College of Veterinary Medicine

From the Dean

The Value of a Comparative Medical Education

by Bryan 4. April 2012 12:24

This neat little story about one of our faculty, Cynthia Faux, got me to thinking about how what we learn as veterinarians can pop up to help us out in highly unusual and/or unpredictable ways.

Dr. Faux, who teaches gross anatomy to freshman veterinary students, also holds a PhD in Paleontology from Yale.  This story is about some of her paleontology research that was informed by her comparative medical knowledge as a veterinarian, specifically, an explanation of why so many dinosaur fossils are found in a posture with their head thrown back and their cervical spine hyper-extended.  You can read the story for more details, which are fascinating, as is the story of Cynthia's career trajectory.

This caused me to think back to the many times, when I was an active basic biomedical scientist in a medical school setting, that my veterinary medical education helped me succeed, both conceptually, and technically.  This also highlights one of the things I think veterinary colleges must do a better − recruiting students whose primary motivation is to be a scientist, and whom we have convinced that a comparative veterinary medical education will make them a better scientist, scientists like Cynthia, and Pete Anderson, who I have highlighted previously. 

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Too Close a Human Animal Bond?

by Bryan 20. July 2009 22:10

A recent report in JAVMA (July 1 issue) as summarized here, reports a case of transmission of human herpesvirus-1 from a person with active oral and genital lesions to a rabbit that subsequently developed a severe case of meningioencephalitis.  Signs progressed, ultimately leading to euthanizing the rabbit.  "Extensive nose-to-nose and mouth-to-nose contact" was reported between the person and their rabbit.

Some might be tempted to make light of this, but that would be a mistake.  Companion animals are taking on increasingly prominent roles as part of our extended families: people will probably need persistent reminders that disease transmission is possible.  We tend to focus on the animal-to-human transmission of disease, but the opposite can occur, as obviously happened here.  (Thanks to Charlie for passing pointing this one out to me.)

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Finally, Some Progress on Loan Repayment for Veterinary Shortage Areas

by Bryan 10. July 2009 07:05

At long last, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is a reality.

The "final rule" was published in the Federal Register yesterday.  There is still an additional 60 day comment period, but this is, in effect, now the final implementation of the program.  The justification and focus pertain to the shortage of rural, food animal-oriented veterinary practitioners, about which I've commented before (here and here, for example).

In brief, this program anticipates accepting applications from individuals it deems qualified as serving a veterinary shortage area.  Student educational loan repayment of up to $25,000 per year is anticipated for 3 or 4 years (with an additional amount intended to compensate for the tax implications of the loan repayment).  What constitutes a veterinary shortage area can be defined differently over time as state veterinarians propose what should be considered shortage areas.  The clear intent, however, is that these areas will relate primarily to rural, agricultural animal needs (or, possibly, plausibly related needs such as animal health emergency, food safety, and diagnostic laboratory functions, for example).

At the end of the day, those who may benefit from this program will have to await more specificity from the USDA as to exact implementation, but finally this program is a reality.  Those of you who are interested in following the implementation of this program -- which anticipates the first applications to be submitted in about January of 2010 -- can do so at this web site.

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The Wide Range of Veterinary Careers

by Bryan 8. July 2009 06:59

I've used this blog to highlight the many talents of veterinary professionals.  In doing so I've also highlighted the many specific career possibilities that a professional veterinary degree opens up.

Recently, this article in the news magazine produce by LSU's veterinary college (La Veterinaire) caught my attention because it presents a very nice look at many varied career possibilities.  These vignettes highlight LSU alums, but Cougar alums present a similar broad array -- which is why I'll periodically highlight people such as Robin Peterson of the Class of 1981, who still does some part-time mixed practice, but spends most of her time pursuing her art both inside and outside the profession.

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We're Looking Older, But We're Looking Good

by Bryan 18. June 2009 18:35

I was in Corvallis today visiting Oregon State's Veterinary School.  I hadn't been there since 1984 or 1985 when I interviewed for a faculty position first coming off my post-doc.  It has sure grown and matured.

One of their long time faculty members, and director of their diagnostic, lab is Jerry Heidel, one of my vet school classmates (even though he's been at OSU for years, I'd say he looks like a Coug in that picture).  Judging by his and my graying hair, I'd say we've matured as well.  As we reminisced briefly it was hard not to think things like, "who would have imagined back when we were studying anatomy as freshman that I'd be dean and he'd be an anatomic pathologist and diagnostic lab director."  I'll probably end up sounding like a broken record in pointing out these kinds of examples of how remarkably variable the career paths for veterinarians can be.

Anyway, it was great to see Jerry and the other folks at OSU.

Later in the day I visited the Oregon Humane Society facilities in Portland to learn more about their programs (and their cooperative program with OSU in which veterinary students rotate through their facility).  I was blown away at the facilities and the programs (and how they complemented one another) and the commitment that it takes to pull something like that off.  Simply marvelous... and good food for thought.

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Leadership 101

by Bryan 2. June 2009 23:14

Just a quick post while this evening's experience is still fresh in my mind.  I'm sitting out in the wonderful late evening air along the Spokane River in northern Idaho, at my first Veterinary Leadership Experience (VLE).  I won't be staying the whole week, but I've already got a taste of something I've believed in before experiencing it.

The many professional organization and corporate partners who join our team continue to influence the course of the profession by bringing together vet school faculty and students from around the world who take what they learn back to their home institutions to model for their colleagues.  This brainchild of several of our faculty, that started nearly 10 years ago with 1st year vet student orientation (COLE) and has now added several dimensions to bring it to a broader audience, is something that I'm very proud that our college does.  Those who saw this need, supported it, and have built it to the powerful entity that it is today are yet other reasons among many that being dean of the WSU CVM is such a great job.

Where else can a dean, in the company of what were an hour before total strangers, be part of a group assigned the task of collectively emulating a machine, where each part (person) has to move and make a sound?  Not the stuff of my usual day, and I must say out of my comfort zone.  But that's what this is all about...

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What's in a Name? - UPDATED

by Bryan 6. May 2009 06:22

Swine flu, novel H1N1 flu, 2009 H1N1 flu, North American flu, Influenza A (H1N1), and hybrid flu, are among the names for the new influenza virus that has been so much in the news lately.  But it is "swine flu" that has caused the damage.

This new strain reflects a re-assortment of genetic elements from different influenza viruses of North American and Asian origin in pigs, humans, and birds.  Naming the many variants of the promiscuously re-assorting influenza virus is hard to do in a way that serves all competing interests.  Calling it “swine flu” was a disaster for pork producers, but calling it H1N1 creates confusion for public health authorities because the prominent “normal” strain of flu circulating this season has also been an H1N1 subtype; the 1918 pandemic was caused by a different H1N1 strain.  This new strain could have been called “bird flu” but that, too, would have been confusing; we’ve already had our eye on the H5N1 virus, known more commonly as bird flu or avian influenza.  Even Jon Stewart got into the act with his Snoutbreak piece.  As much of a Daily Show fan as I am, part of that piece stung rather than amused because pork producers have been harmed significantly by those two simple words, "swine flu".

This is a virus that is spreading from human to human and there is as yet no evidence of illness in pigs (a suspected, but unconfirmed, case of novel H1N1 human-to-pig transmission notwithstanding).  The factual bottom line is that pork is safe to consume; yet pork sales, hog futures, and stock prices all fell significantly.  This physical virus damaged pork producers because its name became news in cyberspace (an ironic variant of "viral communication"), not because it caused disease in pigs.  The damage was real nonetheless.  Moreover, so much information can now fly around the globe so rapidly that I think there are no longer clear authoritative voices to turn to for trusted information; or, if there are, by the time those authoritative voices engage in the news flow the damage has already been done.

(UPDATE (5-6-2009; 9:05pm)  This clip from ABC News last night has a good segment on the impact on pork producers, beginning about 3 1/2 minutes into the clip.) 

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Sweating the Details

by Bryan 27. April 2009 21:41

You doubtless are aware of the story of the tragic deaths of 21 Venezuelan polo ponies in Florida last week.

Franck's pharmacy has admitted to an error in the amount of one of the components of a mixture compounded to be similar to Biodyl, a supplement not approved in the U.S.  Whose error and which ingredient have not been revealed, but speculation here and here centers on Sodium Selenite, and most specifically on a decimal point error in calculation (e.g., 5 instead of 0.5) or interpretation of metric units (e.g. milligrams instead of micrograms).

This may or may not turn out to be the actual error.  However, to the extent that this tragedy does appear to have resulted from some error in calculation or specification, it is a stark reminder to sweat the details when dealing with drug doses.  Measure twice, cut once, is a good rule of thumb in carpentry or sewing.  The stakes are even higher when giving drugs, and the discipline to deliberately check and re-check when doing so is an essential attribute.

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Open House

by Bryan 19. April 2009 11:52

Each year on Mom's Weekend the vet students put on a great show for our college's open house.  This year's event was a huge success, as usual.  The weather cooperated (it hasn't been than great of spring in Pullman so far, but that day was nice).

You can see many of the photographs taken here.  One of the big hits -- among many -- was the Teddy Bear Surgery (even Butch got in the act).  Butch's presence was the highlight for many, myself included:

   (thanks to Jackie Parker for the photo)

Many thanks to the hundreds of visitors for bringing your curiosity and interest.  And many thanks to the students who spent untold hours making this a success.

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What Will Ag Animal Practice Look Like in 20 Years? UPDATED

by Bryan 4. April 2009 15:36

I've commented before on the shortage of agricultural animal veterinarians, and did so in a way that blurred the problems of rural mixed practice and the need for well-educated food supply veterinarians, which are not the same thing.  No doubt I'll have more comments on those topics, in which I'll try to be clearer, ... but my purpose here is different.

Part and parcel of the question of what elements do we emphasize in educating food supply veterinarians is the question, what will the animal food supply system will look like in 10 years?  20 years? 

I must admit that I do not have a fully satisfactory answer to the question, but I do think that the veterinary profession must be in the lead in providing the answer and the solutions to the issues raised.  If this is to be, those of us in academic veterinary medicine will not only need to educate students well in current practices, but we also will need to give them a glimpse of possible futures while also imparting the skills and the confidence they need to help shape that future.

Because of the complexity of this issue, and my lack of a fully formed answer, I would be very interested in receiving comments from you as to what you think.

In the meantime, to get the ball rolling, I'll say this:  I believe that whatever evolution occurs in agricultural animal food production in the next decade or two, one consistent element will be increased attention to animal welfare as regards housing, feeding, transportation, and humane slaughter systems that minimize stress and better allow animals to express more of their normal behaviors.

Why do I think that?

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