It feels great to be here at WSU as the new dean of the college and its Washington– Idaho–Montana–Utah (WIMU) Regional Program in Veterinary Medicine. When I applied for this position, I was attracted to the college’s challenges and opportunities moving forward. The college’s goals had included 1) developing a comprehensive and compelling narrative to increase the college’s visibility, impact, and reach; 2) developing, recruiting, and retaining excellent clinical, research, and teaching faculty and staff; and 3) fostering and providing leadership to research initiatives that solve important societal problems and advance science and care—among many other aspirational goals in education, research, and clinical medicine.
Of course, our leadership team, faculty, staff, and students have experienced unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our undergraduates have experienced the loss of face-to-face instruction, with limited exceptions for specific research experiences and thesis work. Our professional students, who usually begin each academic year as a true cohort, will also have limited face-to-face instruction, and exceptions for group instruction come with personal protection and face masks. Our hallways that normally buzz with “Cougar Spirit” are strangely quiet. But what is unwavering and truly inspirational is the dedication with which our leadership team, faculty, staff, and students work to move our programs forward and create a great educational experience. We have all moved to a virtual environment where collaboration and participation are high. We have leveraged what we learned in the spring to help us improve our learning and teaching environment. Everyone is eager for contact, for connection—and it will come. But, until then, I watch the College of Veterinary Medicine community work long hours in the clinic, put together spreadsheets to maximize student contact hours, develop diagnostic testing for COVID-19 for humans and animals at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL), and be there for one another in all the right ways.
I have been meeting with all our faculty one-on-one and it has been inspiring. There is a deep understanding of the challenges that we face in times of COVID and budget cuts, but in all these meetings I hear voices that have love for the college and its programs and have hope for our collective future. Veterinary medicine and One Health are deeply rooted in the commitment to help and protect our community as a whole—its animals, people, and the environment. This commitment is highlighted by the tremendous legacy of the importance of the human-animal bond at the college, by faculty working in agricultural animal health and outreach, by veterinary hospital clinicians working at the cutting edge of clinical medicine, by research and education initiatives that would expand our work in public health, and by research faculty working in the areas of addiction and obesity. The future is bright.