A West Indies chance for vet, med students


A recent partnership between SUNY Cobleskill and Ross University’s veterinary and medical schools allows students easier access to continue their postgraduate degrees if they meet required academic standards.

But both Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and Ross University School of Medicine have been criticized for low completion rates and large class sizes, raising questions as to why the West Indies school was the first choice for SUNY’s students.

The partnership between the two educational institutions has been a long time coming, said Lisa Lopez, assistant director of the Student Success Center at Cobleskill. In her job of working with students to secure internships and graduate school placements, she’s seen many Cobleskill students continue their education at Ross as open seats for veterinary and medical schools dwindle and admission rates become more and more competitive.

“We’ve had all of our students successfully complete (at Ross),” she said. “There’s no student in our experience who has been dismissed or been told ‘You’re not going to cut it.'”

Unlike most state schools, Ross admits three classes, or cohorts, of students per year, operating on a trimester system, said Chris Railey, senior director of communications for DeVry Medical International. By default, more students then have the opportunity to enter and continue their education at the Caribbean school.

But these qualities of higher admittance rates and larger class sizes are the same reason Ross comes under scrutiny from other universities, as some say the academic institution doesn’t meet the rigors and demands of American schools.

Railey said the average MCAT scores for Ross is about 25, which he admitted is lower than most colleges. In 2013, the average score for all 48,000 students who took the MCAT was 28.4, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges and most schools look for a score of 31.2, according to Bloomberg.

There’s more to medical and veterinary school applicants than just MCAT scores, though, Railey said, adding that Ross takes into account an applicant’s GPA, social maturity and their in-person interview.

“It really speaks to the idea that we can take students who may not have the opportunity and have a great outcome for them,” he said. “In a way, this helps us identify some pretty bright, intelligent people, some non-traditional students. For whatever reason or another, our school makes sense for them.”

For Dana Elbrecht, one “bad year” left her feeling like she couldn’t apply to state schools for veterinary medicine, and with additional high tuition costs for many of these colleges, Ross seemed like the best choice. The hands-on environment offered at both SUNY Cobleskill and Ross also prepared her for the demands of graduating in 2011 and moving directly into her career, she said. She is now a working veterinarian in New Hartford.

“Ross tends to be a little bit easier of a school to get into, but it’s harder to stay in than a state school,” she said, adding that the fast-paced rigor of the classroom demands hard work and lots of studying. “You can’t spend all day on the beach,” she said.

The only experience Ross doesn’t offer is a teaching hospital or practice on the island. After 28 months of studying, students must relocate to an affiliated institution for their clinical hours, Elbrecht said. There, students go into classes alongside state school students, and Elbrecht said she felt she did not lag behind other students.

Currently, Ross works with 10 affiliated hospitals in New York, the closest being St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, and one affiliated college in the state for veterinary school — Cornell in Ithaca.

Elbrecht said students are able to choose their top schools and are then placed in the program where it is deemed they will best fit, with college choices available across the country.

Ultimately, Lopez said if the school ever believed or comes to believe that the program is not fully benefiting its students, SUNY Cobleskill will end the partnership. At this point, there’s no pressing information to stop sending students to Ross.

“If you look at the practicing vets in New York state, it is astounding about the percentage who are Ross University grads,” she said. “If we had any issue, we would put on the brakes.”

bhorn@timesunion.com • 518-454-5097 • @brittanyhorn

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