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Dean Jim Thompson and UTCVM’s associate dean of students, Dr. Claudia Kirk, celebrate as the College’s most recent class of eighty-five students graduate.​
Celebrating Our Graduates & Measuring Our Impacts
by Dean Jim Thompson, UT College of Veterinary Medicine

Four years ago, the College of Veterinary Medicine received 743 applications, and 411 men and women were invited to interview for the eighty-five seats available in our class of 2017. Last month, Chancellor Tim Cross and I had the privilege of graduating and welcoming those eighty-five doctors into the profession of veterinary medicine. We anticipate they will now do good things to help protect and advance animal, human, and environmental health. 

The College added a new graduation-linked event this year and celebrated our graduates’ achievements with their families and friends by hosting a senior awards banquet the evening before graduation. The event was spectacular and helped set the tone for a fantastic graduation day. 

Our students know it is important to recognize the success of those who have gone before them and to embody a tradition of Tennessee excellence. During our commencement ceremony, we recognized three distinguished alumni: Dr. Penny Iannacone (DVM '05), Dr. Chad Black (DVM '04 and CEM '10), and Dr. Marisa Shulman (DVM '09). These veterinarians have given much to the veterinary profession in the areas of traditional veterinary practice, service to our armed forces, and community leadership. We know our class of 2017 will follow in their footsteps. 
 
Each year we ask our students to complete an exit survey, giving them the opportunity to voice their opinions and provide us some insights into our program evaluation and their postgraduate plans. In addition to recognizing our emphasis to help students develop strong client communication skills, results from the exit survey highlighted our strong foundation of great faculty and staff who genuinely care about their students’ education and want to see each one succeed and continue the path of a lifelong learner. When asked about adding additional electives to the curriculum, many suggested the need for more exposure to veterinary dentistry. Fortunately, the College is in a position to respond quickly as we have hired a specialist in dentistry and oral surgery on faculty and have completely renovated the dentistry suite. 
 
Student debt load continues to be stressful not only for our students, but also for those studying veterinary medicine at all thirty veterinary colleges in North America. Our graduating class has a mean debt burden of $141,000, just under last year’s national average of $151,400. We must continue to work to alleviate student debt. 
 
Of the seventy-four responding to the exit survey, almost 76 percent have accepted a job. The majority of our graduates are going into private practice (67 percent), and of those, 67 percent will be in a small animal-exclusive or a mixed practice that sees primarily small animals, while 16 percent plan to pursue an equine-exclusive, food animal-exclusive, or a mixed-primarily large animal practice. An additional 16 students will be pursuing internships, and three are attending graduate school. 

Our faculty and staff work hard to help our students achieve their dreams. We are proud of the education we provide our doctors of veterinary medicine. And we are proud of these new doctors and believe they will help provide Real.Life.Solutions. I am confident they will go out and do good things, having taken to heart their training to be lifelong learners and problem-solvers, all the while knowing that their UTCVM family is only a phone call away.