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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

How To Build A Veterinary College From Scratch

February 13th, 2015

MagruderGroundBreakIn 1975, the Oregon State Legislature responded to the need for more veterinarians in Oregon by establishing the OSU Veterinary School – on paper only. They did not appropriate any funds.

Lucky for us, they appointed Dr. E. Edward Wedman as the Dean, and he was determined to get the money and build a college.

To do that, Wedman had to rely on his abundant social skills and his connections in the veterinary world. “He was excellent at outreach,” says Dr. Linda Blythe, Professor of Neuroscience. “He got the veterinary school funded by going out to people in the community: he went to every livestock meeting, every sheep herders meeting, every meeting there was; he really endeared himself to the grass roots.” Those groups lobbied their legislators and were critical in helping Wedman get the OSU Veterinary School (as it was known then) funded in 1977. Then he needed to find faculty.

“I first met Dr. Wedman at the Peachtree Hotel in Atlanta. I was there for the AVMA conference,” remembers Blythe. At that time, she was a graduate student at the UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine. “The phone rang in my room and a man said, ‘Hello, I’m Dr. Wedman and I’m the Dean of the vet school in Oregon. I’d like to sit down and talk with you.’ I was thinking, ‘What is going on here? There is no vet school in Oregon’.”

Blythe warily agreed to a meeting, and of course it turned out that Wedman was the real deal. “He was recruiting by going out to all of his colleagues and asking if they had any promising young graduate students,” says Blythe. Wedman invited Blythe to dinner with other newly recruited faculty. “We talked, and by the end of the dinner, he said, ‘You have a job’. That’s the way they did it in the old days.”

The OSU Veterinary School began with a handful of faculty in a few spare classrooms in Dryden Hall. But the budget was so slim, Wedman continued working to get support from the community.

“He had connections at the racing commission,” says Blythe, “so he came up with the idea to go after one-tenth of one percent of the paramutuel handle [a betting pool in which those who bet on competitors finishing in the first three places share the total amount], and it passed. We got $100,000 a year for racing research.” In those days, dog and horse racing were very popular in Oregon. “Dr. Wedman would drag Morrie [Craig], Duane Lassen, and I to these racing commission meetings because we could interact and sell the college. We were his PR faculty.”

Not surprising, early research in the college involved testing the effects of substances like DMSO in horses and caffeine on greyhound racing dogs. “Greyhounds were coming in testing positive for procaine [a cardiac stimulant] and they wanted to know where they were getting it, and if it affected performance,” says Blythe. She and Craig hired second-year students Terry Clark (now a professor of anatomy at CVM) and Chris Camp to go to the dog track in Portland every week to gather data. “We designed a functional model using 15 dogs, leased from the greyhound breeders at the track, in special research races in the mornings. “Initially, two thirds of the dogs would race on Procaine and one third would race clean,” says Blythe. “Then we would switch the groups and have them run another 5 races and finally switch again. When we compared the race times, there was no difference. Procaine had no effect on performance.” The next year, when they used the same model to study caffeine in dogs as a positive control, they found that it made them race faster by 2.5 lengths.

All the coalition-building and fundraising by Wedman paid off: In 1980 OSU constructed Magruder Hall and opened the large animal hospital.

Blythe and Craig also have fond memories of Mrs. Wedman. “She and Ed threw a Christmas party every year for the faculty,” remembers Craig. “She was such a gracious hostess. There were only about twenty of us, and she helped make us a family.”

Wedman stepped down as Dean in 1985 but remained on the faculty until he passed in 1987. Blythe and Craig remained good friends with Mrs. Wedman, visiting her at her home in Portland several times a year. When Mrs. Wedman got the idea to fund an award in her husband’s memory, she called Blythe to help her choose the criteria. “When I was at Davis, I got the Outstanding Senior award and it really meant a lot to me, so I asked her to create something similar.” The E.E. Wedman Outstanding Senior award is chosen by the faculty and given every year to an outstanding fourth-year student demonstrating scholarship, leadership, and dedication to veterinary medicine.

Mrs. Wedman is now 92 and retired in in Florida, but Drs. Craig and Blythe continue to visit her every year while attending the International Canine Sports Medicine Symposium. “We go over and see her and have lunch with her,” says Blythe.

Craig recognizes how important Dr. Wedman was in getting the OSU Veterinary School off the ground. “He had to do very non-traditional things to get the vet school started. He was the best I’ve ever seen at building coalitions and getting support. He knew how to keep at it and keep going.”

“He was a great Dean,” says Blythe. “He was very much a leader.”

Dr. Linda Blythe, Rachel Wedman, and Dr. Morrie Craig.

Dr. Linda Blythe, Rachel Wedman, and Dr. Morrie Craig.

 

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