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.


  • Fellowship Helps Fund a Love of Pathogens


    Story 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


    Story 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 go.vetmed.wsu.edu/Rabies.