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Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory appoints new director
Dr Kurt Williams fills this role at OSU during a time when COVID-19 has demonstrated the significance of laboratories and their testing capabilities.
Oregon State University (OSU) has named Kurt Williams, DVM, PhD, DACVP, a current veterinary pathologist at Michigan State University, director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (OVDL). His role at the OVDL will begin on March 1, 2022.
Williams received his veterinary degree at Michigan State University in 1990, then his PhD at the University of California, Davis in 2001. Currently, he is completing a master’s degree in journalism at Michigan State for environmental journalism.
“He comes from a program (Michigan State) with a very large and well-funded veterinary diagnostic laboratory and we look forward to using his expertise and experience to further our goals of expanding our OVDL facilities and services,” said Susan Tornquist, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVP, dean of OSU’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, in the release.
According to the release, the OVDL is state and federally funded with its main purpose of testing for and diagnosing animal diseases in agricultural animals and wildlife. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the facility began testing human samples when Oregon’s testing capacity was overwhelmingly limited.
Now, human testing is still ongoing and Williams anticipates partaking in the continual COVID-19 testing and assisting Oregon with preparing for future disease outbreaks.
“If you look at the arc of human history, this is not unprecedented,” Williams said, in the release. “Pandemics have swept through humans repeatedly, most of them coming directly from our relationships with animals. We need to be ready.”
Among Williams’ top priorities in the position will be to obtain funding for an updated facility for the laboratory, with enhanced testing capabilities for high-level biohazards to help make sure Oregon has the infrastructure and personnel to respond to major disease outbreaks. He also looks forward to continue working in diagnostic service as a pathologist, in addition to conducting research and teaching.
According to the release, he wants to focus on effective science communication with the public, sharing findings and stories that display the importance of veterinary diagnostic laboratories in managing public health and safety for animals, people, and the environment.
“If we’re ready for the next pandemic, that means we’re also ready for a potentially less catastrophic but still regionally important outbreak in Oregon’s agriculture or natural environment,” Williams said. “We need to be ready to rumble if something hits the ground in Oregon that could potentially ripple out to impact Washington or California or the rest of the nation.”
Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at OSU names new director. News release. Oregon State University. January 24, 2022. Accessed January 24, 2022. https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/oregon-veterinary-diagnostic-laboratory-osu-names-new-director