Washington State University

Office of the President

WSU Links

Washington State University

Office of the PResident

Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 10/14/09

Moving Forward on Global Animal Health

In July 2007, in the first of these Perspectives columns, I discussed the strong foundation that had been built by my predecessors at Washington State University and highlighted the College of Veterinary Medicine as one area of particular promise.

“The veterinary teaching hospital and its research programs are unsurpassed,” I wrote then. “Taking a mediocre program and making it better is not that difficult. Taking a great program and making it truly exceptional is far more of a challenge. This is the circumstance we face if we want to move Washington State University into the forefront of U.S. research universities.”

Of course, much has happened at our university in the two-plus years since that column appeared. However, our goals haven’t changed. I am happy to report about two events in recent days that show that our progress is continuing in the College of Veterinary Medicine and School for Global Animal Health.

On Friday, the WSU Board of Regents approved a revenue bonding proposal that includes funding to help build Phase One of the School for Global Animal Health building near the veterinary research hospital on the Pullman campus. Of course, the largest portion of the funding for that building came to us as a generous $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Construction on that building is scheduled to begin next summer; it will include research laboratories, office, conference and administrative space and should be completed by mid-2012. It will serve as the headquarters for our ambitious research efforts to combat global infectious disease, especially those diseases that are passed from animals to humans.

Without a doubt, any research building is merely an empty shell without the outstanding scientists who work there. On Monday, Dr. Terry McElwain, one of the exceptional scientists from our College for Veterinary Medicine, received a most meaningful and significant honor. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, one of the highest accolades for scientists working in biomedical research and human health care. It is an honorary academy that performs a special function; its members serve an independent advisory role on health issues.

As executive director of the Washington Animal Disease Laboratory and director of WSU’s Animal Health Research Center, Terry has been a leader in the development of a coordinated network of animal disease diagnostic laboratories. His work is leading to increased cooperation and shared standards across state and national boundaries, allowing health officials and scientists to respond more quickly when disease outbreaks occur.

In joining the National Academy, Terry follows a path taken by several outstanding WSU researchers, most recently his colleague Guy Palmer, director of the School for Global Animal Health, who was elected to membership in the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine in 2006.

The selection reflects Terry’s standing among his peers and his leadership in emerging areas of animal health research. It is a great, and well-deserved, honor for him and another sign of the growing recognition of WSU as a research institution.
The longer I stay here, the more I learn about the excellence of this university. You find it in every college, every discipline.

I heartily congratulate Terry on this honor, and look forward to more recognition for our faculty members in the months and years to come.