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Four longtime college faculty, staff to receive Showcase awards

- Mar 11, 2021

Four members of Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine will receive some of the University’s most prestigious honors during Showcase—WSU’s weeklong celebration of academic excellence.

This year’s recipients—Douglas Call, Kathy Dahmen, Joseph Harding and Guy Palmer—have put in more than 130 years at WSU. Their efforts have advanced science, students, and the college.

Sahlin Eminent Faculty Award

Dr. Call, regents professor of molecular epidemiology and associate director for research and graduate education in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, was awarded WSU’s highest faculty honor—the Sahlin Eminent Faculty Award.

The award recognizes those who have changed the thinking in their field by making lasting contributions through teaching, research, creative scholarship, and service. Recipients have also contributed notably to the vitality and strength of the WSU community.

Nominated by WSU’s senior director of Global Health, Dr. Guy Palmer, Call joined the faculty at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000 as an assistant professor in the Veterinary Medicine and Pathology Department, and later joined the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health in 2012. He is nationally and internationally recognized for his lab- and field-based research on antimicrobial resistance.

"Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control have elevated the issue of antimicrobial resistance to ‘a critical global health crisis’ and warn of entering a ‘post-antibiotic era,’” Palmer wrote in his nomination letter. “Professor Call’s work, all carried out during his tenure at WSU, was the first to illustrate the critical role of the environment in selecting for and maintaining antibiotic resistance. He has truly changed the thinking in the field—leading to recognition that the environment must be addressed in order to block resistance.”

Call is currently project director for a multi-institutional, five-year CDC project in Central America and he is a lead on a component of a similar project in Kenya. These projects map the pathways by which resistance arises, spreads, and is maintained in the community—especially in marginalized indigenous communities living in conditions of poor sanitation.

“Dr. Call moves study to action,” Palmer went on to write, noting Call is also project director for the United Kingdom’s Wellcome Trust program examining the impact of childhood vaccination in reducing demand for antibiotics.

“As impactful as his efforts in addressing the crisis in antibiotic resistance, his ability to build relationships with partners led the CDC to turn to him in the middle of the current COVID-19 pandemic to direct an improved sanitation program in Guatemala using emergency funding,” Palmer wrote. “Working with partners, he has been able to pivot in an amazingly short time to move from funding and concept to implementation.”

V. Lane Rawlins Distinguished Lifetime Service Award

Guy Palmer, WSU senior director for Global Health received the V. Lane Rawlins Distinguished Lifetime Service Award.

The award honors dedicated individuals who have given a substantial part of their career to advancing WSU through excellent service in administration, teaching, research, extension, or a professional field.

Dr. Palmer, who joined the faculty at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988, was nominated by Tom Kawula, director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.

Dr. Palmer launched and led the development of the Paul. G. Allen School for Global Animal Health; founded the Allen School’s Rabies Free Africa campaign, which is designed to investigate and develop vaccination strategies that will lead to elimination of rabies on the African continent; and he’s also among the first to discover and describe pathogen subversion of innate host immune responses.

“As part of a group in rural Kenya combating East Coast Fever, Palmer demonstrated that cattle vaccination led to improved child health and development and increased income that was spent on educating young girls,” Kawula wrote in his nomination letter. “The work has had major influences on animal vaccination policies and support resulting in dramatically improved human health and economy, particularly in low-resource communities.”

Dr. Palmer served as a primary training mentor for 38 post-doctoral fellows, including 24 DVMs, the overwhelming majority of whom advanced to successful independent clinical research and education careers. Through the course of his career, he has participated in three ground-breaking areas of research resulting in more than 280 peer-reviewed publications.

“It is important to note Dr. Palmer seizes every possible opportunity to showcase the fact that he is a diehard Coug. His Cougar gear is constantly on display whether he is in the halls of Congress or visiting a resource poor rural community in remote Tanzania. Field workers even remotely associated with us receive Cougar shirts, hats, scrubs, pins, you name it. He makes it a point to ensure that they know they represent WSU,” Kawula wrote. “Many prestigious institutions and foundations have attempted to pry him away from Pullman but he’s not going anywhere.”

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award

Medicinal chemist and professor in WSU’s Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience Joseph Harding was awarded the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award.

The award honors WSU faculty whose scholarly contributions and associated outreach efforts have significantly improved the lives of people through engagement with industry or other elements of the private sector.

Over the course of his career at WSU, Harding’s research has shown that one molecule could activate a powerful growth system that can stimulate the production of new nerve cells and enable damaged nerve cells to replace connections lost during the disease process.

“Dr. Harding has already made a tremendous impact in the field of neurodegenerative diseases because the lead drug candidate he developed has shifted the paradigm of Alzheimer’s disease treatment: current drugs merely slow disease progression whereas his drug candidate has shown evidence that it actually improves patient symptoms by regeneration thus reversing the course of Alzheimer’s. This is a remarkable advance in treatment of dementia,” Professor Katrina Mealey wrote in her nomination letter.

Seattle-based Athira Pharma, a biotech startup co-founded by Harding, which has built on his WSU-licensed research to develop potential drug therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, raised more than $200 million in an initial public stock offering.

The funding is intended to help pay for the continuing research and development for therapies for Alzheimer’s, dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Athira has not only licensed WSU’s intellectual property behind this work but also employs several WSU alumni who earned their degrees studying under Harding.

In addition, Dr. Harding is dedicated to educating the next generation of scientists, mentoring several dozen graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, as well as mentoring research projects for undergraduate, and even high school students.

“Dr. Harding has taught undergraduate, graduate and professional students in more than three dozen different courses covering numerous disciplines, receiving the Newbrey Teaching Award in the professional veterinary curriculum. He has trained dozens of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom are in industry and academic positions around the world,” Dr. Mealey went on to write.

President’s Employee Excellence Awards

Kathy Dahmen, assistant director in the Veterinary Clinical Science Department will be recognized with President’s Employee Excellence Awards. These awards recognize outstanding contributions to the University by employees statewide. 

Dahmen has been at the college for 11 years but has been with WSU since 1983 and is a Coug through and through. She said what she enjoys most about working at the college are the people and the college’s overall mission to provide an exceptional education to its students.

“Kathy contributes every day to the success of students, staff, and faculty working in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. I could not have been successful as hospital director without her,” said Deb Sellon, former hospital director.

Dahmen said she’s honored and humbled to be nominated by people she respects and supports every day.

Collectively, she said, the work at the college has an impact beyond the WSU community and she feels fortunate to work alongside those who make a difference in the world.

"Kathy is a born leader and motivator, using soft and subtle approaches to make changes in others and in the environment. She treats people with respect and, regardless of position, background or cultural differences, fairly and equitably,” said Bill Dernell, former chair of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and a longtime colleague of Dahmen.

And current chair of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Bob Mealey, also had words of appreciation for Dahmen.

“Kathy is the go-to person for everybody. Her work ethic is unbelievable. I could fill a book describing specific examples of the quality of her work and her productivity,” Mealey said.