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Welcome Class of 2020: Students Today, Colleagues Tomorrow

Ultimately, education in its real sense is the pursuit of truth. It is an endless journey through knowledge and enlightenment.” A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

29279341312_2e6f9f86ef_kAs we welcome a new class of veterinary students into our UC Davis family, I am struck by how fast summer progressed. Perhaps the fast and turbulent times we live in causes us to forget to pause and observe our place in time. The academic journey is one of constant renewal as each new class of students comes to us to learn the knowledge and skills that will launch them into the world. Our new class of veterinary students, like so many before them, comes to us with their own histories, talents, and dreams. Each of them has their own story to share with us. As we teach them, they will impact our lives, adding to our own tapestry of experiences.

29099653030_401abc3069_kIn the incoming class we have admitted an amazing group of students with a variety of life experiences. Some are experienced bikers, which will fit well with a community that houses the United States Bicycle Hall of Fame! One of the incoming students biked from Vancouver to San Diego. Many students have interest in wildlife. One student served in Ecuador in wildlife conservation; some have worked with non-human primates and bats. These students are drawn to us from our strong history in wildlife conservation, illustrated by the work done in the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center.

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Upholding Principles of Community

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” – Cesar Chavez

Christian Munevar, Class of 2019, at last year's welcoming ceremony.

Christian Munevar, Class of 2019, at last year’s welcoming ceremony.

While the summer is in full swing, we will soon be welcoming our new veterinary student class of 2020. Our Academic and Student Programs teams are busy developing the orientation of these new students as they prepare for the week-long introduction referred to as “Prologue.” From the very beginning, our new students will be welcomed into a diverse community of learners and will hear about our commitment to supporting an environment that supports diversity and inclusion. We strive from their first days with us to impress upon them our shared values and to set a tone for their education and their involvement in our UC Davis community.

Unfortunately, our community, like so many others across our nation, has been rocked by horrific acts of violence and social injustice. The actions of police shooting unarmed African American men and the resulting public outcry are painful reminders of how far our society still needs to go to fully realize social equality and mutual trust among our disenfranchised citizens and our law enforcement community. The hatred that resulted in the killing of police officers in Dallas and Louisiana illustrate again how fringe members of our society can be triggered into violence in the midst of social unrest. Worldwide terror events remind us how fragile life can be when hate, distrust and ignorance rule the actions of a few.

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One Health Approach Needed to Advance Society’s Health

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Researchers with the PREDICT program in Tanzania, testing bats for disease that could spread to humans.

Researchers with the PREDICT program in Tanzania, testing bats for disease that could spread to humans.

Almost daily, as a society, we experience the connection and consequences between the health of humans, animals and the environment. The Zika virus — carried by mosquitoes and spreading in many regions of the world — is suspected of causing thousands of human birth defects in Brazil and was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization. As much as 75 percent of new or re-emerging diseases affecting humans are of animal origin.

New infectious diseases, climate change, and a moving political landscape are some of the changes that veterinarians, physicians, scientists and other health and environmental professionals must adapt to in meeting these global challenges. That’s where we know the emerging approach known as “One Health” comes in, uniting these professionals in many parts of the world to address complex problems that recognize the vast interrelationships between human, animal and environmental health.

Dr. Brian Bird (Ph.D. '08, DVM '09) outside an Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone, with a group of kids who had recovered from the virus and were celebrating their discharge.

Dr. Brian Bird (Ph.D. ’08, DVM ’09) outside an Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone, with a group of kids who had recovered from the virus and were celebrating their discharge.

One Health harnesses the power of collaborative expertise to solve the pressing issues we face in our mobile society. For example, early detection and prevention of the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa in 2014 was aided by a team of UC Davis investigators, including veterinarians. This was not the case in a later African outbreak, where a less timely response allowed the virus to spread in other parts of the world. In the 1990s, the first cases of mad cow disease in cattle in the United Kingdom and West Nile virus in birds were first detected or confirmed by astute veterinary pathologists who understood the One Health approach.

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A Vision for our Future

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare

Dean Michael Lairmore listens to a speaker at this year's commencement ceremony.

Dean Michael Lairmore listens to a speaker at this year’s commencement ceremony.

As I begin my second term as dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, I am humbled and honored to continue to lead an institution that is the global leader in veterinary medicine. Our vision over the next five years will undoubtedly continue to be guided by the desire to lead veterinary medicine and address societal needs. As we advance the health of animals, people, and the environment, we must continue to examine how we can refine our goals and tactics if we are to remain a world leader.

Blanca Camacho, a 2016 graduate, checks on a dog prepared for treatment with the linear accelerator.

Blanca Camacho, a 2016 graduate, checks on a dog prepared for treatment with the linear accelerator.

To continue to educate leaders in veterinary medicine in all its many facets, we will need to seek out ways to diversify our faculty, staff, and students to fully reflect our society. We must continue to expand our innovative programs to recruit students who are both academically strong, but also reflect the demographics of the society they seek to serve. They cannot all be focused on one career path, but be trained in and willing to serve in the vast array of careers offered to veterinarians and scientists with unique biomedical knowledge and skills. Our faculty must be leaders in their fields, to maintain our leadership position in research, education, and service, but also reflect the diversity of our society.

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Evening of Gratitude: Investing in Future Leaders

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

Scholarship recipients

Student scholarship recipients at the 2016 Evening of Gratitude.

One of the most inspiring events that I have the privilege to oversee in my role as dean is our Evening of Gratitude, an annual celebration that brings together our generous donors with student scholarship recipients. It is a night that reminds everyone in attendance the value of philanthropy in the lives of our students. This was another record year for us, as we distributed $2.5 million in scholarships and another $4.2 million in grants for our students. This level of support is another reason why we are #1 ranked in veterinary medicine. We are deeply grateful for the generous support of our individual, association and corporate scholarship donors who made these new and continuing awards possible.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz ('82) with student Hana Link (Class of 2018).

Dr. Bernadine Cruz (’82) with student Hana Link (Class of 2018).

At the event, I highlighted some of those donors, including new scholarships in One Health from Dr. Bernadine Cruz (UC Davis, SVM Class of 1982) and her friend Megan Lewis. Many of our alumni support scholarships, especially through their reunion class celebrations; we now have 25 classes with endowed scholarships.

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Celebrating Success and Envisioning the Future

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” – William Pollard

#1 rankingWith the announcement today that our school has been ranked for the second straight year as #1 in veterinary science in the latest QS World University Rankings, we celebrate our success and envision the future.

This latest ranking is a tribute to our people and programs and is a well-deserved recognition of their dedication to provide innovative and compassionate clinical care, make ground-breaking discoveries, and educate the next generation of leaders in veterinary medicine. This achievement would not be possible without the commitment of our supportive university collaborators and administrators, alumni, community volunteers, and philanthropic partners who have invested their time and resources into making us the best-in-class among veterinary institutions.

Dr. Xinbin Chen in one of his research laboratories in the Center for Companion Animal Health (CCAH) at theUniversity of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Chen is part of the The Comparative Cancer Center, within the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, brings together a team of veterinary clinicians and researchers working to end suffering caused by cancer and finding new treatments in the process.

Founded upon a principal that we will discover new knowledge to advance the health of animals, people, and the environment, this past year we continued to lead the nation in total research funding among veterinary colleges and schools. Our clinical programs treated more than 50,000 animal patients last year, while raising the standards of care for animals through an ever-expanding clinical trials program.

Educating the next generation of leaders in veterinary medicine, research, and public service, we annually train more than 550 DVM students with a curriculum built on modern adult-learning theory that is designed and delivered by acclaimed faculty and staff members. Our specialty training programs consistently produce leaders that set the standard in veterinary specialty practice. Our graduate students and postdoctoral scientists create new scientific knowledge that changes existing paradigms and challenges existing scientific thinking while opening new worlds of discovery. Our research and service programs extend throughout California and around the world. Our clinicians and scientists work collaboratively across disciplines to advance both human and animal health in subjects ranging from cancer to environmental toxicology.

22281894694_ed6f62710f_kWhile we rejoice, we must not become complacent. We have much left to achieve if we to accomplish our strategic goals and keep our preeminent position. Our many challenges are a reflection of those faced in higher education and in our society. We are confronted by the constant challenge of balancing our resources from the State of California, while seeking new partnerships that help us invest in our amazing programs. We must use novel ways to bridge across disciplines to expand career opportunities for our students and to build teams that create new ways to understand our world and gleam new discoveries from the massive amounts of data that surrounds us.

Our efforts to become a more diversified, dynamic, and inclusive community must not waiver if we are to grow stronger in facing the future. Our researchers’ work is to understand how life works, but they will need to constantly seek new ways to approach their science if they are to find solutions that address societal needs. We live during a time of human-made influences that have altered our planet in unprecedented ways, creating new paradigms for how we must restore our environment and learn how to be better stewards of our natural resources to improve the lives of animals and people.

Thus, while we take a moment to celebrate, we must embrace the same values and principles that brought us to this moment in time, as we prepare for the future and what lies ahead.

Supporting Each Other Leads to Success

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  — Saint Francis of Assisi

CAPES surgeryIn doing our daily work we sometimes can feel overwhelmed by the pressures of our jobs, events in our lives, or the demands we place on ourselves. Our society, families, and our careers can seem to demand more from us than we are capable of delivering. For veterinarians this has been described in a variety of terms, including “compassion fatigue.” Whether you are a graduate or veterinary student, staff or faculty member, or even a dean, we all may feel overwhelmed at times.

Our ability to be resilient during times of stress may be drained by things beyond our control, leading us to feel we are alone and our tasks ahead of us impossible to complete. In our school and university, we have many resources to support the mental health and wellness of our people. New efforts have been created to bring that support in public view to be shared for the benefit of all, including the new campaign, “Each Aggie Matters.”

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Era of Change for Veterinary Medicine

“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” – Napoleon Hill

STAR postersWe live in a world that constantly changes, challenging us to evolve with it. Our school is undergoing such a transformation, reflected in improvements in our medicine and science, new educational models, and students challenging learning paradigms. In our daily lives outside of work we observe economic, environmental, and societal forces seemingly beyond our control. New infectious diseases, climate change, and a moving political landscape are a few examples of change to which we must adapt, today and in the future.

A recent report from the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP), is focused on the future of veterinary medicine, and projects an “Era of Change.” I would encourage all of you to read the report and reflect on its findings and recommendations. Veterinary medicine, biomedical and agricultural sciences are in a dynamic period of change that will bring new opportunities and challenges to all of us. The UCOP report illustrates current veterinary workforce data and future opportunities that will help guide the University of California forward to enhance the health sciences workforce. The report illustrates the critical role that veterinarians have in addressing the health needs in our society as well as the leadership position of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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Looking to the Future

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” – George Bernard Shaw

Time Magazine Video Unit videotapes Laboratory Technician Cheyenne Coxon in the One Health Institute Laboratory for an upcoming feature on the One Health program.

Time Magazine Video Unit videotapes Laboratory Technician Cheyenne Coxon in the One Health Institute Laboratory for an upcoming feature on the One Health program.

As I look toward the future of the School, I am struck by the incredible impact our people make in our society, advancing the health of animals, people, and the planet. This past year brought us many accolades as we relished the accomplishments of our students, staff, and faculty. The numerous stories that originated from our dedication ranged from cases of individual animals that were made healthy by the exceptional care provided by our talented clinicians and staff, to major discoveries that will set the stage for research into problems faced by our society.

Whitney Engler (who died in 2015 shortly before graduating) and her dog Rosie.

Whitney Engler (who died in 2015 shortly before graduating) and her dog Rosie.

We also had heartbreak in 2015 with the tragic death of one of our students, and we suffered along with the victims from the Valley and Butte fires. Most of these events could not have been predicted at the beginning of 2015, but we faced them with the courage and dedication that make us a global leader in veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences.

We have many ambitious goals for 2016, including the opening of two major facilities: the Veterinary Medicine Student Services and Administration building and the new South Valley California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in Tulare.

South Valley California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in Tulare

South Valley California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in Tulare

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Embracing Diversity, Opening Doors

“Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and recognizing that the American Dream excludes no one.” – Thomas Perez

IMG_0142As our nation continues to struggle to find consensus on issues related to diversity and inclusion, we find the School of Veterinary Medicine fully engaged in strengthening our mission through our diversity of talent, ideas, and skills. Our school embraces diversity and inclusion as essential values of the educational environment and the veterinary profession, and we have linked our success to these values.

diversity1We understand that diversity incorporates the assortment of personal experiences, principles, and world views that originate from differences of culture and condition. To fully address our mission to serve society and train the next generation of leaders in science and veterinary medicine, we must foster and attract the best and the brightest individuals who represent the world we seek to influence.

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