Dean’s message: December 2022

This weekend I remembered why I love all four seasons here on the Palouse. Driving on lightly maintained roads about an hour north of Pullman, deep into what definitely passes as a winter wonderland, in search of wildlife at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge — hoping for moose, coyote, eagle, elk, but instead saw coyote, turkeys, hawks, pheasants (and a few flickers, not sure if they count). It was quiet out there, the kind of quiet that is awesome and necessary.  It was stark. The kind of stark that is overpowering and makes you feel part of something bigger. 

As we navigate into 2023, I feel like I have found my footing and that I am part of something bigger. I spent the past few years learning about the college, figuring out a leadership structure that works, working through processes, and defining core values — like research that matters, clinical excellence, and innovative education. Moving forward, how do we continue to lead, grow, and sustain excellence in light of very real budgetary challenges, a changing student body, and increasing demands on all levels of our workforce — all while being attentive to a culture that supports inclusion and wellbeing. I have always loved a good challenge. 

Like last year, we are going to share “Our Top 10” list of 2022, and, like last year, before we do so, I would like to share with you some things for which I am truly grateful. I am incredibly grateful for the patience and understanding that college faculty, staff, and students have demonstrated in spite of the challenging pace associated with implementing change. They have given their all, have given leadership the benefit of the doubt, and have worked toward the common good. We have an amazing team, truly.

Students and faculty in the College of Veterinary Medicine sing and play instruments for their annual Lucia holiday performance.

I am grateful for the acts of kindness I see around me … from the amazing Lucia (Swedish inspired, candlelit caroling organized by Dr. Boel Fransson) to the student-organized giving tree to help our local humane society and the American Red Cross blood drive organized by Emma Karel to the end of year charitable giving from so many donors that choose us and our programs. In whatever way you choose to give back or pay it forward, thank you. You make our world just a little bit better.

Below are our Top 10 stories of 2022, know there is so much more. Happy New Year all and Go Cougs!

Guarding against global threats

Russian lesser horseshoe bat image overlaid with a coronavirus illustration.

A team led by researchers in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Health found spike proteins from a newly discovered bat virus similar to SARS-CoV-2 can infect human cells and is resistant to both the monoclonal antibodies and serum from individuals vaccinated for SARS-CoV-2. Newly discovered COVID‑like virus could infect humans, resist vaccines.

Creating pathways to better treatments for cancers in dogs

A dog undergoes radiation therapy at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Using next-generation sequencing techniques and computation approaches, a team of researchers and veterinarians at WSU examined the genetic makeup of the most common subtypes of canine soft tissue sarcomas and identified several therapeutic targets that might form the basis of new treatments. Genetic discovery could lead to better treatments for common tumor in dogs.

Leading the way in diversity, equity, and inclusion

The college added its first director for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Maurice Cottman. He plans to implement a three‑pillar system focusing on pre‑arrival for faculty, staff, and students, including how programs are marketed, recruiting and interviews; community life; and alumni engagement. College of Veterinary Medicine welcomes first director of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Advanced viral emergence research

Dr. Stephanie Seifert outside the Paul G. Allen School of Global Health.

Assistant professor Stephanie N. Seifert was named as a co‑lead investigator for a new National Science Foundation-funded institute designed to advance research and education around viral emergence — the process of viruses jumping from animals to humans. WSU professor to co‑lead NSF‑funded institute for emerging virus research.

$2.1M for tick disease research

Close up image of tick on leaf.

Grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow WSU researchers to take the next steps toward blocking transmission of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. The four-year grant comes on the heels of the researchers’ discovery of a novel immune mechanism central to tick survival against two of the most common bacteria the parasites are known to carry and spread. NIH grant to expand research into tick‑borne diseases.

Protecting wildlife

Winter shot of bull elk with asymmetric antlers. Photo by Rob Smith.

Grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow WSU researchers to take the next steps toward blocking transmission of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. The four-year grant comes on the heels of the researchers’ discovery of a novel immune mechanism central to tick survival against two of the most common bacteria the parasites are known to carry and spread. NIH grant to expand research into tick‑borne diseases.

Innovative technology

Dr. Tom Wilkinson holds a surgical guide he created using CT imaging data and a 3D printer at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

WSU radiologist Dr. Tom Wilkinson is working with the pituitary surgery team at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to determine if 3D printing technology can be used to simplify a complicated neurological procedure performed at only a handful of facilities in the country. 3D prints may guide vets through risky brain surgery.

Supporting underrepresented students

Alexandra, in a lab coat, recording data.

Funded by the National Institutes for Health, WSU’s new Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program offers undergraduates in STEM from underrepresented backgrounds research opportunities during their junior and senior years, including a 10-week summer research experience at a research university, and invitations to several national research conferences. Research opportunities for underrepresented students.

New life-saving test for cats

Two tabby kittens snuggling.

A new test developed by WSU researchers can detect a rare genetic mutation in cats that can cause potentially deadly reactions to some common medications, including those used to control parasites and in routine surgical procedures, like spays and neuters. Test can detect deadly genetic mutation in cats.

Unique training opportunity provides care for animals in need

The Doney Coe Pet Clinic staff outside the front of their building.

The Doney Coe Pet Clinic has offered care to pets from low-income families in the Seattle area for more than 35 years. In addition to aiding animals in need, the Coug-founded clinic allows WSU veterinary students to complete required clinical hours for their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Coug-founded clinic continues to offer free pet care after 35 years.

Be safe, healthy, happy, and stay hopeful. As I said on my first day on the job, the future is bright.

Take care and Go Cougs!