine has been hired, and a 17-acre property has been purchased. Dr. Paul Schiltz, the new veterinarian, has an extensive
background in sports medicine, reproduction as well as general equine medicine and surgery. The property, located within blocks of the university, is ideally suited for continued equine research and care.
“This will be a wonderful addition to William Woods University,” Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, university president, said. “The Center for Equine Medicine will capitalize on the strength of our equestrian and biology programs, providing a unique opportunity for students to study and care for these beloved animals.”
William Woods University began offering equestrian classes in 1923, and in 1972 was the first university in the world to offer a four-year degree in equestrian science. Today, WWU is the country’s premier institution for degrees in equestrian science, equine administration and equine general studies. Recently, William Woods expanded its programs further to offer an online master’s degree program in equestrian education to meet the needs of an underserved educational demand.
“Our equestrian students need to know not only how to ride horses, but how to care for them,” Jennie Petterson, chair of the equestrian studies division, said. “I am thrilled that this program will significantly expand our curriculum and provide more in-depth observation and treatment of equine health issues.”
With an equine population of nearly 300,000, Missouri ranks seventh in the nation in the number of horses, according to the Demographics of the U.S. Equine Population. Currently 163 students are majoring or minoring in WWU’s various equine-related degrees. The university has a 100 percent placement rate in the equestrian industry, which generates $102 billion annually.
At the same time, WWU has experienced a 100 percent acceptance rate for students who have applied for advanced professional degrees in veterinary medicine, medical school, pharmacy and physical therapy doctoral programs.
Equestrian studies graduates pursue careers as trainers of riders and horses, as administrators of equestrian facilities and a wide variety of other careers that also interface with the veterinary medicine community.
Increasingly, William Woods has enrolled students who are interested in veterinary medicine as a career, especially in large-animal practices. The pre-vet program has grown by 50 percent in the last four years and currently 41 of the 71 biology majors aspire to be veterinarians. This year alone, WWU has had approximately 200 inquiries from prospective students who indicate their area of interest is pre-vet.
“We have had tremendous success in placing our graduates in veterinary medicine programs, and this will only serve to enhance that process,” Dr. Nicholas Pullen, Cox Distinguished Professor of Science at WWU, said.
The Center for Equine Medicine will leverage the strength of William Woods University’s educational opportunities. The addition of a full-time doctor of veterinary medicine will provide students with the unique opportunity to participate in a hands-on classroom environment that will enhance the equestrian, pre-vet and biology programs.
Advanced care and treatment of performance horses and rehabilitating injured animals are major components of equestrian program. The William Woods herd of approximately 200 horses is all donated. Donated horses often bring challenging maintenance considerations that further enhance the education of the student population with regard to performance horse management.
The property purchased by the university, off Highway 54 at the HH exit, consists of a large indoor riding facility, six horse stalls, an isolation area for ill and contagious horses and a home for the veterinarian and his family, which will allow him to be on-site in case of emergency.
Additionally, the lower level of the residence provides an ideal space for classroom conversation and lectures. A large area connected to the riding arena and stalls will be converted into a clinical and experiential learning space. Construction is expected to be completed this summer.
The clinic will service the health care needs of university-owned horses, including routine care (vaccinations, floating teeth, Coggins test for equine infectious anemia), as well as diagnose and treat performance-related lameness. In addition, students in the pre-veterinary, equestrian science and equine administration majors will have the opportunity to assist with emergency care and treatment, including colic, laceration repairs, eye injury and other traumatic injuries.
The daily operations of the Center for Equine Medicine will be under the trained and watchful eye of Dr. Schiltz, who is no stranger to William Woods. He has been the off-campus primary-care veterinarian for the university for 18 years.
Schiltz has been practicing veterinary medicine, with emphasis on large-animal care, since he graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois in 1992. For the last 20 years, he has been a veterinarian with Equine Medical Services in Columbia.
“My professional objective,” Schiltz said, “is to combine my extensive clinical experience with a passion for education to contribute to a team approach for achieving positive outcomes for students enrolled in a pre-veterinary program and to provide excellent care for all horses. I look forward to collaboration with other faculty members and staff to develop a national reputation for pre-veterinary education.”