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Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

A Desire To Pay It Forward Earns University Award For CVM Alum

October 5th, 2018

As a graduate student in the College of Sciences at OSU, Dr. Connie White (Class of 1997) found the encouragement she needed to finally pursue her long-time dream of becoming a veterinarian. In return, throughout her career as a practicing veterinarian, and more recently as a guest lecturer at the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, she has payed that generosity of spirit forward to veterinary students.

When Dr. White graduated with a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 1981, veterinary college seemed like an unattainable goal. “As a Massachusetts resident, there wasn’t a realistic option,” she says. “Tufts was much too expensive.” So she pursued her interest in biology research as a graduate student at the University of Oregon. In 1990, she was accepted to a Ph.D. program in genetics at Oregon State University, and that changed her life.

“I found a home in Carol Rivin’s lab in the genetics program, where I had the freedom to pursue my research ideas while getting great mentorship from her and others,” says Dr. White. “She gave me the confidence to pursue veterinary medicine while finishing my Ph.D.”

Once enrolled in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. White found a similar group of encouraging faculty. “It felt like moving from one branch of a family to another branch of the same family,” she says. “Drs. Michael Huber, Erwin Pearson, Jill Parker, and Cathy Carter were particularly important to me. They modeled the highest professional effort while keeping your sense of humor, especially at 3 a.m.” Her gratitude for the supportive faculty at OSU is one reason she is involved in the college now. “I felt like I was a valued member of the community,” she says, “but with that came the expectation that I would contribute back.”

While working at the Fremont Veterinary Clinic in Portland, White has maintained her interest in research, specifically as it pertains to evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM), an approach to clinical decision-making that incorporates the interpretation of research results. She attributes this continued passion for medicine to her OSU mentors: “The principles of continuous improvement, skepticism about medical dogma, and placing patient needs central to decision-making, was inculcated during my training at OSU.”

Dr. White pursued her interest in EBVM by obtaining additional training in epidemiology and statistics, then finding a research sponsor at the Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine (EBVM) at the University of Nottingham in the UK. She is now studying treatment variations in the management of companion animal eye disease and has published three papers. Her interest in EBVM also led to her current gig teaching evidence-based research skills to first-year students in the CCVM Research and Reading Skills class.

“I’ve always been interested in veterinary education,” she says. “I’ve always had vet students in my orbit. When I worked for Dove Lewis, OSU students did a rotation there, and they would give me the students for seminars because I liked teaching.” She also serves as co-advisor to the EBVM student club, and she is a member of the college advisory board. In addition, she is president-elect of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. White’s commitment to the future of veterinary medicine, and tireless support of students, have led to her selection as an Alumni Fellow of Oregon State University. As such, she will be joined by Dean Susan Tornquist and a group of faculty from the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine at a dinner celebrating her contributions. In typical down-to-earth fashion she is a bit overwhelmed by the fuss.

“I find the idea of an award, particularly combined with festivities requiring attire more stylish than scrubs, a white jacket, or coveralls (veterinary business attire), to be both terrifying and most likely undeserved,” she said. She also explains why she did not develop an interest in OSU sports while a veterinary student here: the games made parking difficult for weekend clinic shifts. “I am not a Beaver Believer in the classic sense, but I am a member of the Beaver Science and Medicine Nation!”

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