When students in the University of Arizona's first class of future veterinarians begin their studies this fall, they'll be working with a teaching herd of horses in an updated facility thanks to a gift from Richard and Diana Nash.
The Nashes' gift, which establishes the Lucia Nash – Circle Z Ranch Equine Education Program in honor of Richard Nash's mother, is being used to renovate and expand the equine science building at the Campus Agricultural Center, 4101 N. Campbell Ave. The updated facility will improve the quality of instruction and enhance student recruiting, said Julie Funk, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.
The College of Veterinary Medicine is designed as a competency-based, year-round curriculum that will graduate students in three years, allowing them to enter the workforce a year earlier than traditional programs. Students will spend their first two years in preclinical courses that focus on active-learning experiences rather than lectures.
In the renovated space, UArizona veterinary medicine students will work with a herd of 20 horses from day one, learning clinical skills before they complete a year working in a practice.
"We know active instruction with animals really helps cement learning. It's key to giving them the skills to do well in those business settings," Funk said.
Giving veterinary students exceptional preparation in Lucia Nash's honor is a wonderful tribute, said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation.
"This gift will help ensure our vet med graduates exemplify the knowledge of the profession Mrs. Nash held in such high esteem," he said.
Funk is confident that providing early exposure to horses could also help address a shortage. While there is a deficit of veterinarians overall, this is especially the case for those who treat horses, she said.
"We made this gift to the College of Veterinary Medicine in honor of our mother, Lucia, who had a lifelong passion for horses and the people who care for them. Her legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of the future veterinarians," said Richard Nash, who lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife.
The Nash family purchased the Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia, Arizona, in the 1970s. The Circle Z Ranch was developed as a dude ranch in the 1920’s. It is the oldest continuously operating dude ranch in Arizona, attracting guests from around the world.
"The Nashes’ passion for horses is obvious. It's exciting to share joy and excitement around the human-animal bond and to honor Lucia Nash's legacy," said Funk.
"The opening of the College of Veterinary Medicine has been a longtime goal for the university, and it is incredibly exciting to see its potential coming to life," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "The Nash family's generous gift elevates the college’s capacity to provide a cutting-edge learning experience for our students, and it will help establish our program as a leader in the field of veterinary medical education."