In the world of veterinary medical schools, the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) is a relative newcomer—one of the youngest of 30 in the United States—the creation of which involved multiple decades of political maneuvering to build.

Although the school is somewhat new, the University of Wisconsin–Madison boasts a strong tradition of veterinary science, hiring veterinarians as early as the late 1800s in its Department of Animal Husbandry.

In 1947, the UW Board of Regents passed a resolution that a school of veterinary medicine should be established on campus when adequate funds were available. Thirty-two years passed before the circumstances were right for this to happen. For a variety of reasons, certain regents and politicians opposed the creation of a veterinary medical school. Proposals rode the rollercoaster of politics for decades.In 1911, the university established the Department of Veterinary Science in the College of Agriculture (now the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences). It did not offer a veterinary medical degree, but it quickly gained an international reputation for research and graduate training, a mantle that the school would assume after its creation. The department joined the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges in 1972, the year the organization opened its membership beyond schools and colleges.

In the late 1970s, Acting Gov. Martin Schreiber, Regent Walter F. Renk, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, and the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association put forth great effort in support of opening a school of veterinary medicine. In addition, two key state legislators crafted and championed the legislation that would ultimately establish the school: Rep. Gervase Hephner and Sen. Thomas Harnisch. The state legislature finally established the school in July 1979, and the first class of 80 students was admitted in 1983.

Notable Accomplishments

Prior to Founding of School of Veterinary Medicine


The Department of Veterinary Science established at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The award-winning research training program later became the Comparative Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, housed in the UW School of Veterinary Medicine.


Dr. Bernard Easterday serves as president of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.


Dr. Bernard Easterday, in collaboration with Dr. R. Pawlisch (Brodhead, Wis.), obtained conclusive proof that the swine influenza virus can be transmitted to humans  from pigs when the virus was isolated from both a group of sick pigs and their sick owner.


Dr. Robert Hanson elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

After Founding of School of Veterinary Medicine


First class enrolls at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine.


Established the nation’s first external ambulatory program for veterinary medical students. The program later received the Merck AgVet Award for Creativity for its pioneering educational programming.


Created the Johne’s Information Center, an authoritative website on Johne’s disease in all animal species.


Dr. Chris Olsen genetically characterizes reassortment of human, avian, and swine influenza viruses in pigs.


Joined the UW Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy and the Division of International Studies in the creation of an International Health Advisory Committee, which led to the creation of Center for Global Health in 2005 and a campus-wide Global Health Institute. The institute links together the four health science schools and international studies to address global health concerns such as influenza, malaria, and paratuberculosis.


Dr. Tass Dueland receives the American Kennel Club Career Achievement Award in Canine Research from the American Veterinary Medical Association.


—The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association adopted new canine vaccination guidelines developed by immunology expert Dr. Ronald Schultz, professor and founding chair of the Department of Pathobiological Science, based on his many years of Canine research on the duration of immunity (DOI) and challenge studies.


Dr. Norm Wilsman’s research on baby lambs confirm that most growth spurts occur when the animals were at rest or sleeping, providing greater understanding on how bone growth plates elongate.


—The Transition Cow Index®(TCITM), developed from an equation created by Dr. Ken Nordlund to evaluate fresh cow performance based on last lactation’s milk production and 13 other significant factors, launched nationwide.


Dr. Tony Goldberg and collaborators identify the American Robin as a “super spreader” of West Nile virus in suburban Chicago.


The Dairyland Initiative, a national web-based resource, began to provide educational material, networking, virtual tours, contacts and tools to ensure that dairy producers have access to necessary information that they require to construct welfare-friendly facilities for their livestock.


Dr. Gordon Mitchell and an international team of researchers receive the Translational Research Partnership Award for their work on intermittent hypoxia research in spinal cord patients.


Dr. Jerry Bisgard received the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Lifetime Excellence in Research Award for his work on how humans and animals acclimatize to chronic hypoxia.


UW School of Veterinary Medicine opens the world’s first TomoTherapy clinic in a veterinary medical school. Developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also used in human medicine, TomoTherapy delivers highly precise radiation to treat tumors while avoiding critical normal tissues.


Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka, professor of virology, and an international team of researchers showed that the avian H5N1 influenza virus could become transmissible in mammals after just a few genetic mutations.


The laboratory of Dr. M Suresh, professor of immunology, defines the underlying cell signaling and transcriptional basis for the development of CD8 T cell-mediated protective immunity to vaccines.


Through a genetic analysis of the avian H7N9 flu virus, Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka and his team revealed that the virus can evolve and adapt to human cells, prompting concerns about its potential to launch a global flu pandemic. Kawaoka also received a $18.13 million National Institutes of Health grant to model how humans respond to viral pathogens.


Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka is elected to the National Academy of Sciences.