Spring/Summer Issue 2015

by Bryan Slinker, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine

I recently prepared a talk for the Bellevue, Washington, Breakfast Rotary. There is so much to be excited about in our college that I always risk delivering an exhaustive laundry list of good things.

Do I talk about Theia, whose simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking story circled the globe numerous times? What an example of the good our team does every day in the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Or should I highlight our work to eliminate rabies as a global public health problem? People rarely die from rabies in the United States, but more than 59,000 do so each year in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. What an aspiration…and achievable in my lifetime.

Then there is the critical role our Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab has in protecting public health and agriculture—behind the scenes they have been protecting us without us realizing it, as they always do 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, most recently with respect to avian influenza. What about our many research programs to combat important tick-borne diseases of animals and people around the world? Or probiotics to fight disease in rainbow trout?

Then there are important “one health” accomplishments as we seek to improve human health and well-being. As viral diseases kill people around the world, we work diligently to understand them and inform societal debates on issues such as vaccination. We develop exciting novel treatments for dementia and Parkinson’s disease, spinning off a biotech company to drive Washington’s economy. Then there is the recent NPR Morning Edition story about Tumor Paint, for which we and our veterinary patients played a critical role to move into human clinical trials (and not the University of Washington’s College of Veterinary Medicine as originally reported…oops!).

It is so hard to narrow it down. We do so much and so well, and often in areas that cause people to ask, “Why is a college of veterinary medicine doing that?” The answer is simple: we proudly take a broad view of how the veterinary profession serves society.

In this vein, I close by noting that we offer four undergraduate degrees; one of only three veterinary colleges in the country to do so. These are a point of pride for us, attracting great students who are mentored by a fantastic faculty. Our faculty are innovators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, education, joining DVM program faculty in leading our college’s pioneering Teaching Academy. They mentor talented students to high achievement—our programs have produced six of the last eight prestigious Goldwater Scholars at WSU, and 17 overall—and they seek to improve STEM education at WSU and around the region. I wish every dean could know the pleasure of offering such programs to educate the next generation of scientists and health professionals and enrich the life of the college.

At the conclusion of that Rotary talk about some of these marvels, the host, an alumnus of our rivals, the University of Washington, remarked that with such fantastic programs in our college, WSU would not be known as just a football school any more. Indeed.

Go Cougs!