BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — There is a high demand for veterinarians in South Dakota and surrounding states.

Becoming a veterinarian wasn’t an option in South Dakota, until this year.

SDSU launched its Veterinary medicine program this fall as a partnership with the University of Minnesota.

“As a resident of South Dakota, this is a tremendous opportunity because I was already living here with my family. I’m married and have a daughter, so the opportunity to be able to pursue my dream to go to vet school, this was perfect,” Ana Ruiz, first year veterinary student, said.

Students complete their first two years of the program on the SDSU campus, then transfer to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities for their last two years.

“Once you start building in the Veterinary curriculum typically years three and four would be considered more of a clinic experience. So, students will start learning more hands-on procedures, surgery, things like that, so in Minnesota, they have the skills and equipment and people there to help provide that education,” Jessie Juarez, assistant director, professional program in Veterinary Medicine said.

“It’s been cool to kind of zoom into some of our classes at the U of M, like physiology, where we get to see some of them over Zoom, some of them in class, and it’s been a fun partnership getting to get to know them a little bit better and we’re pretty excited to do that our third year where we actually go in with them and fully integrate into their system,” Lauren Skoglund, first year veterinary student said.

Offering a Veterinary medicine program is a big accomplishment for the university and helps them fulfill a need in the community and the region.

“Veterinarians are in high demand currently and being an agricultural state, it really is important for the animal health needs to be met through veterinarians from the community and the area,” Juarez says.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for individuals living in a rural area to have access to vet school,” Hayley Leibel, first year veterinary student, said. “Also, it’s providing an opportunity for more people to return to South Dakota as well, it’s like an incentive as well.”

One of the benefits of the program on the SDSU campus is the smaller class sizes, allowing students to build connections with their peers and professors.

“We’ve kind of become a little family and also getting to know our professors and having that one-on-one interaction that we probably wouldn’t be getting anywhere else,” Leibel said.

For SDSU alumni Lauren Larson, it’s exciting to be able to further their education on a familiar campus.

“For me, this campus is just home, I’ve already been here for three and a half years, it just felt right to come back,” Larson said. “Also, really close to my hometown and ultimately I do want to come back and serve this state, so it just made sense to do a few more years here.”

Preparing students for their future careers.

“The course work here is really rigorous I’d say, it’s really preparing us for the future and the material is hard but if you spend the time with it, it gets easier and it’s really easy to understand if you learn the concepts when they build on each other, having that structural behind them,” Mariah Beckmann, first year veterinary student said.

“I’ve wanted to be a vet ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always just really enjoyed being around animals, being able to help them, and the science behind it all is just really fascinating, it’s so fun to learn about, and that’s one thing that I’ve just absolutely loved about being in vet school so far is that I get to explore all the topics that interested me in every single undergrad course, every grade school course, it’s kind of all finally coming together,” Skoglund said.

This year, they have 20 students enrolled in the Veterinary medicine program and in the fall of 2022, that number will double