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Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 6/21/10

Global Animal Health Groundbreaking

Terry McElwain, one of the outstanding professors in the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, tells the story of a woman he met while on a trip to Uganda.

The woman, Mrs. Sadiki, owns two dairy cows, two pigs, and a flock of chickens that she keeps on a small plot of land. They provide the livelihood for her family.

From our point of view, it might seem that she and her family are barely getting by. Mrs. Sadiki however, doesn’t see it that way. Her small farm gave her the economic stability to raise her children and send them to school. Now they are sending their children to school. The Sadiki family is slowly but surely working toward a better life. All on a couple of cows, a couple of pigs, a flock of chickens, and a small piece of land.

In some societies, the continued health of a few farm animals can provide the margin between hopeless poverty and a brighter future. On Friday, when we break ground for the new School for Global Animal Health, we will be celebrating the investment being made—by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, by the State of Washington, by generous donors, and by the university—to help build that future.

When I came to WSU as president just over three years ago, it was clear to me that the College of Veterinary Medicine was both a great asset to the university and an area with untapped potential. It is home to some of the world’s leading researchers in zoonotic diseases (transmitted from animals to humans) that account for upwards of 70 percent of human infectious diseases.

Zoonotic disease outbreaks can be particularly acute in less developed societies where people often live in close proximity to their animals. However, developed nations are not immune. The SARS epidemic of 2003–2004 showed how quickly such diseases can spread. Food safety concerns, especially salmonella and E. coli, provide frequent reminders of the potential threat.

Our goals for the School for Global Animal Health are ambitious. WSU can and should be the preeminent institution in the detection, prevention, and treatment of diseases that affect animals and move from animal to human populations, both here and in developing countries.

In pursuing that goal, we will work with colleagues from the University of Washington, a leader in human health research, to position our state at the forefront of discovery and advancement in the life sciences.

At a time of economic uncertainty, we recognize the importance of working collaboratively. We have a great partner in the Gates Foundation, and we will continue to grow the School for Global Animal Health by seeking other grants and beneficial alliances.

By effectively marshaling all available resources, we will keep faith both with Washington taxpayers and with the people we work with in the Third World who can build a life out of a little.