Incoming dean aims to elevate ISU status


AMES, IOWA-A former Iowa State University (ISU) faculty member and graduate has been named dean of the veterinary college and says he intends to get the program's accreditation back on track.

AMES, IOWA—A former Iowa State University (ISU) faculty member and graduate has been named dean of the veterinary college and says he intends to get the program’s accreditation back on track.

Dr. John Thomson, former Mississippi State University (MSU) dean, replaces ISU Dean Norman Cheville, DVM, who retired following four years in the seat. At presstime, Thomson was scheduled Aug. 16 to take on the role responsible for supervising $40 million in teaching hospital and laboratory renovations designed to upgrade the college's limited accreditation status.

In April, the American Veterinary Medical Association's Council on Education, the national accrediting body, cited critical needs for renovation and modernization of ISU's veterinary teaching hospital and, as a result, downgraded the college's standing. Since then, ISU has received a $40 million government-backed bond to fund reconstruction work.

"I feel very confident and committed to making sure the college of veterinary medicine obtains the global status it deserves," Thomson says. "More revenue is going to have to be generated, and I plan on fundraising. I've got to have a clear understanding of what needs to be done."

Strapped for cash

That includes selecting an architect, which marks the next phase in the multi-stage project, expected to be completed by 2010.

Thomson not only is concerned with funding the overhaul, he's working with a significant reduction from state appropriations, he says. It's not unlike the work he's accomplished at MSU.

"It's also like working with the budget for your household," Thomson says. "Iowa State has a tremendous faculty, but we've certainly got some facility needs and resource needs."

Experience, accolades

Thomson earned his DVM degree from ISU in 1967, and spent the following 20 years in Iowa in private practice. In 1987, he joined the faculty of South Dakota State University and served for 10 years as extension veterinarian, professor, head of veterinary science and director of the South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory. Thomson joined the ISU faculty in 1997, and spent two years as professor and section leader of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine before being named MSU dean.

A clinical epidemiologist, Thomson has conducted research in areas related to bovine production and health, university officials say. He has worked as an advisor to the World Health Organization on the assessment of brucellosis in humans and animals. Last year, he initiated and facilitated the development of the National Veterinary Services Act that was passed unanimously by both congressional houses last November, officials add.

Lineage includes ISU

Aside from his accomplishments, Thomson boasts a history of family ties to ISU and its veterinary college. His father graduated with a DVM degree in 1938, and his son followed four years ago. Thomson's wife and other son also graduated from ISU, he says, and refers to rejoining the institution as "going home."

"We have a long tradition of loyalty to Iowa State University and the state of Iowa," he says. "The reason I became a veterinarian in the first place is I wanted my career to be a challenge and have a major international impact on society through veterinary medicine. I can't think of a place that offers more opportunities to do that than ISU."

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