Meet our educators: Chrissy Eckstrand

Chrissy outside the Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility.

Dr. Chrissy Eckstrand didn’t know she had a passion for veterinary pathology until she attended veterinary school. That passion ultimately led her to a residency at the University of California, Davis, where she discovered an interest in teaching and mentoring. With teaching and veterinary pathology in mind, Eckstrand applied to a faculty position at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She is now the coordinator of Veterinary Virology, a core course in the second year of WSU’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.

What do you like most about teaching students at WSU?

I’m the course coordinator of Veterinary Virology, and I’m also part of a team of anatomic pathologists that teaches in the required fourth-year diagnostics rotation. What I like most about teaching is it’s a two-way street – I am constantly being taught. The WSU College of Veterinary Medicine veterinary students are extremely bright, thoughtful, and inquisitive, and they regularly bring questions and ideas regarding the material we are covering that open my mind to different perspectives, areas of exploration, and improvements to the profession of veterinary medicine. 

What is your favorite part about being an educator? 

My favorite part of being an educator is the sense of purpose it brings to my life. I enjoy being part of a team of veterinary educators striving to improve the quality of veterinary education, inspiring young minds to grow and help animals, and making the world a more compassionate and kinder place. 

What has been your academic/career path leading up to WSU?

I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and started an undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware in music education. I missed spending time outside and with animals, which had always been part of my life, so I switched to animal science and felt right at home. I spent many undergraduate hours traveling with equine veterinarians and working in small and large animal hospitals as a veterinary technician and decided to apply to veterinary school, which took me to Prince Edward Island, Canada. I loved vet school and learned I had a passion for veterinary pathology, which I had never heard of. After veterinary school, I accepted an anatomic pathology residency at University of California, Davis, which further confirmed I enjoyed pathology. During my residency, I had a wonderful mentor, Brian Murphy (who happens to be a Pullman native and WSU College of Veterinary Medicine graduate), who inspired me to continue into a PhD program after my pathology residency. I found research to be very challenging but learned so much about viruses, and I spent my time investigating two important feline viruses – feline immunodeficiency virus and feline infectious peritonitis virus. During my residency and graduate training years, I had many opportunities to help teach in the DVM curriculum and learned I really enjoyed teaching and mentoring. I felt like the diversity and freedom of an academic career combined with the sense of purpose it provides was the right path for me, which led me to WSU.

What drew you to WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine?

I didn’t know anything about WSU prior to visiting. There was an open faculty position in anatomic pathology, and it involved teaching virology, which sounded like things I knew how to do! I interviewed for the position with little knowledge of the amazing place it is. My previous mentor spoke highly of the university and the area, so I thought it was worth checking out. I was well sold after my interview. The friendliness, collegiality, and laid-back vibe of WSU and Pullman, and prestige and quality of work at WADDL were the initial attractors. These characteristics haven’t faded, and I keep adding more attractors – the beauty of the Palouse, the veterinary students, all the staff, etc., keep me here.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I started playing ice hockey a few years ago because a couple of friends made me try it. I’d never played ice hockey in my life before, but now I can’t get enough. So fun!