Program in Veterinary Homeland Security produces its first graduates

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Veterinary Homeland Security Certificate Program has produced its first batch of graduates.

The long-distance graduate-level program, started in 2006, now has 82 students from 30 U.S. states and other countries such as Singapore and Bermuda. Although the majority of enrolled students – including the five graduates – are private-practice veterinarians, professionals from the military, U.S. Department of Agriculture, public health and animal health departments, and veterinary schools are enrolled. Some students are veterinary technicians, and others are applying the coursework to degrees in public health.

The Veterinary Homeland Security Certificate Program is designed to meet the needs of individuals involved in animal emergency response. Students enhance their understanding of natural and intentional threats to animal health, strengthen their skills in management of animal health emergencies, and develop problem-solving expertise to be effective members of an animal emergency response team.

"In this day and age, threats to both animal and public health, such as avian flu and pandemic flu, highlight the importance of having people ready to help their communities in the event of animal-related emergencies," said Sandy Amass, professor and associate dean of engagement at the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine, who also heads the Veterinary Homeland Security Certificate Program. "Purdue is training experts to prevent and respond to animal-related emergencies at home and abroad.

"The program is tailored toward professionals with full-time jobs. We facilitate participation by providing short courses that are available online 24/7."

Students can also access course materials by CD-Rom if they don't have high-speed Internet access. To complete the course, students must take nine credit hours and have a minimum overall grade of B.

Cheryl Nelson, a veterinarian in private practice from Versailles, Ky, credited the program with improving her veterinary skills, which would help her in the future.

"The Homeland Security Certificate program has made me a better veterinarian," she said. "I've learned to ask questions, look for subtle things and be far more able to help my clients with biosecurity. I'm a consultant to the Woodford County Emergency management team and the Kentucky Large Animal Emergency Rescue Group. The knowledge I gained from the courses at Purdue will allow me to give back more to my clients, community and country."

Karen Blakeley, a veterinarian from Macomb, Ill., said the program included an in-depth review of topics, such as foreign animal diseases and bioterrorism preparedness, that aren't covered heavily in standard veterinary curriculum.

"I'm now more prepared to identify threats like zoonotic diseases and accidental or intentional introduction of foreign animal diseases that may emerge in my local community," Blakeley said. "If I ever leave private practice to pursue my second career option, which is public health, this certificate will be a nice addition to my credentials."

The Veterinary Homeland Security Graduate Certificate Program is a collaborative effort among the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue's Discovery Park, Purdue University Continuing Education, the Indiana Board of Animal Health, the Indiana State Police, and many others. Individuals with expertise in veterinary medicine, public health, animal science or homeland security are encouraged to participate.

Writer: Soumitro Sen, (765) 496-9711,

Sources: Sandra Amass, (765) 494-9798,

Cheryl Nelson, (859) 873-7319,

Karen Blakeley, (309) 833-2365,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;