Manhattan, Kansas is the westernmost point of the region referred to as the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, an established innovation sector with the highest concentration of animal health companies in the world, extending east to Columbia, Missouri. Fifty-six percent of total worldwide animal health, diagnostics and pet food sales comes from companies located within the 250-mile corridor, connected by Interstate 70.
As the western anchor of the region, Manhattan’s Kansas State University contributes greatly to connections and collaborations among these companies. As the first operational land-grant institution, K-State was founded in 1863 to fill a growing need in the U.S. for agricultural and technical education. From these roots have sprung a strong tradition of expertise and collaboration with the animal health and veterinary medicine industries.
International brands like pet food leader Hill’s Pet Nutrition and pharmaceutical companies like Merck Animal Health and Boehringer Ingelheim have chosen to partner with K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine to help shape the future of animal health research and education. These companies have made financial investments to support the people, places and programs of the college.
“The relationships K-State has established with Animal Health companies extend far beyond bricks and mortar,” said Bonnie Rush, dean of the college. “Corporate professionals are sharing their expertise with students, collaborating with faculty and investing in quality experiences for graduate and professional students to strengthen career preparedness. We are grateful for their expertise and support to create a progressive, applied-learning environment unlike any other college of veterinary medicine.”
The College of Veterinary Medicine at K-State, established in 1905, offers a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, or DVM, degree. Additional degrees offered include Master of Biomedical Science and Master of Public Health, or MPH, doctoral degrees in pathobiology and physiology, and a stem cell biotechnology certificate. More than 7,000 people have earned their DVM at K-State. The college also provides opportunities for professional development for current practitioners in the field. Through their educational programs, diagnostic laboratory, teaching hospital and world-class faculty, the college is a leader in veterinary education, service and research.
The Veterinary Health Center, or VHC, provides primary, specialty and emergency care for companion animals as well as exotic animals, equine and livestock. The VHC’s team of more than 50 veterinarians educate future professionals and specialists, while providing state-of-the-art medical care for veterinary patients.
“Training veterinary students to be well prepared, practice-ready graduates is a comprehensive process. Completion of a full calendar year of clinical rotations, working with small and large animal patients, allows DVM students to enhance skill and knowledge,” said Beth Davis, associate dean of clinical programs. “Corporate partnerships have helped provide the VHC with recent updates to clinical work spaces for small and large animal patients that further expand exceptional student training opportunities. We are fortunate to have corporate relationships and opportunities to provide the highest level of training and patient care in our veterinary teaching hospital.”
In April of 2021, the Hill’s Pet Health and Nutrition Center, part of the VHC, opened for patient care. The center provides high-level primary care services and nutritional consultation for the community. One newer service being offered is the Healthy Weight Clinic, which specializes in helping dogs and cats achieve their ideal weight and allows pet owners to receive specialized advice and high-quality therapeutic pet food that may not otherwise be available to them.
"We are proud to partner with K-State on this vital work to advance our understanding of and service to companion animals for today and tomorrow,” said Jolle Kirpensteijn, chief professional veterinary officer, Hill's Pet Nutrition U.S.
The pet food company, headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, and a prominent part of the Animal Health Corridor, has long had ties with the university through partnerships with faculty and students, as well as by employing several K-State alumni.
“Collaborations like these incorporating academic institutions and commercial organizations are vital,” Kirpensteijn said. “We are excited about this work that integrates research, pet care and student engagement — a powerful and rich combination."
In addition to providing patient care, the VHC offers internships and residencies for recent graduates to gain specialized experience working alongside board-certified veterinarians in fields like clinical nutrition, cardiology, oncology or ophthalmology. Corporate partnerships, including internships with animal health companies, provide students with a real-world perspective on working for a pharmaceutical or animal health business.
The College of Veterinary Medicine conducts diagnostic research and provides diagnostic services to veterinarians through their Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, or KSVDL. KSVDL aims to develop and deliver accurate, innovative and timely diagnostic and consultative services to the veterinary and animal health community in Kansas and the nation. The activities of the KSVDL support the teaching and research responsibilities of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology.
“We serve a diversified clientele including veterinarians, producers, pet owners, and industry professionals representing over 30,000 animal owners from all 50 states and 48 foreign countries,” said Jamie Retallick, director of the KSVDL. “With more than 600 types of tests, we improve animal wellness, ensure a safe food supply, protect the US economy and livestock industries through foreign animal disease surveillance, and contribute to the recognition and prevention of zoonotic diseases.”
In spring of 2020, KSVDL began offering testing and diagnostics for COVID-19 for the greater university community, stepping up to help at a time when those services were not readily available. Because of their existing diagnostic knowledge, experience, procedures and facilities, the KSVDL team was able to provide a heavily in-demand service in a timely manner. Read more about KSVDL’s contribution to COVID-19 testing.
Last year, Merck Animal Health supported renovations of the Livestock Services handling and treatment area in the Veterinary Health Center. Merck Animal Health provided funding and expertise to create a safer, less stressful patient-care process as well as a better environment for teaching and learning. These upgrades will help the VHC process patients more efficiently and ensure standards of modern, safe, efficient and low-stress animal handling methods.
“Our long-standing partnership with K-State and the animal health corridor supports Merck Animal Health’s social commitment, Unconditional, which drives many of our investments, commitments and business priorities,” said Scott Bormann, senior vice president, Merck Animal Health North America. “By partnering together, we help strengthen the industry and develop the next generation of leaders.”
The demand for veterinary professionals has never been higher. K-State graduates approximately 115 new veterinarians each year with new graduate employment rates at 98% or 99%, consistently. The DVM degree is tremendously flexible with career opportunities in clinical practice, research, public health and education with employment destinations in private practice, nonprofit corporations, industry and local, state and federal government agencies.
As part of a strategic collaboration with pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, the university built an auditorium, which serves as a classroom where faculty and student organizations can gather for lectures, meetings and events. The auditorium also serves as the primary site for educational and social events with alumni and other stakeholders. Students will make connections, discover career opportunities and gain a better understanding of the animal health industry through trainings and symposiums hosted by the company in the new space.
“The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor and Boehringer Ingelheim share a history dating back more than 100 years,” said Randolph Legg, head of U.S. commercial business for Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health. “The collaboration with Kansas State University furthers our commitment to this community, where so many of our dedicated employees live and work, and to the future of veterinary medicine.”
For many animal health companies, K-State’s strong veterinary medicine programs, diagnostic and research capabilities, experienced graduates and proximity to the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor make the Greater Manhattan region a perfect place to grow their business.
If your company is interested in exploring a strategic partnership with Kansas State University, contact Rebecca Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin discussing the possibilities.