Dr. Ryan Oliveira is a new assistant professor in the Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology department. He received his DVM from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University then came to Washington State University for a combined residency in Anatomic Pathology and PhD in the Immunology and Infectious Disease program. After graduating, he spent almost two years as an associate pathologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, based at the Bronx Zoo, before returning to Washington. In his free time, he enjoys reading mystery novels, re-learning to crochet, and hanging out with his pet pigeon.
Q: How did your career path lead you to WSU?
I started out in veterinary school wanting to be a wildlife or zoo veterinarian, but I found out that I liked diagnosis compared to treatment, which led me to anatomic pathology. Training for anatomic pathology requires a residency, and I knew I wanted to get a PhD in addition to the residency training. WSU was at the time one of the few programs that allowed both residency and graduate student training, and I came away with a good impression of the program and people when I visited for an interview. So, I actually came to WSU first as a trainee. When I finished the program in 2021, I was hired as a pathologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, based out of the Bronx Zoo in New York, and stayed there for almost two years. However, I missed Pullman and recently came back to WSU.
Q: What drew you to WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine?
WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is an excellent program for both research and clinical medicine. Just as importantly, there is a great sense of community in the college, as well as in Pullman as a whole. WSU and the diagnostic laboratory here, WADDL, also have a great aquatic pathology program that I am excited to join and help build. Lastly, here I can help train residents, graduate students, and veterinary students, something I’m very passionate about.
Q: What is your area of expertise?
I am a veterinary anatomic pathologist. Abstractly, this is the study of disease, especially its effects on the structure of tissues and organs. More practically, it means I am trained in diagnosing disease from biopsies (i.e., surgically removed tissue) and necropsies (veterinary autopsies). While we don’t have formal subspecialties like there are in human medicine, I’m very interested in zoo and wildlife species, and I am particularly looking at building more expertise in fish and amphibians. During my PhD at WSU, I studied genomics at the interface of immunology and infectious disease, and I apply that knowledge to the investigation of disease processes.
Q: What drew you into this area of study?
I have been lucky enough to have had many mentors, probably too many to mention. One of my earliest was Mark Pokras at Tufts, who is now retired but was a wildlife veterinarian there and a wildlife biologist in a life before that. He presided over a workshop where I learned how to necropsy wild birds and gave me the pathology bug. Sam Jennings was a Tufts pathologist who helped me with my residency applications, and since coming here I’ve found out we had two mutual acquaintances at WSU.
Q: What about your research work are you most excited for?
There is a lot of exciting research in the College of Veterinary Medicine that I hope to help with pathology expertise. I’m also excited to work with and help develop our aquatic pathology core here. The partnership between diagnostics and research at the CVM seems closer than ever, and I can’t wait to see what comes of that.
Q: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
The area I’m originally from, the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, is considered the best birdwatching region in the entire U.S.! We have several parks collectively called the “World Birding Center” including at least one species, the Tamaulipas crow, that can’t be found anywhere else in the country.