Gifts in Action

Your Gifts Tell the Story

Behind every gift to WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine is a story. The detection of a new disease helps save lives. A scholarship makes school more affordable. A beloved animal's life is saved from cancer. From everyone at the college, you have our sincere gratitude for your generous support. 

  • A Gift to the WSU Clinical Simulation Center Trains Future Veterinarians

    by Marcia Hill Gossard '99, '04

    Students using endoscope to grab a button inside the digestive model
    (right) Nick Larson (’18 DVM) and Drew Fleischman (’19 DVM) use the endoscope to grab a button inside the digestive model. Models like these give students the opportunity to practice their medical skills.

    Nick Larson gently guides a long flexible line with a light on the end into a model made of soft latex tubing in search for a “foreign body.” The light helps him see his way. Called an endoscope, the device is used to look inside a patient’s body to examine the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and other internal organs. A video image is projected on a screen so they can see where they are going and other students in the room can see what is happening inside the patient.

    In the WSU Clinical Simulation Center, veterinary students use medical models and sophisticated equipment, like the endoscope, to practice their diagnostic and treatment skills before they work with live patients. The endoscope model recreates a patient’s intestinal tract using latex tubing. At the end of the tubing is a hollow ball, which creates a “stomach.” Students learn to navigate through the intestines, reach the stomach, and use a grasper that runs through the endoscope to retrieve items such as a small button.

    The first time Larson and his other classmates tried to get the button, it took 45 minutes.

    “It takes some practice to know where you are in a patient’s body, and how to turn to make sure you get to the right place,” says Dr. Julie Cary, director of the center. “Students may get frustrated, but then they can also start to see that they are getting better the more they practice.”

    The endoscope, used exclusively for training veterinary students, was donated by Jim and Lisa King, WSU graduates and friends of the college.

    “Having the support of donors is incredible,” says Larson. “I find it exciting and humbling to know that there are individuals who are choosing to invest in us and our education.”

    From Sutures to the Emergency Room

    Students watch the endoscope procedure on the screen
    Students Liz Soler (’18 DVM), Nick Larson, and Shelby Turnbull (’18 DVM) watch the endoscope procedure on the screen.

    Veterinary students start in the Clinical Simulation Center on the very first day of their first semester in a surgery class designed to give them the skills and the confidence to do basic surgical techniques, such as closing skin incisions when they mentor with a veterinarian later in their education. All students are encouraged to come to the open lab, now in its sixth year, where they can practice the specific skills they would like to improve. The peer taught lab is run by veterinary teaching assistants. If a student needs practice with basic sutures, or has mastered that skill and is ready to performing entire surgical procedures, the lab has options for students at all skill levels.

    “There is no judging student competence,” says Cary. “It is a safe space where students can come, practice, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes.”

    “Jerry,” one of the canine models, has a speaker inside so students can practice listening for heart and lung sounds. Careful listening and developing fine-tuned listening skills is very important, particularly since the animals can’t speak for themselves. Students practice listening and then interpret what the sounds could mean, what tests to perform, and treatment to recommend.

    “One way we diagnose as veterinarians is by very carefully listening to the heart and lungs in many places,” says Cary. “Arrhythmias, murmurs, pneumonia, and asthma all have different sounds.”

    In the technical simulation room, or “Oz Room” as Dr. Cary calls it, they simulate operating room and emergency room situations using an anesthesia team, surgical team, and code team (cardiac life support). On the video screen, using a model developed by Dr. Robert Keegan, a graphic eyeball blinks when the “mock” patient is wide awake. If it is still blinking after the student has given anesthesia, the students know that the patient is not all the way under. The pupil dilates based on what is happening in the room, and then students try to figure out what is causing the reaction in the patient. Blood pressure readings can also change so a student may see a sudden drop in the patient’s blood pressure and then they must decide how to treat, what to administer, and at what dose.

    “This is what you have to practice before doing it on a live animal so that it is second nature,” says Larson.

    Besides honing their technical skills, students also get to see how they perform together as a team, and learn how they could have communicated better, especially when faced with an emergency.

    “The quality of the teamwork affects the outcomes for patients and clients,” says Cary.

    Cows and Horses

    In the barn side of the simulation center are Gladys and Ferdinand, a cow and her calf ready to be born. Gladys, the 31st model of her kind, is life-sized.

    “Having the full-sized model the student can better understand their relative size to the cow”, says Cary.

    I find it exciting and humbling to know that there are individuals who are choosing to invest in us and our education.” Nick Larson (’18 DVM)

    Ferdinand is made from a heavy pliable rubber-like material, so when he gets wet it feels like a real calf being born. Students learn to practice pulling a calf out in different positions, much like they would experience on live animals. Students learn to feel for a leg, where to put the straps to pull out the calf, and how much force to use. They may learn if they need to stand on a stool and how to position themselves. For some students, just being next to something this big and figuring out how position themselves can make a difference.

    “Assisting with a difficult birth is something the most students don’t get exposure to,” says Cary. “If you never have the experience, you don’t get good at it. The model lets them have that experience.”

    Standing next to Gladys is Whiskey, the horse. Whiskey has all parts of a horse’s digestive tract so students can practice exams for colic, a common illness. In the center, they can create in the model symptoms for different kinds of colic so students learn how to accurately diagnose them. It is important to be able to tell the common kinds of colic from the dangerous kinds so a horse can get care quickly. Students also learn where to stand so they are less likely to get kicked.

    “It is nice to learn these things prior to standing in front of a client,” says Cary with a smile.

    Practice Makes Perfect

    Confidence, says Larson, is what practice in the center’s labs gives him and other students. Confidence not only helps with the procedure, but also in how to talk to a client who may be feeling upset or distressed.

    “Until you have the opportunity to try something new, you always have that self-doubt,” says Larson. “Being able to practice numerous procedures gives me the confidence that I can tackle anything down the road in my career.”

    Simulations improve techniques and give students feedback as to how they could do better the next time. It might be how team members communicate with each other during an emergency, and what they could do to improve communication to better help future patients. Or it could be something as simple as if the students had lowered the table, they could have given more effective chest compressions to the patient.

    “We reinforce with models so they see the common things they are going to see in their practice,” says Cary. “A lot of times it is the confidence that gets you through the whole thing.”

  • Fellowship Helps Fund a Love of Pathogens

    by Marcia Hill Gossard '99, '04

    Konkel lab

    Nick Negretti (left) and Dr. Mike Konkel

    In a light-filled laboratory, Nick Negretti grows bacteria.

    “I love pathogens,” says Negretti, who is a graduate student in the WSU School of Molecular Biosciences. “They are so interesting. In each of us, there are more bacterial cells than human cells,” he says. “And while most bacteria are helpful, there are a few that make us sick.”

    Negretti works in the lab of WSU professor Mike Konkel, a leading expert on the food-borne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni. Often found in the intestines of chickens, C. jejuni is the most common bacterial cause of human food poisoning in the world. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting that can sometimes result in death. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control estimate 1.3 million people are infected each year. By understanding how bacteria make people ill, Konkel and Negretti’s work could help develop new therapies for disease prevention.

    But like most university labs, Konkel depends on grant money to fund ongoing, long-term research. When he learned there would be a gap in funding because of timing between grants, his lab was able to continue research without interruption because of funds from the Charles and Audrey Drake Fellowship*.

    “The funds from the Drake Fellowship really helped,” says Konkel. “This type of bridge funding is critical because preliminary research is necessary to apply for grant money.” Konkel and his team are now funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

    For Negretti, who began his undergraduate studies in the STARS program, it meant that he could continue his research and stay on track to graduate in 2019. STARS, which stands for Students Targeted toward Advanced Research Studies, gives exceptional undergraduate students the opportunity to begin doing research their first year and finish their doctorate in as few as seven years.

    “Coming to college I knew I wanted to do research, and the STARS program is a good way to get involved in research right from the beginning,” he says.

    Negretti came to WSU in August 2011 right out of high school, and had applied to the STARS program. “I didn’t get in my first semester,” he says. Undaunted, he applied again, was accepted, and went on to finish his bachelors of science in just three years. Now a graduate student, he has worked in Konkel’s lab almost from the beginning. “The best way to learn is to jump in feet first,” he says.

    In August 2016, Negretti and Konkel will visit the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Virginia where they will use one-of-a-kind, high-definition microscopes to understand better how C. jejuni bacteria bind to the host cells in the intestine.

    Host cells change their behavior because of the bacteria, says Negretti, and the only way to understand the tools bacteria use to get a cell to do something it wouldn’t normally do is with a high-definition microscope.

    “Nick is addressing questions that can only be answered using a highly specialized microscope,” says Konkel. “We are lucky to go to the Advanced Imaging Center at Janelia.”

    Negretti is hoping to learn more about how bacteria bind to the host cells in the intestine and how that interaction changes both the host cell and the bacterial cell. “It will give us a better idea how it [bacteria] manipulates the cell,” he says. “This is a very valuable piece of information.” That information will lead to new questions and answers. “Letting the science happen,” he says.

    After he graduates, Negretti wants a post-doctoral research position. After that, “I will see where life is,” he says. And where life and science take him.

    Charles H Drake
    *Funds from the Charles and Audrey Drake Fellowship in Honor of Dr. A.T. Henrici are awarded to promising researchers in microbial ecology. Charles Drake was a professor of Bacteriology and Public Health at WSU from 1944-1981 and studied under Dr. A.T. Henrici at the University of Minnesota.

  • A WSU Veterinary Alumna Helps a Student Travel to Tanzania

    by Marcia Hill Gossard '99, '04

    Cassie Eakins (’16 DVM) spent five weeks in Tanzania during the fall of 2015

    A WSU Veterinary Alumna Helps a Student Travel to Tanzania

    As they entered a village in Tanzania, Cassie Eakins (’16 DVM) and members of the rabies team announced over a loudspeaker that there would be a rabies vaccine clinic coming to town the next day. At another village, they tossed posters from their vehicle. Once the team started to drive away, the village children gathered them up to be posted. The next day a crowd was lined up to have their dogs vaccinated. People traveled many miles by bike or motorcycle, but most walked, says Eakins. Each owner received a rabies vaccination certificate.

    “We sometimes vaccinated 300 dogs in a day,” says Eakins, a WSU veterinary student who spent five weeks in Tanzania as part of the Global Animal Health Certificate program. “They understand really well the danger of rabies.”

    Rabies is the deadliest zoonotic disease on the planet. Each year more than 59,000 people die from rabies worldwide and about half of those deaths are children under the age of 16. Globally, more than 99% of human rabies deaths are caused by dog bites—almost all in Africa and Asia. The WSU Rabies Vaccination Team and its partners from the Serengeti Health Initiative visit 180 villages in seven districts adjacent to the Serengeti National Park. The result of these efforts is that the vaccination zone is now rabies free. Eakins says, one of the reasons it is so effective is because the team members are from Tanzania so they understand the culture and the people.

    “Being fully exposed to the culture was helpful for me because it is a way to understand people that much better,” says Eakins. “And if you know the people better then you are able to make a difference.”

    You can learn about it in textbooks, but it is no replacement for hands-on experience.” Cassie Eakins (’16 DVM)

    WSU alumna Susan Bradish (’97 DVM) had a similar experience after spending four weeks in India while she was earning her veterinary degree at WSU. She started the Susan Bradish Travel Grant in 2010 because she recognized the need for veterinary expertise in developing nations and she wanted other students to gain an understanding of the daily challenges people face in most of the world.

    “The death of a single animal can mean the difference between living and dying,” says Bradish. The one and only water buffalo owned by a family she met in India died while giving birth. The calf also died. The local veterinarian explained to Bradish, a young veterinary student at the time, that this loss would likely mean starvation for some of the 20 extended family members. “That was a sobering and profound realization,” she says.

    While Eakins was in Tanzania, she also had the opportunity to work with Allen School Clinical Assistant Professor, Felix Lankester, to design her own research project. She wondered if there was a correlation between the number of parasites a dog has, such as ticks, fleas, or lice, and the health of the dog. Eakins is still working on the results, but she says collecting data in the field is not something she would have been able to do had she not had this opportunity. For Eakins, receiving the Bradish travel grant helped defray some of the costs and made the trip possible.

    “You can learn about it in textbooks, but it is no replacement for hands-on experience,” says Eakins. “I want to use the resources I have to help other people.”

    For more information about the WSU Rabies Vaccination Program visit

  • Floricel Gonzalez - Scholarship Helps Make Dreams a Reality

    by Marcia Hill Gossard '99, '04

    Floricel Gonzalez - Gifts in Action

    Floricel Gonzalez

    In the spring of 2015, Floricel Gonzalez (’16 BS) was attending the School of Molecular Biosciences scholarship awards ceremony holding a letter in her hand. She knew she’d received a scholarship, but didn’t yet know which one. Carefully opening the letter, she read the name: The Elizabeth R. Hall Endowment Scholarship*.

    “My jaw dropped,” says Gonzalez. The prestigious award, given to promising students in medical microbiology, is $4,000. “It was a breath of fresh air that I don’t have to worry about tuition or books for my last year.”

    Gonzalez, the daughter of migrant farm workers, grew up in Selah, Washington. Her parents immigrated in 1999 from Zacatecas, Mexico to the Yakima Valley in Washington State when Gonzalez was 4 years old. They worked hard, so that she and her five brothers and sisters could have more career opportunities.

    “My parents’ dream of a better future instilled in me a passion for higher education,” says Gonzalez. “I did not know how I was going to fund my education, but thanks to various scholarships, such as this one, I have been able to make my dreams a reality.”

    When she first came to Pullman on a college visit, Gonzalez says “I fell in love with the atmosphere of WSU.” At the time, her plan was to become a veterinarian, so WSU also lined up nicely with her career and academic goals. But then things took an unexpected turn.

    “I got involved in research and that changed everything,” says Gonzalez. “I couldn’t imagine not working in a lab.”

    It is an honor to have her name associated with mine.” Floricel Gonzalez (’16 BS), who received the prestigious Elizabeth R. Hall Endowment Scholarship.

    She also found many mentors who encouraged her along the way, including Bill Davis, associate dean of undergraduate education in the School of Molecular Biosciences and her academic advisor. Dr. Davis suggested she apply for a 10-week summer research program with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

    “I didn’t think I was good enough or would be able to compete,” she says. Then Davis gave her a few encouraging words. “He thought I was more than qualified.” She was accepted to the program and spent the summer of 2015 working in an infectious disease laboratory at Yale University where she studied a protein in the salivary glands of a mosquito that may contain an immunity property that could be used in future malaria vaccines.

    Gonzalez, who is double majoring in microbiology and English, decided to continue with English as a major because solid writing skills are important for publishing research articles and applying for grants. The major, she believes, gives her an advantage over other science students in communicating science. She will graduate in 2016 and is already applying to doctoral programs. Her goal is to work as a research scientist at a university or health organization, such as the National Institutes of Health.

    “I really love viruses,” she says. But Gonzalez is not limiting her options; she says she is also interested in bacterial pathogens. Ultimately, she wants to do work that will translate into human medicine and better human health. “My goal is to work at a public health research facility or academic institution, where I will use my findings to combat disease.”

    After receiving the scholarship, she learned more about Elizabeth Hall’s career and her time at WSU, which made a big impact on Gonzalez. “I am honored to uphold her legacy and providing a positive perspective on what she’s left at WSU,” says Gonzalez. “It is an honor to have her name associated with mine.”


    Elizabeth Hall
    *Elizabeth Hall’s (1914-2001) many friends, colleagues, and former students established the Elizabeth R. Hall Endowment Scholarship in 1972 as a memorial to her. A member of the WSU faculty from 1944 to 1976, she was a researcher, instructor, and beloved mentor in bacteriology and public health for 32 years.

  • Melle: The true story of a miraculous rescue, a helping hand, an extraordinary surgery, and the love for one dog.

    by Marcia Hill Gossard '99, '04

    Frank Story and Laurie Boukas with Melle

    Frank Story and Laurie Boukas with Melle

    A few days after the New Year in 2014, Laurie Boukas of Richland, Wash. was walking her two Border Collies, Lucy and Connor, when she saw a Pontiac Trans Am drive by. Laurie, who had just moved to Richland a few weeks before with her husband, Nick, saw the car turn around and drive by again. On the third pass, Laurie was understandably alarmed. Then the car pulled over.

    “I saw this older gentleman waving at me to come to the car,” she said. She moved slightly closer when he called out to her. Then the conversation turned curious. “He asked me if I wanted another Border Collie and that he’d found one that has two broken legs.”

    Two days earlier on January 2, Frank Story and his son, Franklin, Jr., were on their way back to Richland from Seattle on Interstate 82 just east of Yakima, Wash. when they saw a dog running across the highway. Just as Frank was thinking to himself that there was not enough time for the dog to get to the other side, it was struck by a car.

    “It was hit at full freeway speed,” says Frank. 

    His son Franklin insisted they stop and look for the dog.  Driving an all-terrain Jeep, Franklin knew the car could handle the terrain.  They couldn’t find her right away, but Franklin did not want to give up.  They kept looking and Franklin finally spotted her in a drainage ditch.

    “She had such courage and calmness,” says Frank, who added that he’d never seen anything like that in his 75 years.  “She didn’t act like most injured animals.”  Frank held her in the back of a car to make sure she didn’t panic.

    It was about 45 minutes to Richland and the Tri-Cities, and they knew they need to get her to a veterinarian right away.  Frank had never taken a pet to Dr. Jim Benson (’69 DVM), but he’d met him in the community.  Dr. Benson had impressed Frank on many levels, so as they were driving Frank knew that’s where he would take her.

    Dr. Benson called the next day to tell Frank that the dog’s injuries were severe.  She had two badly broken legs.  They could do the surgery locally, but Dr. Benson thought it would be better to take her to Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  The only trouble was, she didn’t have an owner to pay for the care. Frank went to work to find the dog’s owner.  

    “I made several hundred phone calls over several days,” says Frank. He made calls around the state to police, animal shelters, humane societies, rescue facilities, radio stations, and newspapers. 

    One of the shelters told him that WSU had a program that offered financial assistance to ownerless dogs. Frank applied to the Good Samaritan Fund* and received the good news the next day.

    “Hearing we got the grant re-energized me,” says Frank.  “I was very impressed by how quickly they got back to me.”

    But, he was losing hope about finding the owner and felt he’d exhausted all his options. That’s when he got a call from Dr. Debra Sellon, director of the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

    “She told me time was of the essence,” says Frank. It was then he made the decision to stop looking for the dog’s original owner, and decided to find her a new one.

    On that lucky day when Frank saw Laurie and her two Border Collies, everything changed.

    “I tried to explain the situation to Laurie without alarming her,” says Frank.  He had a couple of Dr. Benson’s business cards and handed one to her. Dr. Benson just happened to also be Laurie’s veterinarian.

    Laurie took the card and went to visit the dog at Dr. Benson’s office. She fell in love with her immediately.  

    “When I saw her she was so sweet,” says Laurie. “Her legs were in splints, she was in pain, but she just kept wagging her tail.”

    Laurie’s husband Nick wasn’t as enthusiastic about adding another dog to the mix. He agreed to come see the dog, but said it wouldn’t matter because they couldn’t keep her. He even tried not to look at her, says Laurie. Although they had just made an expensive move from Colorado, Laurie knew they needed to help this dog, even if they couldn’t keep her. So she decided to call WSU.

    By the time Laurie called the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Dr. Deb Sellon already knew their story from Frank. 

    “Dr. Sellon came out and greeted us when we arrived in Pullman,” says Laurie. And that made them feel right at home. “We were so impressed with the facility and how we were treated. It is a wonderful school and hospital.”

    Surgery was scheduled for that day, January 8.  Nick, who was also still determined to find this dog a home, offered to pick her up a few days later.  

    When they brought her back to Richland, Laurie and Nick’s two other dogs were not so sure about the new guest. During her rehabilitation they kept her separated with a pen system, so the dogs could see each other, but weren’t able to interact. That was until the smart little dog started escaping.

    “We couldn’t figure out how she was doing it, but she would be at the door wagging her tail,” says Laurie, who works from home so she could be there whenever the dog needed her.

    Over the next couple of months, Laurie made two more trips back to Pullman for follow up appointments after the surgery. Once the bandages were off about eight weeks later, they introduced her to the other dogs.

    “They all got along beautifully,” says Laurie. “I wasn’t ready to let go of her.”

    So they named her Melle, which rhymes with Nellie, and means honey in Greek. Because she was so sweet, says Laurie.

    Frank kept in touch and sent Melle a Valentine’s Day card and Laurie a thank you card. “He didn’t want to be intrusive, so he only called about once every 6 weeks to find out how she was doing,” says Laurie.  

    Early that next summer, Frank met Laurie and Melle at a park so she should show him how Melle could run and jump. Today Melle is playful, enjoys hiking 6 or 7 miles, and can catch a tennis ball four feet in the air. “You wouldn’t know she had surgery,” says Laurie.

    Since then, Frank, Laurie and Melle meet and go for a walk once a week. Frank brings Melle treats.  Frank says, he cannot conceive of a more loving home than the one Melle is in now. And side benefits, he says, is that he got to meet Laurie and Nick.

    “It has been just super knowing them,” says Frank. “The dog is a wonderful miracle that has enriched so many lives.”

    But Frank says that it was the Good Samaritan program that made it all possible.

    “The larger miracle is that so many things had to happen and none would have happened without the WSU program,” says Frank. “It was a miracle situation every step of the way.”

    *Funds received from the Good Samaritan Fund helped pay for about one-third of Melle’s medical expenses.