University of Wisconsin veterinary hospital aims to expand

Program seeks $115 million for upgrade

May 7, 2018 (published)
By Phyllis DeGioia

University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine MRI scanner housed in a trailer
VIN News Service photo
Because of a space crunch, the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine MRI scanner is housed in a trailer behind the main building. The trailer is beside an uncovered arena for large animal patients that isn’t usable during Wisconsin's harsh winters. Under a planned expansion, the arena will be covered and the scanner will be moved into the main building.

The University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine proposes to spend $115 million to double the size of its small animal clinic and upgrade its large animal facilities. UW Veterinary Care, the school’s teaching hospital, opened in 1985 with a capacity for 12,000 patients every year. Today, the hospital’s caseload is closer to 26,000 annually.

The expansion also would triple the laboratory space available for infectious-disease research. Kristi Thorson, associate dean for advancement and administration, said the school's research expenditures grew 58 percent during the past five years, necessitating more space for the work. Its total expenditure for research in 2017 was more than $28 million.

The school expects that the University of Wisconsin System will ask the state to consider this project for the 2019-21 budget, Thorson said. Of the $115 million cost, the UW seeks $75 million from the state and $40 million from private donations.

“The school will not be able to move forward with the project without approval by the governor and the Legislature,” Thorson said.

On the private-fundraising side, the school has raised slightly more than half of its target so far. 

The upgrade is the latest of several planned or completed at U.S. veterinary schools in recent years. UW's is roughly comparable in cost to a $97 million project that the University of Georgia completed in 2015. Cornell University spent $91 million on an expansion that includes a new Small Animal Community Practice facility that opens next month.

A more ambitious makeover at the University of California, Davis, has drawn concern over its $508 million price tag.

At the UW, according to Thorson, the proposed upgrade includes:

  • A new three-story building connected to the north side of the veterinary school and teaching hospital
  • An expanded small animal hospital on the first floor, doubling its size between the new and old buildings
  • A new cancer center that brings together all oncology treatments, including radiation
  • Approximately quadruple the space for emergency and critical care
  • Separate space for critical care and intermediate care units, which currently share space
  • Faculty offices, a clinical pathology laboratory and research labs, including triple the space available for research on highly infectious diseases
  • Expanded imaging capabilities, including in-house magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is currently done in a trailer behind the main building
  • A state-of-the-art large animal isolation facility and a cover for the arena

Thorson said groundbreaking is slated for 2020.

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