Dean’s message: September 2022

Dean Dori Borjesson standing outside Bustad Hall on the WSU campus.

Sometimes academia can be rough. We have real challenges with staffing shortages, equipment needs, and turnover without the ability to be fully nimble in our responses. But there is something. Something in our many missions that compel faculty and staff to stay and discover, educate, and reach out. And there is something about the brick-and-mortar community of a college campus that continues to endure, lift up, and inspire new generations of students. In my previous life, when people asked me why I chose academia, and, later, why I stayed, my answer was always easy and honest: program building. Being surrounded by smart, creative people with a breadth of interest and expertise that can flex and make our discoveries better, that can leverage a One College approach to life’s questions.

Here is an example from this past week of a true One College effort that culminated in a publication highlighting the strength of our teams. The group, led by Dr. Eric Sheldon in the School of Molecular Biosciences, leveraged basic genetic and transcriptomic science techniques to interrogate canine cancer using the expertise of Dr. Janean Fidel and Dr. Rance Sellon in the Veterinary Clinical Sciences department and the pathology diagnostic expertise of Dr. Laura White in the  Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology department. But it gets even better. First authorship was shared by Lydia Lam, a molecular bioscience graduate student, and Dr. Tien Tien, a veterinary resident — how often does that happen? The work was supported by our genomics core and core staff, Mark Wildung. These comparative, collaborative projects get funded through our WSU College of Veterinary Medicine intramural grant program and, in this particular case, the Marge Crowley Canine Cancer Research Endowment (yeah donors that support research!). AND graduate student Lydia Lam was partially supported by a NIH graduate student training grant. Training grants are highly competitive, they take focused faculty effort, and are only funded by the NIH when there is a critical mass of faculty with a deep commitment to science and to mentoring the next generation of scientists. That is us.

Golden lab laying on an exam table while a veterinarian is listening to his heart.

This type of research that crosses scientific disciplines and species benefits companion animals and also can inform human health. We know this is a strength for academia in general, but especially for an integrated college of veterinary medicine like ours that hosts undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, in addition to veterinary residents.

Go Cougs!