Dean’s message February 2022

When I arrived on the Palouse, I remember the quip — if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few hours. This late winter, early spring transition has been, well, breathtaking. Treacherous ice to glorious sunshine to hail followed by dramatic sunsets. Days are getting longer!

I wanted to share with you all my growing enthusiasm for one novel way our college is contributing to wellness for our veterinary professionals, including veterinarians, technicians, house officers, and even senior students. We have invested in Dr. Angela Nguyen to help us drive forward WSU-branded, competency-based, stackable, online innovative education certificate programs to train cohorts of veterinary paraprofessionals.

These certificate programs will be focused, affordable, and combine online learning with experiential internships. We have surrounded Dr. Nguyen by a taskforce that includes education specialists here at WSU, a member of the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association and an alumnus who serves as a veterinary health care executive to help inform this new education initiative. These paraprofessionals will train in transcription, teletriage, preventative medicine, and/or behavior, among other areas, and will help backfill our veterinarians and veterinary technicians so they can operate at the top of their licenses. They will intern at our hospital and all over the state. Later, we hope to involve hands-on, side-by-side training with veterinary students to encourage teamwork, communication, and effective delegation of responsibilities at the skills development phase of their careers. We will draw paraprofessional trainees from undergraduate pools of students who want to work with animals but don’t end up joining our profession, from community colleges, and from the workforce that surrounds veterinary medicine (e.g. pet stores and shelters). These certificates will permit entry level, paid positions for underrepresented minorities to access clinical experience opportunities, reducing one barrier to entry in our profession.

We are working to fully support and sustain this program with marketing and outreach, partnerships (subject matter experts), relationship building for potential employers, and outcome metrics. Our college has always led in innovative education. It is what we do. I am thrilled to add this layer of workforce development to the larger conversation in which our profession is engaged. We need a lot of solutions for our workforce challenges—this one is cost effective, brings more people into our profession without altering the practice act, can be implemented relatively rapidly, provides multiple avenues for entry, and leverages our excellent global online education system. Go Cougs!

And join me in welcoming Dr. Shane Hentges, the new chair of the Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience. Read Hentges to chair WSU’s neuroscience program.