HARROGATE, Tenn. (WYMT) - The new veterinary school is open at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, just a few miles from Middlesboro.
It is designed to fulfill needs for veterinarians in rural communities.
Ninety-six students are part of the first class at Lincoln Memorial University's new College of Veterinary Medicine.
"I'm just really excited to be a part of this inaugural class. I think it's opening the gates for a lot of opportunities for us as LMU students," said Tori Shamblin, student from West Virginia.
One goal is to get more veterinarians in Appalachian communities, where school officials say they are needed.
"We're devoted to preparing the future veterinary workforce. We want our students to do well the minute they walk out the door," said Associate Dean Dr. Gilbert Burns.
Thirty-two of the students are from the tri-state area of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The other students are from other states.
"West Virginia does not have a vet school or anything in the state, so I had to go elsewhere and LMU reached out to the students at my undergrad university," said Ellen Sears who is from Charleston, West Virginia.
"This really helps me out. I'm a small town kind of person," said Julie White who is from Kingsport, Tennessee. "Just to have this honor of being in the first class of getting to set traditions and make the way for a new vet school."
LMU officials spent one year preparing the curriculum and hiring faculty. The College of Veterinary Medicine will focus on all kinds of animals.
"Excited about the prospect of rural community based school that is heavily weighted on hands-on experiences," said Dr. Burns.
"i'm really looking forward to LMU's innovative approach to class. It seems like they're really using and utilizing hands-on experiences," said Shamblin.
Administrators believe long-term, this will lead to not only more veterinarians, but also healthier animals in the region.
The new vet school also includes a 700 acre veterinary teaching center in Ewing, Virginia, just a few miles from the Kentucky state line.
The first class is scheduled to graduate in 2018.