Rowan University to open N.J.’s first veterinary school

Phoebe the skunk

Phoebe the skunk, once a pet and now cared for by the the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, N.J., helped celebrate the announcement of Rowan University’s new veterinary school on Dec. 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Rowan University will be the site of New Jersey’s first veterinary school.

Officials announced Wednesday that the Rowan School of Veterinary Medicine will open in fall 2025 on the Gloucester main campus in Sewell, near the university’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, with an inaugural class of 60 students. The school will offer undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in addition to internship and residency programs.

Dr. Matthew Edson, the school’s founding dean, says the program being established is non-traditional.

“We want to make sure that we have graduates that are coming out with practical clinical preparation so they can do this job day one,” he said. “We want them to have the social skills to talk to clients … because you have to be able to talk to the people who bring in the pets. And we want these people to make sure they have the business acumen to come out and run a practice and understand how that works.”

Dr. Matthew Edson with his wife Jenna and their two dogs
Veterinarian Dr. Matthew Edson, the Rowan University School of Veterinary Medicine’s founding dean, with his wife Jenna Edson, their dachshund pup Frankie, and golden retriever Shadow, in front of the field that will be the site of veterinary school’s research facility on Dec. 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
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Edson, a Burlington County native, grew up on a farm riding horses and breeding goats. After earning his bachelor’s degree in animal science from Rutgers University, he followed the path that many aspiring veterinarians take out of state to earn his veterinary medicine degree.

There are currently 33 veterinary schools in the United States; five of them are on the east coast. Edson earned his doctor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, but came home to New Jersey after graduating.

“Not that I didn’t love Kansas, but I’m a beach guy, so I needed to come home,” he said.

Nazar is held up by a gloved hand
Nazar, an eastern screech owl rescued by the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, N.J., helped celebrate the announcement of Rowan University’s new veterinary school on Dec. 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Edson, a licensed veterinarian for more than a decade, is the founder and owner of Rancocas Veterinary Associates of Mount Laurel. He was appointed as the school’s first dean in June.

He wants Rowan Vet to be known for diverse graduates who are clinically prepared to practice the day they graduate.

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“I want them to feel ready when they leave the school to do this job,” he added.

The 100,000-square-foot veterinary medical complex is in the design phase. It will include a teaching hospital, classrooms, and laboratories. The Legislature approved $75 million for constructing the facility in November.

Officials said Rowan will become one of two universities in the nation to offer doctorate degrees in medicine, as well as veterinary and osteopathic medicine.

Therapy dog Sophie
Therapy dog Sophie charmed attendees at the announcement of Rowan University’s new veterinary school on Dec. 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The prospect of home-trained veterinarians was exciting for Amanda Wells, a Gloucester County resident and Rowan alumna. As a part-time veterinary assistant, she said more people are needed in the field.

“The vet techs, the doctors are amazing,” she said. “They love their job, [but] they’re tired. They need more of them.”

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, a large number of board-certified veterinarians are expected to retire in the next 15 years.

A goat is greeted by an event attendee
”The” Doug, greeted Rowan graduates studying to be veterinarians out of state, to help celebrate the announcement of Rowan University’s new veterinary school on Dec. 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Wells, who attended the announcement with two of her goats, said the closest veterinarian to her is 45 minutes away. Once, she went to assist a friend with a goat who was giving birth, but it was beyond her experience.

“They had to go to New Bolton in Pennsylvania, which is an hour away,” she added. “This is awesome for the community [and] for the animals.”

Jacob walks Ellie the goat
Jacob Wells, 6, walked Ellie the goat of Farm Friends LLC, through the field that will be the site of Rowan University’s new veterinary school research facility, the state of New Jersey’s first, on Dec. 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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