With its second semester starting next week, the St. Matthews University School of Veterinary Medicine hopes to continue to improve, said Dean Dr. Anne Lichtenwalner.
‘We have many wonderful plans for the school in the next few years, and it’s my goal to have a very solid start,’ she said. ‘I think we are laying some solid groundwork with our charter class.’
The first class of students in the school consisted of 19 students from the United States and one Caymanian. A similarly sized class is expected to begin the second semester.
‘The most impressive aspect of the first term was the great group of students we had and the adaptability of the students, faculty and the medical school in cooperating to get the school off to a good start,’ Dr. Lichtenwalner said.
St. Matthew’s opened the veterinary school after establishing its medical school here in 2002. A worldwide shortage currently makes it harder to gain entrance to veterinary universities than to medical schools, creating a greatly increased demand, Dr. Lichtenwalner said.
The university runs three semesters per year, with the students spending their first seven semesters here before heading off to clinical programmes in the United States.
Mrs. Lichtenwalner said the Cayman Islands government and the local veterinary community have both been very cooperative in welcoming the university to the island.
Classes are held in space at the Regatta Office Park. A large conference room is sometimes shared with the School of Medicine, but otherwise, the School of Veterinary Medicine has its own facilities.
In the long term, the veterinary university hopes to move to land in Lower Valley, near the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Lichtenwalner said.
Students primarily studied basic sciences in their first semester, but will increasingly study specific animals, both large and small.
Given Cayman’s relationship to the sea, the university hopes to one day offer the study of aquatic medicine as well, Dr. Lichtenwalner said, stressing that the school is still very early in its programme.
Other aspects of the school will also continue to expand as the university develops.
‘We are a work in progress, in a rapid growth phase, so all areas are being worked on,’ Dr. Lichtenwalner said.
That important first semester, however, is now behind the university.
‘It was a challenge, and although it’s over, it’s really just beginning,’ Dr. Lichtenwalner said.