Meet the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine’s New Dean: Four Questions with Dr. Dori Borjesson
Can You Tell Us A Little About Yourself?
I grew up in Beaverton, Oregon, and I saw myself as a veterinarian as early as the age of 12. Since that time, I have been engaged with most every aspect of our profession—I have been a small animal and exotics veterinarian in Salinas, California; I have worked in wildlife conservation. I fell in love with microscopy and data interpretation. My daughter would tell you that I love data (and she’s not wrong)! I have conducted research to understand diseases that impact human and animal health. I built a program with a great team of scientists, clinicians, staff, and students in veterinary regenerative medicine. I have also taught veterinary students and graduate students, mentored residents, served as a clinical pathologist, led a graduate group and an academic department, and worked with industry partners and generous donors. I believe that being a veterinarian is a great choice; there are so many avenues to explore, and my career has definitely shifted every five years or so. I am an optimist. I worry less than I used to. I like problem-solving and new challenges. I may work a little too much, but my husband and I also really enjoy traveling, and we both live by the motto “work hard, play hard.” My husband calls me a “dog with a bone” when I get excited about new ideas and start working them into new initiatives. I guess I am the border collie. He is the golden retriever.
What Excites You Most About Your New Position as Dean of the College?
Listening to people and connecting ideas to facilitate program building. I am passionate about equity, transparency, and mentoring. When I looked up from a very busy faculty job, I realized that in leadership I could help make great ideas come to fruition. I can approach really important challenges in our profession with new eyes and a genuine desire to build an inclusive community that shines in research, teaching, education, and clinical medicine. I have been meeting with all faculty in our college one-on-one. I am meeting with groups of house officers, students, and staff. And I am also talking with people affiliated with the college. This has been a great decision. As someone new to WSU, it is important for me to understand what brings meaning to people’s professional lives. These conversations will help develop the transformational collaborative ideas that will move our college into the future. The WSU College of Veterinary Medicine has real strengths in innovative education, the human-animal bond, and cutting-edge clinical medicine. The college also has a tremendous research portfolio in infectious disease, reproductive biology, personalized medicine, neuroscience, and global and public health, to name, really, just a few. One of the most exciting things is growing these programs in new and interesting ways!
“When I looked up from a very busy faculty job, I realized that in leadership I could help make great ideas come to fruition.”—Dr. Dori Borjesson, dean of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine
Can You Share the Highlights of Your Career?
Almost all were moments of transition, from performing my first solo surgery in private practice, which was terrifying and exhilarating, to my first research discovery when I realized I knew something truly new. I loved my very first faculty position at the University of Minnesota and mentoring my first doctoral student, even though there were moments when I wondered whether I was really good enough to do this. I don’t think anyone forgets the pleasure of getting their first NIH grant! I also loved teaching. Every time I taught veterinary case-based clinical pathology and saw the students learning or watched the moment of discovery in my graduate students as they “turned the corner” in their thinking, those moments have stayed with me. Finding my voice in leadership in graduate education and as a department chair and recognizing that I could do good has also definitely been a highlight.
What Is Your Vision for the College Over the Next Year? Five Years?
It is too early for me to put forward a truly coherent vision, but that is what I am working toward. So far, I have heard some great ideas for advancing our public health program, increasing our outreach on the west side of Washington State, strengthening the connections between our research and clinical programs, and promoting recruitment and retention of excellent faculty, staff, and students. I would like to build on the excellent reputation WSU has in the area of the human-animal bond. I am excited about new initiatives in the teaching hospital that will clearly delineate guiding principles, process improvement, and service expectations to promote excellence and foster wellbeing in all of our clinical team members. Starting my time at WSU in the midst of a pandemic has also shifted my thinking to how we can best interact with the WSU Global Campus and our partners in both the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences to leverage and strengthen our regional presence. All initiatives will be anchored in our core values of improving wellness and increasing diversity and inclusion in our profession.
Hometown: Beaverton, Oregon
Alma Maters: Beaverton High School, Colorado College, University of California, Davis
Pets: Three dogs (“Daisy” the adopted research Beagle, “George” the “foster failure” Chihuahua, and “Trinity” the crazy, “of course I need this cute puppy” shepherd cross), two cats (“Dora” from an orphan kitten program and “Boots” a stray that found us), one horse (“Oso” for my daughter, Lilly)
Hobbies: Cooking (while listening to loud music that I can dance to), playing the drums, traveling, hiking, happy hour with craft beers
Favorite Book: I don’t have one favorite. Currently I am loving The Overstory by Richard Power, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates.
Family: Sean, my husband, also a veterinary clinical pathologist and former associate dean of student programs at UC Davis; Lilly, my 17-year-old daughter, who is the light of my life. My wonderful brother and sister-in-law live in Ashland, Oregon, and my lovely mom, who moved to California to enjoy her granddaughter when we lived there will now be moving to Oregon. My proud dad and his wife live in Portland, Oregon.