Dr. Craig McConnel comes from a long line of educators. His dad taught junior high-level math and science prior to settling into farming full time. His mom taught grade school for more than 30 years. With teaching running in the family, it’s no surprise Dr. McConnel finds himself on faculty at his alma mater where he earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. Dr. McConnel teaches veterinary epidemiology to second-year veterinary students and much of his research deals with bovine health and well-being.
What are you currently teaching at the college and what do you like most about teaching students at WSU?
I teach epidemiology to second-year veterinary students and help coordinate a seminar for first-, second-, and third-year students focused on new innovations and challenges affecting livestock production. Both of these courses are as much about the learning process as they are about the content. I really enjoy helping guide students on their journey of discovery without being overly concerned about the ultimate destination.
How did you end up at WSU?
Immediately out of veterinary school, I entered a livestock ambulatory internship at the University of Sydney, Australia. Within a few weeks, I managed to come down with Q fever, which is caused by the organism Coxiella burnetti that can be shed by small ruminants and cattle. That really knocked me around, and during my recovery, I took on a research project investigating sheep infected with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (the organism that causes Johne’s disease). The research process, analysis, and eventual manuscript write-up made me realize I really enjoyed the overlap of population health management, epidemiology and research. That sent me on the research trajectory and led to a master’s degree investigating Moraxella bovis (the organism that causes bovine pinkeye—infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis) serotypes on the Australian continent, and eventually to my PhD work at Colorado State University exploring the epidemiology of mature cow mortality on Colorado dairies.
What drew you to WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine?
The short answer is that this is home. I was raised on a farm just north of Boise, but my mom is from a farm in Potlatch that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of in some capacity throughout my life. The longer answer is that WSU happened to have the perfect position in Veterinary Medicine Extension open up at exactly the right time for my career path. I was on faculty at Colorado State University after having spent time at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Australia. Both of those positions had a blend of research, teaching, and dairy ambulatory work. They gave me a great foundation for this current position with its focus on integrating livestock research into novel extension programs. The day-to-day of this job is a great mix of discovery and opportunity to address challenges that arise within livestock production and population health.
What is your favorite part about being an educator?
My immediate and extended family is riddled with educators from grade school through higher education. In fact, my dad taught junior high math and science and earned his master’s in guidance and counseling prior to settling into farming full time. My mom taught grade school for more than 30 years! This may seem like a non sequitur to the question, but the point is that over the years I’ve listened to my parents, aunts, and uncles revel in catching up with their “kids” years after having them in the classroom. Students are family and I consider myself extremely lucky to have so many of my own “kids” who I get to watch develop into the next generation(s) of veterinarians.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I’m a fairly open book and most people would probably say that I talk too much and say too little resulting in not much left to know! That said, a fun fact is that at one point in my travels I ended up climbing Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia. At 13,435 feet, it is the third-highest peak of an island on Earth, and the 20th most prominent mountain in the world by topographic prominence.