WSU veterinarian elected to Institute of Medicine

PULLMAN– Dr. Guy Palmer, a veterinary pathologist at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM). Election to this prestigious body is one of the highest honors for those in biomedical research and human health care.

The institute announced the election of its new members Oct. 9 in Washington, D.C.

“This is a tremendous honor and reflects the outstanding scholarly environment at Washington State University,” Palmer said. “I work with a wonderful group of colleagues and students dedicated to better understanding of transmission of vector-borne diseases and innovative approaches to vaccine development. This election reflects our combined strengths.”

“I have been aware of Dr. Palmer’s outstanding research for many years.” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins, “It seems especially appropriate that he is being recognized at a time when concerns about epidemics of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans) are higher than I ever remember seeing before. Guy is a world leader in his field and we rejoice to see him gain this richly deserved honor.”

“Election to the Institute of Medicine is one of the highest honors afforded a scientist, in part because it is bestowed by one’s peers,” said James N. Petersen, vice provost for research at WSU. “Dr. Palmer’s work in battling animal disease in third world countries is second to none.”

His research has explored what allows some disease-causing agents, or pathogens, to persist in a host long after the initial infection; what interactions between a pathogen and its vector (such as ticks) lead to efficient transmission and infection; and novel ways of producing vaccines to combat pathogens whose changeable nature makes them “moving targets” for a host’s immune system.

In recent years, Palmer has focused primarily on the infection biology of Anaplasma marginale, which is the most prevalent tick-borne bacterial pathogen of cattle worldwide. Once injected into the host by a biting tick, the Anaplasma bacteria enter and destroy red blood cells, causing an often-fatal disease, anaplasmosis. Animals that recover from the disease remain infected throughout life, acting as a reservoir of the pathogen within a herd. The disease causes millions of dollars of losses to owners of cattle herds, particularly in tropical regions but also in the U.S. and Canada.

While the vast majority of the IOM’s 1,600 members are physicians, the IOM elects one-fourth of its members from the allied fields. Palmer’s election makes him the fifth (out of 16) veterinarians with direct ties to WSU, the highest number of any veterinary college in the U.S. In fact, former WSU veterinary classmates Dr. Roger McClellan (’60), and Dr. Charles Capen (’60), both members of the IOM, played a critical role in nominating Palmer.

“It is a pleasure to welcome a fellow Cougar as an elected member to the IOM,” McClellan said. “Dr. Palmer was elected to the IOM based on his extraordinary contributions to understanding vector-borne diseases.”

“We have a long standing association with the National Academy’s Institute of Medicine in that our former dean, the late Leo Bustad was among the first veterinarians elected to this prestigious institute,” said Warwick Bayly, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Several of our most distinguished alumni are current members. It’s great to see Dr. Palmer join this elite group.”

The Institute of Medicine is unique for its structure as both an honorific membership organization and an advisory organization. Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, the institute has become recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on issues related to human health. With their election, members make a commitment to devote a significant amount of volunteer time as members of IOM study committees.

The Institute of Medicine serves as adviser to the nation to improve health. In recent months, the IOM has issued statements on childhood obesity, and food borne health threats, and has a continuing initiative to improve the quality of health care.

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