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Tribal College Program Fills Veterinary Void in the Southwest

Navajo Tech Veterinary Technology Program uses NIFA grant to teach students animal care.

Navajo Tech Veterinary Technology Program uses NIFA grant to teach students animal care.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

USDA honors the achievements of American Indians during Native American Heritage Month and year-round.  With educational funding and support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, N.M., is one of the many tribal colleges and 1994 land-grant institutions doing considerable work in the scientific fields.

When veterinarian Germaine Daye became a professor at Navajo Tech in 2010, the teaching veterinary clinic had been closed for a long time. Recognizing its importance to farmers and ranchers in Navajo Nation, Daye re-opened the clinic’s doors to 50 Navajo Tech students majoring in animal science.

Last year, six Navajo Tech Veterinary Technology Program students passed their internship training last year, gaining invaluable veterinary technician experience in three clinics throughout the Navajo Nation.   So far, the program has graduated 10 students, some of whom are pursuing college programs that will lead them to vet school, and sparked the interests of 16 excited, new students enrolling this year.

The reservation has a  shortage of veterinarians, the clinic’s small animal care supports many people bringing sick animals and also offers ranch calls to ranchers in need.  Daye plans to keep the momentum going by starting a high school animal science program in the future so more American Indian youth can begin a career of caring for animals.

The Navajo Tech Veterinary Technology Program is supported in part through NIFA’s Tribal College Equity Grant program. “The Equity grant allowed us to purchase small animal scales, radiology equipment, and materials for comparative anatomy and physiology courses for student use and instruction,” she said. “We also purchased ultrasound and anesthesia equipment and our student are learning to use them in our working teaching hospital. In addition, we purchased patient warmers for the animals that come to us for care.”

The Equity Grant program provides the Tribal Colleges with funding to provide students with quality education in the food and agriculture sciences. The nation’s 32 tribal colleges take pride in the hands-on learning they provide students through this grant and Navajo Tech is no exception. You can see a video of the students on an actual farm on NIFA’s website.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and Extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

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