Lyon College moved another step closer to opening its veterinary school Wednesday, announcing Dr. Eleanor M. Green as the founding dean.
Green will begin her duties July 1 at Lyon College, a private, liberal arts institution in Batesville that was founded in 1872, and will lead the college's request for accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association's Council on Education.
A professor emerita and dean emerita of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, Green is "an innovative thinker with an impressive array of experiences in veterinary education, scholarship, and policy," Lyon President Melissa Taverner said in a news release.
"Her professional connections to a wide variety of fields in the veterinary industry will be critically important as we construct an integrated experience-based curriculum to deliver the foundational training and preparation needed by practitioners in the 21st century."
As someone who has devoted her career to veterinary education and academic administration, Green said in the release that she is "humbled and excited" to be named founding dean for the Batesville college's School of Veterinary Medicine, noting that the school is entering veterinary education at a time of "profound need, challenge, and opportunity."
"It is an exciting time to contribute to the advancement of veterinary education and health care in a world that benefits so much from its animals and the people who care for them," Green added. "The opportunity to shape a novel program from scratch is irresistible."
Arkansas is currently without a veterinary school, and -- despite the state's significant agricultural sector -- Arkansas ranks 49th in the U.S. for veterinarians per population with only 14 veterinarians per 100,000 people, according to veterinarians.org
Nationally, more than 40,000 new veterinarians will be needed to meet projected demand in 2030, and more than 75 million pets in the U.S. may not have access to veterinary care by 2030 without intervention, according to a 2021 report by Mars Veterinary Health, a network of 2,500 veterinary clinics and hospitals. Pet care appointments increased 6.5% in 2021, nearly 2,000 baby boomer veterinarians are retiring annually, and it would take more than 30 years of graduates to meet the 10-year industry need for credentialed veterinary technicians.
Green is senior adviser/consultant for Animal Policy Group and vice president of Iron Horse Consulting & Iron Horse Farm, LLC. She serves on the advisory board of Mars Veterinary Health and on the boards of directors of VetGuardian, Brief Media, PetDesk, Veterinary Innovation Council, and Lead Changes, and is a member of the board of directors for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum, according to the college. Additionally, she is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Large Animal Internal Medicine, and a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP), certified in equine practice.
Lyon College boasts the "flexibility and nimbleness to adapt successfully in times of exponential change to optimize learning and ongoing relevance," and Taverner and her team "are committed to a conspicuously innovative and forward-thinking program, underpinned by a mindset of, 'Let's do it,'" Green said in the college's news release. "Their collaborative spirit is palpable in an environment rich with potential unique partnerships. The existing student-centric culture will underpin veterinary education, as the needs and aspirations of its students, faculty, staff, and graduates, both individually and collectively, are championed."
Green received a bachelor of science from the University of Florida and a doctor of veterinary medicine from Auburn University, according to Lyon College. She was a founding faculty member of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, equine clinician educator and scientist at Middlebush Equine Center at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and hospital director of the Large Animal Hospital at the University of Tennessee, chair of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, and the chief of staff of the Large Animal Hospital at the University of Florida, and Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University.
In addition to the School of Veterinary Medicine, Lyon College is also opening the state's first dental school, and the two schools will comprise Lyon's Institute of Health Sciences in Little Rock. Pending various accreditations, the college hopes to begin offering classes for both schools next year or in 2025.
In May 2022, Lyon College officials announced that OneHealth Education Group, a partner in the Institute of Health Sciences endeavor with Lyon College, would purchase downtown Little Rock's Heifer International campus to house the veterinary and dental schools. Heifer opened the $17 million campus in 2006, and Heifer International will remain on the campus, leasing space from OneHealth.
Late last year, the Higher Learning Commission Institutional Actions Council approved the college's requests to offer the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Doctor of Medical Dentistry professional degrees.
As is the case with Green, the dean of Lyon's dental school is also expected to begin his tenure July 1. In January, Lyon announced Dr. Burke Soffe as the inaugural dean of the School of Oral Health and Dental Medicine.
Lyon College will collaborate with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on the state's first dental school, joining forces where practicable and identifying opportunities for joint teaching, research, graduate education and professional development that benefit students and faculty, under a memorandum of understanding announced in November 2022.
SECOND VET SCHOOL
Lyon's veterinary school will likely be the state's first, depending on the timeline of Arkansas State University's veterinary school.
In March, the Jonesboro university received approval from the Arkansas State University System board of trustees to offer a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and establish a College of Veterinary Medicine.
ASU Chancellor Todd Shields expects an initial group of 120 students for the veterinary school, which he hopes to open in the fall of 2025, although he acknowledged that could be an "optimistic" projection. More likely, fall 2026 will be the target.
Classes will begin "when we are able," he said earlier this year. "We are committed to providing more veterinarians to meet the needs of our state."
In addition to various approvals and accreditations -- the school will need to be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, for example -- the university also needs to hire a founding dean for the college, so "we might be a little premature to speculate too directly on an opening date, but the fall of 2026 is a reasonable estimate if we are able to complete all our approvals," Bill Smith, ASU's chief communications officer, said in January.
The future College of Veterinary Medicine will add a faculty and support staff of approximately 40 professionals, according to the university. The initial upfront equipment and facility investment cost of $15 million to launch will be funded by a combination of potential sources, including tuition, fundraising, university reserves and potential bond initiatives.