Veterinary industry leaders assess CVM leadership: “The lack of any strategic insight is disappointing.”

At the 6-year anniversary of OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine being relegated to probationary accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the appointment of a new Dean, we spoke to a number of prominent veterinary industry leaders to gain an outside perspective on how well OSU's program is performing. These individuals would only speak on the condition of anonymity because they currently work or are affiliated with prominent industry organizations, such as governance or certifying bodies, which interact with Oklahoma State's veterinary college.

Conversations ranged from discussions about trends in veterinary labor markets, strategic innovation across the industry and in academia, as well as the specific challenges facing OSU CVM.

"You already know that OSU's status will require some twisting and straining at the next accreditation go-round," commented one person with knowledge of the accreditation process. "There will be a whole lot of forward-looking consideration because if it was measured on its current state, it's probably in worse shape now than it was."  This person further explained that CVM, in their opinion, is in worse strategic shape than even the newest veterinary schools coming online because “new programs aren't stuck in their ways" and "have the foresight to hire innovative leaders."

Multiple individuals connected with the organizations that oversee Board Certification of specialists in medical disciplines told CVM Independent they are routinely ignored or dismissed by the current Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Surprised, really," one of them commented. "We know he's trying to recruit people, thought I could make some recommendations. But his response was kind of rude, to be honest, it was clear he didn't need any help hiring people." However, more than 50 faculty and staff have left employment over the prior two years, and very few have successfully been replaced.

"His reputation is that way," said another. "Sort of charming when he needs to be but deeply suspicious of people and absolutely a ladder climber. It's unfortunate. A lot of us have a real interest in helping that program but the risk of getting involved is kind of high while he's there."

One of these industry leaders who has interacted with the Dean within the past two years stated their experience this way: "Really image-conscious, really sensitive guy.  Seems real nice, slow talking, kind of a mild guy when he's in front of you but he will take a flame thrower to your reputation behind your back if it helps him get where he wants to go."

In a discussion at a gathering of veterinary professionals this year, an individual who has worked at senior levels in both independent and corporate animal hospital systems stated that, "Unfortunately the leadership there is not known as being too collaborative or strategic. I'm not being harsh, it's just that 100% of the people in this room would be fired for that kind of a performance. But OSU is going to hand them a truckload of money and see what happens with one of the largest change initiatives I've seen in veterinary medicine. That's a total rebuild at Oklahoma State."

Another stated bluntly: "Oklahoma State in their infinite wisdom put the arson in charge of putting out the fire."

Multiple people at this gathering of veterinary industry leaders described a similar impression of the current CVM leader as a go-it-alone type of persona. "You have your people who always have the big ideas, and you have your people who don't say much but then you hear they went back and pawned off what other people said as their own. That's him.  If it works, sure, but I don't think it does. Not by looking at that program."

Another industry leader with expertise in veterinary trends stated: "The lack of any strategic insight is disappointing. Even new vet college programs are coming online and racing each other to find the best minds in the business. Other big programs which aren't even in this bad of shape are slow to it but even they are exploring innovations. But OSU has sort of crawled inside its own bubble and only talks to whoever says nice things about them. Which isn't a lot of people. Maybe they'll pull it off with all that money.  But you can waste a lot of money on the wrong things pretty fast."

A person who is involved with recruiting veterinarians for other colleges and private hospitals told CVM Independent "it's obviously sad for OSU but for me, it's like candy from a baby recruiting people from there. They're miserable."

"You think his blame list is long now," one of these people said, referring to the Dean of CVM, "Just wait and see if it doesn't work. Nothing is ever his fault."