A Home Fit for the School of Veterinary Medicine

An architectural rendering of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine building expansion viewed from the corner of Observatory Drive and Easterday Lane.

By Meghan Lepisto

Where space limits once constrained the caseload and scheduling capacity for UW Veterinary Care’s high-demand specialty services, now there will be room to grow as clinicians deliver compassionate, pioneering care to thousands more patients.

Where cutting-edge research pushed the limits of available space and aging infrastructure, soon critical scientific inquiries to advance animal and human health will be underway in labs that match the caliber of work conducted at the school.

And where veterinary medical students once crowded in tight halls to learn during hospital rounds, new dedicated rounds rooms and small-group instruction spaces will open up a world of possibilities for training the next generation of veterinary medical professionals.

These are just a few of the many enhancements that danced through the minds of UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) faculty, staff, students, and supporters as ground was broken June 18 on the school’s building expansion.

An aerial view of the future UW School of Veterinary Medicine building expansion. Completion of the addition is projected for 2023 and renovations of the existing building in 2024.

“Today we celebrate the beginning of a new era in veterinary medicine at UW–Madison,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “The construction of this new facility is going to provide the school with a home that befits its reputation and its importance to the university, the state, and the nation.”

Several state and campus leaders provided remarks at the event, celebrating the school’s global leadership in veterinary medical research, teaching, and clinical care and the project’s future impact for veterinarians in training, the state of Wisconsin, and beyond. The groundbreaking ceremony occurred 40 years after the school broke ground on its current building in 1981.

The long-anticipated expansion will include a new building across from the school, in what was previously Lot 62, connected to a remodeled current building on Linden Drive. (A five-story parking garage has been constructed in the east half of the former Lot 62 to make space for the expansion.)

This essential addition and renovation will allow the school to overcome severe space shortages and ensure it remains a leader in training veterinarians, serving animal patients, and making critical research discoveries that benefit both animals and people.

Gifts supporting the UW School of Veterinary Medicine building expansion and renovation will allow the school to enhance its teaching and learning, deliver cutting-edge patient care, advance life-saving discovery, expand public service outreach, and maintain the school’s leadership position in veterinary medicine.

Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can accomplish more.

In order to outfit the building with the specialized equipment required by complex clinical cases, research laboratories, and teaching spaces, the school still needs to raise an additional $7 million. Please consider a gift of any size and join in this special campaign. Naming opportunities are available for gifts and pledges of $25,000 or more.

Join us as we imagine what we can do with room to grow.

Visit animalsneedheroestoo.com to make a gift or for more information, or contact Pat Bowdish (608-332-4750, pat.bowdish@supportuw.org) or Heidi Kramer (608-327-9136, heidi.kramer@supportuw.org).

The enhanced facilities will improve instruction space for students, double the size of the small animal hospital, significantly enhance the large animal hospital, expand labs for studying naturally occurring animal and human diseases, and increase and modernize infectious disease research spaces, with specialized features to support and strengthen this crucial work.

Speaking amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Blank and others pointed to the critical importance of infectious disease research conducted at the School of Veterinary Medicine, made all the more evident by research discoveries over the past year-plus. Bolstered by record amounts of external grant support, SVM scientists have advanced the fight against COVID-19 through vaccine, treatment, and containment strategies. Research at the school has also led to more effective cancer treatments for pets and people and identified new ways to fight the flu, amongst numerous other insights in veterinary and human medicine.

“The vet school has long been a leader in responding to public health concerns. This much-needed new facility is going to allow us to stay at the forefront of that type of research on life-saving discovery and innovation,” said Blank.

At the groundbreaking event, School of Veterinary Medicine Dean Mark Markel and others thanked the myriad individuals and organizations who helped make the building expansion possible, acknowledging “all that they’ve done to bring us to where we are today.”

The milestone marked more than a decade of work advocating for the expansion. A feasibility study conducted by Flad Architects in 2015 laid the groundwork for the school’s efforts with university and UW System leadership, political leaders, alumni, friends, and clients to highlight the critical nature of this project. In the interim, the school carefully remodeled janitor closets, locker rooms, and every possible square foot to meet essential needs.

In July 2019, Governor Tony Evers signed approval of the building project into law in Wisconsin’s 2019-21 budget. State-supported borrowing in the budget will fund approximately $90 million of the $150 million expansion and renovation project (this total includes equipment costs outside of the project budget). The school is committed to raising the remainder of funds. This includes $38 million in private gift support that was needed to allow the building expansion project to be bid in February 2021.

To date, the SVM has raised a cumulative $53 million in private gift support, from donations of all sizes, toward the Animals Need Heroes Too building campaign. The school continues to raise funds needed, with approximately $7 million remaining, to fully outfit the building with the specialized equipment required by complex clinical cases, research laboratories, and teaching spaces.

“Today we celebrate the beginning of a new era in veterinary medicine at UW–Madison. The construction of this new facility is going to provide the school with a home that befits its reputation and its importance to the university, the state, and the nation.”

In the short time since construction began, the evolution has been swift. As of fall 2021, elements of the foundation and structural walls are already in place. Flad Architects, Foil Wyatt Architects & Planners LLC, Affiliated Engineers, Inc., and UW–Madison, UW System, and Wisconsin Department of Administration representatives completed the design for the project. CD Smith is the general contractor.

Completion of the addition is projected for 2023 and renovations of the existing building in late 2024, making the next several years a thrilling phase in the school’s history.

As progress continues, you can follow along through an on-site construction camera at animalsneedheroestoo.com. There, a timelapse video shows work conducted from July 2021 to the present.

A Groundbreaking Project

 An architectural rendering of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine building expansion

Among the enhancements in the UW School of Veterinary Medicine building expansion and renovation:

  • Increased exam room space will better accommodate a growing caseload and decrease client wait times.
  • An expanded waiting area will include dedicated space for cats and small exotics to reduce stress on patients and families.
  • An improved Emergency and Critical Care unit will allow for a greater number of patients and include a more comfortable recovery area.
  • A covered, enclosed arena will allow for large animal neurological and lameness examinations throughout the year, no matter the weather.
  • An expanded and updated large animal isolation wing, the only facility of its kind in Wisconsin, will provide safer examination and patient recovery space.
  • A cancer center will bring together the expertise of the school’s world-renowned medical and radiation oncologists.
  • Expanded diagnostic imaging capabilities will incorporate new technologies and equipment, including an in-house MRI for both small and large animal patients and updated CT, for improved diagnosis and treatment.
  • New areas for hospital rounds within UW Veterinary Care, where a significant portion of student training occurs, and small-group collaborative learning spaces will benefit instruction.
  • Expanded labs for studying naturally occurring animal and human diseases will increase and modernize space to perform globally vital research on infectious diseases like influenza, COVID-19, Ebola, and more.
  • A market café, rooftop terrace, and outdoor courtyard with green space will provide spaces for rest and relaxation.

To learn more about these exciting plans for the UW School of Veterinary Medicine’s future, visit animalsneedheroestoo.com.

A Future Made Possible

By constructing a new state-of-the-art facility, the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) will continue to grow to meet the needs of patients, students, and research programs. Asked to reflect on the direct impacts and what most excites them, members of the faculty and staff shared the following.

The expansion of the teaching hospital and other planned renovations for the SVM will have a significant impact on our students’ experience for many years to come. From dedicated space for clinical teaching to expanded areas for patient care, these enhancements will very positively contribute to an improved learning environment. These changes will also help us attract the best applicants and students to study and grow as doctors and professionals here at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine.

-Lynn Maki, associate dean for student academic affairs

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The fourth-year clinical experience in UW Veterinary Care is a pivotal point in students’ training, providing the opportunity for hands-on experiences to apply, expand, and master what they have worked so hard learning during early parts of the curriculum. These experiences play an impactful role in shaping who these students will become as veterinarians.

On most hospital services, each day begins and ends with the service’s care team meeting for rounds to discuss the day’s cases or engage in topic-specific discussions. The building expansion and renovation will afford services their own rounds spaces. These spaces will easily enable fourth-year students on hospital rotations to quietly research, reflect upon, and discuss their cases, uninterrupted, independently or in teams.

Despite being creative and resourceful in our current hospital, the opportunity to soon incorporate these private, conveniently located, and dedicated rounding spaces will create an abundance of impactful, lifelong clinical learning experiences.

-Christopher Snyder, associate dean for clinical affairs and UW Veterinary Care director

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Passing by the construction site every day, I look forward to working in the hospital’s new emergency room and critical care unit. Moving to the north building will significantly expand the space available to hospitalize and deliver care to critically ill cats and dogs. With dedicated space to hold rounds for students, interns, and residents between the ER and CCU, learning opportunities will increase while keeping us closer to our patients.

-Julie Walker, clinical associate professor, Small Animal Emergency & Critical Care

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The building expansion and renovation will have a tremendous positive impact on the Diagnostic Imaging Service. Advanced diagnostic imaging equipment will allow us to provide the highest standard of care to animal patients.

An upgraded MRI with state-of-the-art technology will benefit both small and large animal patients. The addition of equine MRI is new to the SVM and will substantially elevate the quality of care and diagnostics in equine
medicine and surgery.

Additional ultrasound and X-ray suites with updated equipment will accommodate the ever-increasing caseload and allow for efficient imaging exams and diagnostic capabilities. An in-house PET/CT will vastly improve patient standard of care by enabling us to better diagnose, stage, prognosticate, and treat cancer in animals. Due to highly sensitive assessment of tissue function, disease is often diagnosed earlier on PET/CT than with traditional imaging modalities. The addition of PET imaging on-site will also allow for cutting-edge research opportunities to investigate earlier disease diagnosis, delivery of targeted therapy, monitoring of treatment response, and identification of disease recurrence.

Finally, increased space for interactive rounds rooms will be essential to enhance student teaching and learning
opportunities, and collaboration between specialty services.

-Samantha Loeber, clinical assistant professor, Diagnostic Imaging

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Having been involved in the planning and design team for the research facilities, I have a distinct vision for the lab spaces on the second and third floors of our new building.

On the second floor, lab space will accommodate basic researchers studying the molecular biology and physiology of animal health. This is much needed because our research operations in the main building are bursting at the seams with students, staff, residents, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty.

On the third floor, new lab spaces are designed to facilitate work with high-containment human and animal pathogens. This, too, is much-needed space that replaces labs that can no longer be sufficiently updated and outfitted to meet the standards for safe operations with high-containment pathogens. And it’s a space that will allow our faculty to be nimble and quick to provide research responses to disease outbreaks like the one we are currently experiencing.

In the main School of Veterinary Medicine building, construction will make much-needed expansions and improvements to animal holding and housing spaces. It’s so exciting to see this vision become a reality!

-Lyric Bartholomay, professor of pathobiological sciences and director of the Comparative Biomedical Sciences graduate program

Sculpture for Building Expansion Captures SVM Spirit

As work begins on the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) building expansion, alumnus John Hallett DVM’90 is forging ahead with a related project — a bronze sculpture depicting the educational journey of a veterinary medical student.

The piece, titled Forward Together, is scheduled for completion in 2023 and will be located in a central courtyard between the current and new buildings. It aims to embody the spirit of education, research, and community at the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Veterinarian and artist John Hallett draws inspiration for his tribute sculpture from the school’s resident donor and teaching cows in MayVeterinarian and artist John Hallett DVM’90.

A veterinarian and artist, Hallett is donating his time and talent to the sculpture’s creation.

“There couldn’t be an artist more perfectly suited,” says Kristi Thorson, associate dean for advancement and administration, who is leading the building project on behalf of the SVM. “As a DVM alum, his perspective on the journey students take in their training, combined with his love of science and respect for our researchers, will most certainly be reflected in the finished piece.”

A Wisconsin native who grew up in Madison, Hallett watched as the School of Veterinary Medicine was built during his high school and college years. Knowing that a DVM program would soon be available in his hometown, he was excited and appreciative of the effort it took.

He forged a plan to become a veterinarian and focused his undergraduate studies at UW–Madison on animal science to meet the SVM application requirements. When he eventually received notice that he was accepted, he was elated to have fulfilled a years-long dream.

“We’re so grateful for Dr. Hallett’s foresight and generosity. In addition to being an immensely talented artist, as a veterinarian and alum he’s uniquely qualified. He’ll do an excellent job of embodying the spirit of our school in a sculpture that will delight and welcome students, clients, graduates, and visitors for years to come.”

Hallett’s Class of 1990 was the fourth to be admitted to the school, completing the student body for the four-year DVM program. He is quick to recall how the school’s halls, labs, and classrooms bustled with students and how the administration celebrated that milestone.

As a student, Hallett met his wife Heidi Johnson, a fellow Class of 1990 alumna, and today the couple owns Hallett Veterinary Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Hallett draws inspiration for his sculpture from the school’s resident donor and teaching cows in MayHallett draws inspiration for his sculpture from the school’s resident donor and teaching cows in May.

Having so many vivid memories from his time as a DVM student ignites his desire to be part of the school’s continuing story.

“I have an emotional connection to the school,” he says. “For me, it truly feels like family. The relationships I developed there over the four-year program have turned into lifelong friendships.”

Hallett has collaborated with SVM alumni, faculty, staff, and students to help guide his design process for the sculpture. In May, he returned to the school to gain input on the project and work on clay models, drawing inspiration from the school’s two resident donor and teaching cows, Ginger and Flower. This fall, he met with veterinary medical students to sketch models for the sculpture.

The project itself will be a multi-step, multi-year process. After preparing concept sketches and drawings, he’ll work with clay to sculpt the figures this winter. In 2022, after all of his drawings and figures are completed, he’ll select a foundry. Later that year, the models will go out to mold makers. In 2023, the foundry will cast and assemble the sculpture.

A visual rendering of the Forward Together sculpture in the future courtyard of the School of Veterinary Medicine building expansionA visual rendering of the Forward Together sculpture in the future courtyard of the School of Veterinary Medicine building expansion.

The project will benefit from another generous offer. Margo and Jack Edl, long-time friends, clients, and donors to the school, have committed up to $100,000 to match all gifts directed to the new bronze sculpture. Because Hallett is donating his time, all gifts or pledges to the sculpture will directly support the material costs of creation and installation.

Through the Margo and Jack Edl Match, the couple hopes to inspire others to support this opportunity to showcase veterinary medical students and their pursuit of a dream.

“Our love of animals and those who care for them inspired us to share this gift,” the Edls say. “We hope you will join us in support of what we believe will become an iconic symbol of the impact veterinary medical students have on the world.”

To learn more about Hallett’s vision for the Forward Together sculpture, see videos of the process, and support the project, visit vetmed.wisc.edu/svmsculpture. For more information on the Margo and Jack Edl match, please contact Pat Bowdish at 608-332-4750 or pat.bowdish@supportuw.org.

Denise Garlow

This article appears in the winter 2021-22 issue of On Call magazine.