UACES Facebook Arkansas 4-H helps develop the next generation of veterinarians

Arkansas 4-H helps develop the next generation of veterinarians

By Emily Thompson
U of A System Division of Agriculture
April 14, 2017 

Fast Facts: 

  • Arkansas 4-H Veterinary Science Program allows youth to explore the veterinary medicine field, while gaining valuable skills for future careers.
  • Program curriculum can be adapted to fit the needs of each child.
  • Plans are underway to certify the Arkansas program as an accredited veterinary assistant program. 

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LITTLE ROCK— A 4-H program geared toward preparing Arkansas youth for a career in the veterinary field goes well beyond dogs, cats and horses, giving participants a look into the realm of exotic animal medicine, food animal medicine and wildlife medicine

The 4-H Veterinary Science Program provides 4-Her’s 9 years old and up with real-world exploration of the veterinary science field. The program is operated by the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. 

Participants learn skills they will need to pursue a career in veterinary medicine through activities that pair them with veterinarians. They also take field trips to veterinary schools, veterinary clinics, zoos and animal diagnostic laboratories. 

“The 4-H veterinary science program interested me because I want to become a veterinarian and this was a good way to learn about several different kinds of veterinary medicine and how a clinic should be run,” said Autumn Gregg, former program participant.

Gregg is now an undergraduate at Oklahoma State University who recently received early admission into the school’s veterinary medicine program.  

“My favorite experience through the program was getting to tour the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge with my club,” Gregg said, referring to the wildlife rescue park in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. “We got to meet with their curator and look at their feeding and medication logs. We also learned about the process of getting their big cats to the veterinarian and back into their enclosures. It was cool because it was the first time I had experienced exotic medicine.” 

The program follows curriculum created by the national 4-H organization that can be tailored to fit the needs for each student.

Heidi Ward, DVM, PhD, Division of Agriculture veterinarian and Arkansas 4-H veterinary science program coordinator, said that the program has a strong participation by home school students, so the activities they engage in focus on group work to help strengthen relationships. 

“The 4-H leader is responsible for gauging the activity levels of the group,” Ward said. “Some groups engage in organized field trips and some focus more on fun hands-on activities at monthly meetings.  Either way, the activities aim to build skill sets and peer relationships.” 

Plans are underway to get the Arkansas 4-H veterinary science approved as an accredited veterinary assistant program. 4-Her’s pursuing a certificate to become a veterinary assistant will complete 100 lessons and 50 activities that will teach the basics of animal anatomy, animal diseases, business skills and speaking skills. 

“The bonus of this type of study is that students will develop valuable critical thinking skills that will prepare them for any career field,” Ward said. 

The program will be made more accessible by the Cooperative Extension Service by making the curriculum and lessons available through an online learning system, so students can complete the program at their own pace.   

The Arkansas 4-H veterinary science program is currently established in 17 counties with 3 more counties expected to launch this year

To learn more about the Arkansas 4-H veterinary science program, visit


The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. 

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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