New Teaching Hospital Underway

$105 million dollars!
That is the cost of the new University of Georgia Veterinary Medical Learning Center.

November 9, 2013 the historic groundbreaking ceremony was held to begin the construction process.

 You may ask why we need a new teaching hospital.
The answer is for several reasons.

 The original hospital was built on the UGA campus which has grown and steadily taken over much of the surrounding space. When I was a student there were 3 very large spacious paddocks for horses to be turned out. These areas are now occupied by the Animal Research Center.   

The original hospital was designed to accommodate a class size of 85 students; the class size is now 102 students and is scheduled to increase even further.

 Since the original construction many new technologies have been developed. There simply is no space for Computerized Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Radiation Therapy, especially for horses. We currently have to ship horses many hours to get these specialized tests and services.

 The original construction did not make allowances for trailer parking, loading and unloading areas and customer service areas. As the caseload at UGA has expanded these problems have only become worse.

The College of Veterinary Medicine has had several areas of valuable service; each of these duties has requirements for space and facilities.
  •  Educating and training future veterinarians. The veterinary student curriculum is extensive covering a four year study of subjects from microbiology, histopathology, clinical pathology, internal medicine, surgery, anesthesiology, radiology, pathology, pharmacology and clinical examination just to name a few. And in case I didn’t mention it the classes must cover all animals, horses, dogs, cats, cows, birds, you name it!
  •  Providing advanced veterinary services for referred patients. The college is staffed by veterinarians who have completed advanced training as surgeons, internal medicine, neurology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology as so on. The college has facilities including surgical suites, an in-house laboratory and pharmacy that allow the UGA staff to perform advanced procedures such as colic surgery that is not available in the field setting.
  • Continuing education for veterinarians. The college hosts courses for advanced training of veterinarians on a wide range of subjects. This allows veterinarians in the field to keep up with the latest advancements and meet licensing requirements.

Here at CGES we're excited about the new hospital and the advances it will offer for our equine patients and their owners. Here is a recent article that will tell you more about some of the features of this new facility.

First look:
New Veterinary Medical Learning Center

After more than a decade of planning and fundraising, the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine is poised to break ground on a new home for its Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH), including classroom space to educate future veterinarians. Building of the facility, known as the Veterinary Medical Learning Center, is scheduled to begin in February 2013.

It is a milestone achieved with the help of a vast and supportive community, including: alumni, hospital clients, Georgia’s leaders and lawmakers, charitable institutions, major donors, administrators from the University of Georgia, as well as the University System Board of Regents.

But while we are ready to build, we still have much fund-raising to do, noted Dr. Sheila W. Allen, dean of the College, who estimates the current total project costs at $105 million.

“There are still lots of opportunities to contribute financially to this project,” said Allen. “We will need new equipment that is as state-of-the-art as the facility itself.”

The state of Georgia appropriated $60 million for planning money and construction costs. As of June 30, 2012, the CVM had raised $20,996,030 in private donations toward the construction of the VMLC. The College also received a challenge grant, in November 2012, from a foundation, which wishes to remain anonymous.  This challenge grant will match every dollar raised from this point forward, up to $1 million.

Throughout the design process, which began in Fall 2010, VTH administrators, faculty and staff have worked closely with the architecture firm, Perkins + Will (, to design a facility that could expand through the years, while still keeping costs as low as possible. Their aim, said Dr. Gary Baxter, has been to create a hospital that will provide vast improvements for our patients and their owners, but also provide a better environment for the clinicians, staff and students who work in the facility.

“Two of the driving forces behind the design of this whole building were ‘way-finding’ and using natural light,” said Baxter, director of the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “Corridors and specialty areas are all interconnected, so that it is easy for people to find their way through the building.” One common denominator to aid those who must quickly navigate the 300,000-gross-square-foot facility (including classroom space) is natural light, much of which will emanate from glass on three sides of the building, overlooking a courtyard. Those same three sides of the building could be tapped for later expansion, noted Baxter.

“We are very cognizant of trying to minimize the amount of asphalt, etc., and also cognizant of capturing the use of natural light for lighting throughout the hospital,“ he said.

For the Hospital’s patients and clients, the list of benefits that will come with the new VMLC is immense: The Emergency Room has its own covered entrance, and is separate from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). There is space to house in-patients separately from out-patients. Cats can be kept separately from dogs – even in the lobby, and, in ICU. Small animals needing physical therapy will have access to a rehabilitation area connected to the Orthopedics service. There are intermediate care and isolation areas for both large animals and small animals. And internal building materials will include special ceiling tiles, and other means, to minimize noises that can disturb patients, and disrupt teaching.

The entire facility is designed to be versatile, so that it can allow for future expansion as needed. “We are trying to set aside space for new services, such as a future dentistry suite for small animal clients, and perhaps a future nutritional consulting service,” said Baxter.

Creating better conditions for patients, clients, as well as for students, faculty and staff, is a recurring theme.  “The idea of the separate emergency entrance came from our trying to avoid mixing day patients and emergencies in the same area,” said Baxter.  The new Emergency area has a unique entrance that includes a covered drive-through/drop-off area. It also has its own waiting area for clients, and examination rooms for emergency patients.

Equine clients and their owners can look forward to a new lameness arena that will include a farrier service and day-holding stalls. The lameness center, which is being funded by the UGA Athletic Association, will be a covered arena with multiple diagnostic tools available for evaluating patients. And even this is being designed so that it can accommodate newer technologies as they become available, said Baxter.

An ICU for mares and foals, specialized floor surfaces, and more natural light will also benefit patients at the new facility, as will four specialty barns: one each for out-patients, healthy in-patients, ICU, and colic. There will also be a separate area for food animals and small ruminants.

One of the four barns has yet to be fully funded, said Kathy Bangle, director of Veterinary External Affairs. “We still need to raise $1 million just to pay for this fourth barn. To help fund this part of the facility, we are providing opportunities to name 40 stalls, at $25,000 each. You can name a stall for your horse, your farm, or for your veterinarian! And, you can pay your pledge over a five-year period. We welcome anyone who is interested to contact our Giving office, and help us build this barn!”

Improved driveways and parking areas, for both small and large animal clients, have been factored in, too.  “We have paid a lot of attention to livestock trailer traffic, and our goal is to minimize the need to back-up with a trailer,” said Baxter. “Everything is drive-through, or minimal back-up is required. Also, livestock and equine trailers will be parked separately from other vehicles, near the main entrance for our large animal patients. We will also have a place for clients to leave their trailers, if they wish to do so.”

Baxter said the new facility will also be able to offer more outpatient services for small food animal herds, which has been difficult to do, due to space and ease of access, in our current Hospital. “We plan to have a new chute system that will enable us to handle multiple cattle at one time, as opposed to the single-head of cattle system we’ve had for years.”

There will be much more outdoor space for turning out equine and large animal patients, said Baxter. And, there are plans to include a large paddock to house the Hospital’s blood donor horses, which are currently housed off-site and brought to the Hospital as needed.

There will be multiple spaces for private consultations between doctors and clients who need to discuss sensitive issues, Baxter said, as well as separate spaces for clients who want a quieter area while they wait. The classroom building will include a dining space that will be open to the public, something that has not been available to clients at our current Hospital. “Clients will have far more opportunities to have a comfortable visit than they do in our current facility,” noted Baxter.

DVM students, residents, interns, faculty and staff, will benefit from dedicated space, within every service, for conducting rounds, discussing individual cases, to work in small groups, etc., said Baxter. In addition, the courtyard provides an area for having discussions outdoors.

There is also emphasis on technologies and areas of the hospital that can be shared between large animal patients and small animal patients, to minimize redundancies.  “The linear accelerator will be available to large and small animal patients,” said Baxter; the “linac” currently treats nearly exclusively small animal patients due to space constraints. “Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), interventional radiography – these are all technologies we can place in one area so that they serve our equine patients and our small animal patients,” said Baxter.

The facility will have three main entrances that will be demarcated by stone: a main entrance for small animal clients, an emergency entrance, and the entrance for large animal clients. The façade is expected to be constructed of stone and brick, said Baxter.

“Some of the exterior elevations will change in the coming months,” he added, “because we are currently adding a second floor that will house clinical research labs, as well as our Clinical Pathology Laboratory, which serves our Hospital. We were not able to accommodate these areas in our initial construction phase, but were able to add them back in once we got additional private funding that came in during late Fiscal Year 2012.”

The VMLC will provide a wonderful place to work and learn, for the future of veterinary education in Georgia. Anyone who would like to donate toward the facility can contact the CVM’s Office of Veterinary External Affairs at 706.542.1807 or For more information about the UGA Veterinary Medical Learning Center, or to donate online, visit

-- Story by Kat Yancey Gilmore

Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with permission from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. It was first published in the College’s 2011-2012 Annual Report to Donors.

I hope that you will be as excited as I am about having this great resource close to home. I look forward to seeing the new facility first hand.
Thanks for reading,