Utah State University School of Veterinary Medicine Magazine Spring 2020

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Veterinary Medicine M AG AZ INE

{ Spring 2020 }

FOSTERING WELLNESS in the Veterinary Profession


TABLE OF CONTENTS FEATURED STORIES Fostering Wellness in the Veterinary Profession 2 Postponing “Plan A” 5 Veterinary Medicine is a People Practice 8 Human-Animal Bond Brings Light to Dark Days 10

IN THE FIELD Improve Your Mental Health on Your Own Time 11 Ride Utah! 12 Slums, Camels and Dirty Water: A Summer with the CDC in Africa 14

FACULTY/STAFF Faculty Highlight: Dr. Karl Hoopes 16 Mystery Case: Duck Mystery 17 Conflict, Communication & Core Values 18

ALUMNI The Class of 2019 19 Alumni/Donor Recognition 21

On the cover: Dr. Karl Hoopes with military veterans and active service members of the military and their families at a Ride Utah! event. The program combines horseback riding with group counseling and opportunities to connect with others who are experiencing some of the challenges warfighters and their families face.

WE TEACH WHAT YOU LOVE. PUBLICATION INFORMATION NOELLE E. COCKETT, President, Utah State University KENNETH L. WHITE, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences

MIKE WHITESIDES Director of Marketing


MICHELLE MERRILL Director of Development

MICHAEL WERNERT Graphic Designer

MICHAEL BISHOP Director of Student and Academic Affairs

AMMON TEARE Marketing Assistant

UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE DEAN’S MESSAGE In this issue: we are revisiting an important topic we first addressed in the 2016 Fall/Winter issue, personal wellness within the veterinary profession. As we noted then, an article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) highlighted increasing evidence that veterinarians are at high risk for work-related stress, compassion fatigue, and suicide (JAVMA Oct. 15, 2016, vol. 249, pp. 879-881). A more recent JAVMA article (Jan. 15, 2018, vol. 252, pp. 227-233) identified four important practice-related stressors for veterinarians: 1) financial insecurity, 2) client issues, 3) co-worker or interpersonal issues, and 4) work-life balance. Given the importance of this topic for the veterinary profession, we continue to actively address it with our veterinary students, especially since the students themselves face numerous challenges during veterinary school. To that end, in this issue you will hear about the efforts of our clinical psychologist, Dr. Chris Chapman, to address the issue of personal wellness and resources that are available to our students for self-care. As Dr. Chapman points out, some of the challenges that all veterinary students face, such as the rising level of student debt, are issues the profession needs to address more broadly. In addition to Dr. Chapman’s article, you will see compelling personal stories from individuals who have faced and overcome daunting personal challenges. I feel it is important to note that we are not backing away from these challenges (facing the entire profession), but instead are focused on acknowledging them and looking for ways that everyone in this wonderful profession can better cope with them. For readers who are interested in learning more about this important topic and the resources that are available to address it, please see: avma.org/resources-tools/wellbeing. I hope you enjoy this issue, and on behalf of the faculty, staff, and students in the Utah State University School of Veterinary Medicine, thank you for your interest and support of our program. Sincerely,


Associate Dean, School of Veterinary Medicine As this issue goes to press, the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic are still unfolding making the focus of this issue, personal wellness, all the more important/relevant. As we navigate this challenge as individuals, families, friends, co-workers and community members, I hope we all consider reaching out to help one another as well as reaching out for help from one another.

WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE DEAN’S MESSAGE For me, camping along a wild river in northern Idaho is a great way to relax and step back from the stresses of work. Even a short break can help a person refocus and feel more prepared to tackle the challenges ahead. Even if you don’t love being out in a national forest somewhere with not even an echo of cell service, finding your own way to recharge periodically is valuable. Veterinarians lead complicated professional lives and the ability to respond to challenges, or even outright setbacks, is important for their well-being. In the WIMU Regional Program, we dedicate a part of our curriculum to fostering and supporting the development of resilience in our students. For over 20 years, it has been a part of our culture to maintain a supportive environment for students and to reserve time from the beginning of the program to emphasize the importance of wellness and resilience. The specific language sometimes changes, but we strive to provide a framework for students to work on self-awareness, team-building, and building positive professional relationships. Current students attest to this when they talk with prospective students about the culture of the program, in which the focus is on learning rather than worrying about the difference between an A- and a B+, and working with their current and future colleagues to achieve a better outcome for all. Sincerely,


Associate Dean, WIMU Regional Program and Associate Chair for Veterinary Medical Education


{ UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY VETERINARY MEDICINE } among the students I serve. They are analytical, motivated, hard working, and self-sacrificing. I have the good fortune to work with students of the highest character and talent. With that said, the “veterinary medicine personality” comes with some drawbacks. Our students are driven, but also anxious about being perfect. They are confident and energetic, but often feel like impostors


ome people are surprised by my role in the Utah State University (USU) School of Veterinary Medicine. When I tell them I am a psychologist embedded within the program, providing counseling, coaching, and workshops for veterinary students, the question that tends to come up is: “Why? Why do they need their own designated counselor?” Part of the reason for this query is that the general public rarely perceives the challenges veterinary medicine students face. Long, difficult classes. Frequent and punishing exams. The need to memorize the anatomy of not just one species, but the entire animal kingdom. Veterinary medicine students are a resilient group. Veterinarians are some of the most driven and dedicated people I know, and over the years I’ve noticed a distinct “personality”

as they attend class after class and try to absorb the “fire hose” flow of information they receive every day. I often talk to students about how many people struggle with “impostor syndrome” that leaves them feeling they are not competent and don’t belong in the program. The pressure to succeed is immense, and while external pressures are considerable, it is the pressure from within a person that often causes the most stress. As a counselor, I help students learn to tap into their resilience as they tackle a curriculum that can be overwhelming.

VETERINARY MENTAL HEALTH A CONCERN FOR SEVERAL YEARS A Kansas State University study published in 2011, found that veterinary medicine students are more likely to struggle with depression than medical students, undergraduate students, and the general population. Nearly one-third of veterinary students reported significant depressive symptoms in their first year of training, with numbers steadily rising until the third year (after which symptoms revert back to first-year levels). The demanding veterinary curriculum, high debt, and pressure to succeed were all tapped as contributing factors. A recent Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) report found that 67% of veterinary students have experienced depression and 5% have seriously contemplated suicide. The SAVMA survey also found higher rates of depression, selfharm, and suicidal ideation in veterinary students’ clinical year and a bump of 0.5% in the depression rate for every $50,000 a student is in debt.


Dr. Chris Chapman


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The topic of mental health among veterinarians has been the focus of several studies over the past few years, and the trends are alarming. A 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 1979 and 2015, male and female veterinarians committed suicide between 2 and 3.5 times more often than the general population, respectively. The study

{ UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY VETERINARY MEDICINE } also showed that 1 in 6 veterinarians have considered suicide and that veterinary graduates are 1.5 times more likely to have an episode of depression than the general population. These alarming results prompted a larger survey by Merck Animal Health (MAH, 2018). Researchers at MAH sent online surveys to 20,000 randomly selected veterinarians, which resulted in 3,540 completed responses. They used the Kessler Psychological Distress scoring system to measure mental health and a series of standardized questions on satisfaction with life to measure well-being. While the results of the MAH study were slightly less alarming than previous studies, some of the same concerning trends emerged. The occurrence of mental health issues was about average for older veterinarians (44+), but younger veterinarians had a higher frequency of distress (8.7% higher for those ages 18 to 34 and 9.1% for those ages 35 to 44). For reference, 5.3% of the


of veterinary students have experienced depression

American Veterinary Medical Association lists the average debt for veterinary students as $143,700 in 2016. Most veterinary students graduate with debt that is similar to that of medical students, but they enter a job market where pay is about half to one-third of what medical doctors earn. This amount of debt creates


of veterinary students have seriously contemplated suicide

general population reports having serious psychological distress. Additionally, only 41% of practicing veterinarians reported they would recommend the profession to others.

WHAT CAUSES THESE ISSUES? The largest concerns expressed by participants in the MAH study involved debt and compensation. As the cost of veterinary education goes up, students and young professionals are saddled with a debt load that can take decades to pay down. The

constant stress for veterinary students, and can increase feelings of hopelessness about the future. Another concern revolves around fatigue and burnout. Veterinarians have a physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging job. Euthanasia, emergency care, and difficult cases are physical and psychological burdens for veterinarians. While many veterinarians value the work and the services they provide, the job is demanding not just in terms of hours, but also in terms of emotional well-being. Veterinari-

ans are passionate and driven and there is intense demand for their services. Practitioners often fall into a pattern of missing lunches, missing breaks, and missing sleep. The lack of self-care and the toll that takes on work-life balance can chip away at resilience and increase the chances of mental health issues.


of practicing veterinarians reported they would recommend the profession to others

SO WHY ENTER THE PROFESSION? WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? The good news is, most veterinarians are doing well. With that said, the problems within the profession are systemic and must be addressed starting with how we train our future veterinarians. Many veterinary schools now have an appointed wellness director, generally a mental health professional tasked with providing wellness programs and counsel-

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ing to students. These professionals should not only work with students, but also help train faculty to recognize signs of psychological distress in their students and reduce stigma around help seeking. Wellness programs should not only consist of individual appointments, but should focus on providing workshops and assisting with student-run initiatives to improve life balance. At USU, students elect a wellness chairperson to coordinate activities with the wellness director and remind students that while they must study and work hard, time should also be spent focusing on self-care. I have found that if students do not establish a pattern of valuing life balance in their training, this pattern continues in their professional careers. The establishment of student clubs and programs focused on wellness is an attempt to change this culture of overwork and burnout. Additionally, more should be done to ease the financial burden on students. Administrators should be thoughtful about tuition increases and the impact on student mental health. Financial planning and business training should be a core part of the veterinary curriculum. Support needs to be in place to help students plan their financial futures and envision how they can attain prosperity with their degrees. Another finding of the MAH study is that professionals who were engaged in their community and with their families tended


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to have better mental health. Poor work-life balance will erode these relationships. At USU, we promote workshops that focus on relationship health and engagement. People need connections to help balance the daily stresses of their professional lives. Veterinary program administrators and faculty who design curriculum should be mindful of creating space for veterinary students to tend to their personal and professional relationships. Finally, veterinary professionals and students should remember the nobility of their profession. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” When we feel work is meaningful, it is easier to bear the stress it brings. Students should receive instruction during their training to prepare them for the emotional and ethical challenges they will face in the profession. For example, they should be reminded that when they need to help pet owners say goodbye to a beloved pet, they are providing a meaningful service that no one else can provide. I am confident that as we work to change the culture in veterinary medicine, we can produce professionals who are not only successful in their work, but also thriving in their personal lives.

By: Chris Chapman, Ph.D., Director of Wellness, Utah State University School of Veterinary Medicine


Two years into veterinary medical school, Caleb and Emilie Gwilliam’s plans for their family were redirected to battling childhood cancer.


f you are fortunate enough to meet Atticus Gwilliam, you might mistake him for any number of other bright, friendly, energetic and endearing little boys. If he’s wearing his glasses and hearing aids — commonly referred to as his “super eyes” and “super ears” by the Gwilliam family — you might note that it’s unusual, though not unheard of, for a 5-year-old to need them. But if you could see the scar beneath his strawberry-blond hair, you’d know that Atticus is not like most 5-yearolds. A lengthy zigzag scar is the remnant of neurosurgeons having removed the tumor that changed nearly everything for Atticus and his family.

A SUMMER OF CHANGES Caleb Gwilliam, his wife Emilie, and their children Kezlin, Ryker, and Atticus, were prepared for a summer of togetherness and adventures between Caleb’s second year of veterinary medical school at Utah

State University and a move for his final two years of medical training at Washington State University (WSU). Camping, visits with extended family, and a trip to Disneyland were all in their plans. They managed to do most of it, but Atticus wasn’t the same happy, busy toddler he had been. He didn’t eat well, didn’t play like he had before, and the Gwilliams made several trips to the emergency room and Instacare that summer because Atticus was clearly not well and experiencing pain. “You just don’t know what’s happening when children are very little and they can’t tell you what’s wrong,” Caleb said. “It took us a long time to figure out he was having headaches.” Eventually Atticus would sleep a short time and wake up crying and grabbing at his head. “We went through all the usual things thinking he had earaches or food allergies we just needed to figure out,” Caleb said. The problems didn’t end when Caleb and Emilie moved their three children (plus one on the way) to Washington, and worries about Atticus were accompanied by the stress of the move, preparing for the demands of vet school, and having no familiar pediatrician or family doctor in their new city. There were worries Atticus might have meningitis, but Caleb — a self-proclaimed optimist — said he kept thinking they would soon find the cause and a simple fix. An appointment with a new pediatrician, just a week before the start of WSU’s fall semester, resulted in scheduling an MRI for the following week. Caleb was almost certain it would rule out any “big things” and they would go on to figure out food allergies or some other treatable problem.

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“We had been home from the hospital about 30 minutes and I was ready to go back to school when our pediatrician called and said he was coming right over,” Caleb said. “That never happens. We knew there was a big problem. The doctor basically put his other patients on hold and told them he needed to leave. We were very appreciative of his care.” In short, the radiologist reading Atticus’s MRI almost immediately called the Gwilliam’s pediatrician and sent him the images and evaluation. The day became a milestone, the kind of day that divides life into “before” and “after.”

Dr. Caleb Gwilliam

A NEW PATH A bright spot on that dark day was that Emilie’s parents felt they should be in Washington on the day of the MRI and had made the trip from St. George to be with their grandchildren. The images revealed a very large tumor in Atticus’s brain and the urgent need to get treatment. Caleb recalls feeling very “beaten down” after one neurologist they met with was clearly not prepared to do the challenging surgery. “I just started calling hospitals,” he said. “I called Primary Children’s, St. Jude, and then Seattle Children’s Hospital and somehow got put through to the head nurse over

The experience impressed on Caleb the importance of a doctor being knowledgeable, capable, and confident. It shaped the way that now Dr. Gwilliam works with his patients and their owners at Red Hills Animal Hospital in St. George. “I really appreciated how Dr. Ellenbogen worked with us and I’ve tried to emulate his way of communicating when I talk to people about challenging things with their animals and situations where outcomes

“Continuity of care and developing relationships with people and my patients is very important to me because I know how important it was to us.” - Dr. Caleb Gwilliam

the neurology unit. She said they typically need a referral… and would need to see the MRI. I said, ‘I have the MRI and I will send it to you right now.’” He emailed the image and an hour later the nurse called back with a team of neurosurgeons on speaker who told Caleb and Emilie to put Atticus in the car immediately and make the 4-plus-hour drive to Seattle. Having seen only the MRI, the medical team that greeted them was amazed Atticus seemed as well as he did. “Dr. (Richard) Ellenbogen had no reservations about doing the surgery,” Caleb said. “He talked with us about possible complications, but he said, ‘We will absolutely go to surgery and we will get all of this tumor.’"


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might not be the best,” he said. “I know my capabilities and I talk about roads or paths that are different treatment options and about what the outcomes could be.” Another practice he and Emilie appreciated during the many hours they spent waiting for test results or for procedures and treatments to end was when doctors who came to deliver news began their reports by getting to the bottom line: good news or bad. “Doctors we worked with very often would start with ‘Everything looks good,’ and then explain the details,” Caleb said. “I think many of the people who are waiting for information about their animals are as nervous as we were every time we waited for another MRI or CT scan result, so I try to extend the same courtesy to clients. And when results aren’t good, I start by telling them I have some concerns and


that we will discuss them and what paths and likely outcomes they might choose.” The Gwilliams had many paths to consider through the months of Atticus’s treatment. He was diagnosed with Choriod Plexus Carcinoma, a brain and spinal cancer so rare that it is found in about 1 in 3 million children—So rare that there is no standard protocol for treatment. Emilie said hearing the diagnosis confirmed and being told that the tumor was malignant was crushing, but the surgeon said the medical team was still aiming for a cure and believed they could do it. They still had hope.

VET SCHOOL MUST WAIT While the whirlwind of the diagnosis and surgery was happening, Caleb’s classmates were moving ahead with their veterinary medical training. He met with administrators at WSU when there was a chance the tumor might be benign and found them caring and supportive. Although they suggested Caleb defer his third-year studies, he was hanging onto the hope that if he studied during the long hours at the hospital, and traveled to Pullman for weekly exams, he could keep moving toward his DVM goals. “Third year is very difficult, with almost three exams every week, plus clinical work,” Caleb said. “I think we knew it wasn’t going to work, but it made me feel better so I kept studying and planned to go back for the first exams.” But the night before the tests, the Gwilliams finally decided that trying to go on with school wasn’t going to work. Caleb met with counselors again and withdrew from school for the year. The next difficult step was telling his classmates and close friends from the two years of study at USU that he wouldn’t be moving ahead with them.

Emilie and Atticus Gwilliam

Emilie and Caleb felt strongly that they needed to keep their family together and live in ways that they would not look back on with regret. Kenzli and Ryker adjusted to doing homework at the hospital and were fortunate to go to school with some other patients’ siblings who were also learning to navigate their families’ new paths. Becoming friends with others who had to temporarily make Seattle Children’s Hospital their home base and community was a strength to the Gwilliams. Emilie soon connected with other “brain cancer moms” who shared the unfamiliar triumphs and trials she was experiencing. Their support was all the more important when Atticus began chemotherapy with a drug so powerful that―because Emilie was pregnant―meant she was not allowed to hold her very sick little boy. Caleb became skilled at bathing Atticus four times each day to wash away the chemicals that were excreted through his skin. Emilie said it was good to be with families who understood the cancer tests, treatments, and hospital routines without explanations. Writing the Atticus’s Army blog also helped her and Caleb keep friends and family informed without having to repeat painful conversations. Writing also gave them a way to think about and work through some of their feelings.

LIFE GOES ON A year after Atticus’s tumor resection, it was time for Caleb to return to his vet med training, though it wasn’t a simple change of schedule. “I found there were things that weren’t the same about my brain and I had to go back a little to refresh some of the things my new classmates had just covered in second year,” he said. “But I was fortunate to find a group of friends in my new class and they were very nice to me and tolerated my questions.” WSU faculty worked with Caleb to accommodate the times every few months when the Gwilliams had to return to Seattle for Atticus’s regular follow-up checks that filled two or three days of meeting with multiple specialists. Again, experiences with so many doctors and medical specialties shaped Dr. Gwilliam’s approach to his own patients and clients. “Continuity of care and developing relationships with people and my patients is very important to me because I know how important it was to us,” he said. The Gwilliam family’s journey of the past 3-plus years has been filled with innumerable physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional highs and lows. Among the posts on the Atticus’s Army blog is one that answers the question Caleb and Emilie are often asked about how their family got through such a trial: “We did it because we had to.” “Cancer stole a lot from us, but we won’t let it rule our lives! Life can still be happy and we can and will find joy, happiness and hope in each day!”

By: Lynnette Harris Photos: Courtesy of Dr. Caleb and Emilie Gwilliam

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r. Kelly Esplin has experienced and learned many things in his 39 years of practicing veterinary medicine. Some tools of the profession and procedures have changed. Cedar City, Utah,

Esplin was raised on a ranch and has long been familiar with animals dying, but he is sensitive to the fact that

Dr. Kelly Esplin

where he practices, and his native St. George to the south have certainly grown and changed. But Esplin believes one key thing remains constant: veterinary medicine is largely about people. “Anyone who gets into this thinking they don’t really like people and just want to work with animals has not picked the right profession,” Esplin said. “There are some specialties where your work is more sequestered, but social interaction is part of being a vet. You may be the best practitioner and really know your stuff, but if you can’t connect with people you won’t be successful.” Esplin said making people feel comfortable and confident in your approach to their animals is crucial. In many cases, people arrive at the clinic already feeling stressed or frightened about their pet’s health. Esplin typically takes time to talk with clients rather than getting directly into diagnosing or performing proce-


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dures on his patients. He makes notes on patient files beyond diagnoses, prescriptions and procedures that help him remember things about clients at later visits, notes that may include important things happening in families or the names of the children who often accompany their pets to appointments. Life and death are both present at an animal hospital, and Esplin believes empathy is among the most important traits a veterinarian needs. “Euthanasia is a difficult thing for an animal’s owners and empathy is key in those situations,” Esplin said. “I ask people to tell me what has been special about this animal and really listen. Sometimes we are uncomfortable in those situations, but reach a little deeper and ask people about their stories. Often the tears stop and people pour out so much about what has been good and important to them about that animal.”

most clients have little experience with death. Veterinarians must repeatedly navigate being reassuring to clients and patients, but not callous to what is happening. He knows patients’ deaths can take an emotional toll on clients, doctors, and on the hospital or clinic staff. “As a veterinarian you expect to heal animals, expect to do good,” Esplin said. “There are people who are not so attached to their animals and choose euthanasia without hearing what treatment could be and that can be difficult.” Empathy is top of mind for Esplin when telling clients about diagnoses he knows will be hard for them to hear, and also the need for clarity. Practitioners are immersed in medical language and sometimes forget that most clients are not. For example, telling someone their dog has tumors may require explaining what a tumor is because many people hear “tumor” and immediately equate it with cancer, malignancy, and euthanasia, which is not always the case or the only possible outcome. Other times that Esplin finds empathy important, though sometimes difficult, is when dealing with combative clients. Perhaps something went wrong during a procedure, a condition was misdiagnosed, or clients are angry for some other reason. “The principle I use is that you don’t raise your voice, you consciously keep calm, and you listen to what they are say-

{ UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY VETERINARY MEDICINE } ing,” Esplin advises. “Sometimes things go wrong and you need to own them and express that you are sorry something unintended happened. If you just make excuses, you’ll make people angrier. You don’t always have to say, ‘We’re guilty’ of something, but you do need to listen and work to understand what they are saying. Again, I think empathy is important. It

“lessons of life” has taught him a few strategies that help on the days when everything hasn’t gone smoothly. In a desk drawer, Esplin keeps a bundle of letters, cards, and thank you notes collected over the years. There is also a list with the names of 32 people who have volunteered or worked at the Southern Utah Animal Hospital and who are now prac-

via email and text messaging that we are becoming uncomfortable talking to people face-to-face. We don’t practice learning to read cues from people’s body language and tone of voice, skills Esplin finds essential when working with patients and clients. He not only recommends a classic work of self-improvement literature—How to Win Friends and Influence

“I ask people to tell me what has been special about this animal and really listen. Often the tears stop and people pour out so much about what has been good and important to them about that animal.” - Dr. Kelly Esplin

helps calm a bad situation. Often, people just need to be heard.” Esplin pointed out that doing what you can to make things “right” for clients, when you can, isn’t just about the situation at hand. It is a way to build a practice. “If someone has a good experience with your practice, they may tell three or four other people,” he said. “But if they have a bad experience, they tell seven or eight.” Mindfulness and self-care were not mentioned in vet school training when Esplin was a student, but learning the

ticing veterinarians or vet med students. “I know these will all be thrown away in the end, but, you know, some days it helps to get them out and read a few,” he said. “That’s alright to do because you’re going to have rough days. Things don’t go right all the time.” Esplin thinks personality influences the ways in which individuals cope with problems and engage with other people, but also believes that everyone can develop better people skills. He is concerned that many of us have become so reliant on communicating from a distance

People, by Dale Carnegie—he often buys copies to give away, especially to young adults he works with in his church and to employees who may be struggling with self-confidence and social skills. “We all have opportunities to go out and be interested in other people, to ask them about themselves and really listen,” Esplin said. “Let people know you are interested in them and glad to know them. It can smooth tough situations and people will be drawn to you.”

Story and photo of Dr. Esplin by: Lynnette Harris

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r. Mike Sandstrom was born and raised near Niagara Falls, New York. His love for adventure and travel took him to numerous places across the globe. He traveled the world fixing helicopters in Germany, the Middle East, and Alaska, followed by

teaching English as a Second Language to Japanese elementary and middle school children. When he was 34 years old, he received the devastating news that his parents had been killed during a home invasion. After his parents’ passing, he found that the strength of the human-animal bond with his family pets helped him grieve and cope with his sorrow. “For me, the only thing consistent at that point was the constant love I received from my family pets,” he added. “Goofy and Angel, our cats, were the catalyst for getting me through such a difficult time.” While experiencing all the emotions that are part of grieving, he felt strongly it was time to take another step into adventure. “Throughout that process, I reassessed my life and where I wanted to go,” he said. “I knew I wanted to work with animals, but I had no idea at what capacity.” After graduating with a degree in biology from the University of Utah, he worked as a veterinary technician for a year before starting veterinary school at Utah State University. Dr. Mike, as he is known now, graduated from the combined Utah State University and Washington State University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program in May 2018. “There were many times I wanted to quit, but I knew that if I had the ability to talk to my parents, they’d be behind me every step

“Self-care and wellness are important. It’s ok to know your limits and work accordingly. Although I want to help as many pets as possible, sometimes you have to say 'No' to ensure you are giving quality care to the pets that you are seeing." - Dr. Mike Sandstrom


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of the way,” he said. “Vet school was hard, but definitely worth it. Every good thing in life can be difficult to obtain at times.” After graduation, Dr. Mike returned to Alaska with his wife and son. He thoroughly enjoys his job and spoiling his three feline fur babies, Zen, Norimaki, and Lt. Dan (a tripod). When reflecting on job satisfaction, he credits trying different avenues of self-care, such as leaving the office for lunch, or taking a walk to re-center and keep pushing forward. “Self-care and wellness are important,” he said. “It’s ok to know your limits and work accordingly. Although I want to help as many pets as possible, sometimes you have to say 'No' to ensure you are giving quality care to the pets that you are seeing.” Moreover, Dr. Mike enjoys working with various people and pets. Almost daily, he experiences a variety of cases where helping the pet owner understand all their options and not being judgmental of their decisions is a priority for him. Because he experienced such a profound and tragic loss in his life, he can speak first-hand to the power of the animal and human bond. When speaking with him, you can feel his sincere compassion for his patients and their owners. His intentions for sharing his story are simply to help anyone who may be going through something similarly difficult. “This has been a very fruitful career change for me,” he said. “I never mentioned what happened to my parents to anyone in vet school because I didn’t want to be a victim or a sympathy case. I wanted to make it through on my own merit. It was my cross to bear and that’s what I did.”


on Your Own Time


he ACT Guide is an online mental health program centered on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an evidence-based treatment found effective for a wide range of mental health concerns. The tool is now available online, free for Utah State University students, and $10 for six months of access to the 12 self-guided lessons and exercises for the general public. Associate Professor Michael Levin, the lead ACT researcher in USU’s Department of Psychology, says the online tool is designed to translate skills that clients typically learn with a therapist into a self-help format where individuals can learn at their own pace and privately via computer, tablet, or phone. ACT Guide is personalized to help you meet your specific mental health goals. Practical strategies you’ll learn include developing a healthier relationship with negative thoughts and feelings; practicing mindfulness; clarifying what matters most to you in life; and setting personal goals that keep you on the right track. The program’s 12 lessons can be used whenever you choose at whatever pace works well for you. The ACT Guide’s introduction video acknowledges that seeking help for mental health problems can feel overwhelming, and the program is designed to be an important, private first step to better mental well-being. Though people are encouraged to work with therapists and other mental health professionals when they can, the exercises help people practice new skills they can use on their own, or may be a first step toward connecting with others for help. The need for mental health services has increased throughout the nation in recent years, and universities in particular have seen a sharp rise in demand due to reduced stigma around mental health coupled with rising rates of depression and other mental health problems. ACT was developed by psychologists at the USU Sorenson Legacy Foundation Center for Clinical Excellence.

By: Michelle Merrill Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Mike Sandstrom

Learn more at scce.usu.edu/services/act-guide

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“Horses don’t care who you are or where you’ve been, they’ll always be fair to you. There are a lot of veterans that need some of that.” – U.S. Air Force veteran, Dave Snarr


tah State University Extension’s Ride Utah! program allows military veterans and their families to work with horses and benefit from the therapeutic effects of being in the saddle. Dr. Karl Hoopes created the program to help veterans and active duty military personnel who live with PTSD and other adversities. The horse-to-human connection is a relationship that many veterans need, according to U.S. Air Force veteran and Ride Utah! participant Dave Snarr. “Horses don’t care who you are or where you’ve been, they’ll always be fair to you,” Snarr said. “There are a lot of veterans that need some of that.” Rides are organized throughout the state, and typically include a 2-hour trail ride, a shared meal, and a discussion of some issues military families face, moderated by a mental health professional. Getting on a 1,000-pound animal for the first time can be scary, but USU equine science and management student Makenna Osborne said she loves this program because she can help people overcome those fears. “That’s something we see in this program. These people are overcoming fears and they want to come back more and more and more,” Osborne said. “We have a lot of repeat veterans... Having the opportunity to work with these people who have given so much of themselves to help protect us feels really great.”

Hoopes recalls a ride that included a mother and daughter. The mother called Hoopes and asked if they had to have a military person with them to go on a ride. I said they did, and she said, "Well, my husband was killed two months ago; he was in the military, so we won’t be able to go on the ride." I said, No ma’am, you come on the ride. She brought her 13-year-old daughter with her and every time the horse would trot to keep up, that girl would just squeal with delight, just enjoying being on a horse, being outside. We got ahead of her a little ways and her mom was riding with us in a group and that girl was trotting up and making a lot of noise. Her mom turned to the rest of us and said, ‘I hope she’s not bothering any of you, but I haven’t heard her laugh like this since her dad died.’ Just think about that. There was a big, tough, old veteran right beside her and he said, ‘Ma’am, we don’t care. You let her squeal as much as she wants.’ That was a neat experience, and there have been many of them. When you ask me what my best experience is, it’s got to be Ride Utah! and working with the veterans. There are a lot of neat experiences, but they don’t beat those, and they happen on every ride. It’s pretty amazing.”

Story and photos by: Bronson Teichert See video about Ride Utah! at:


2020 Spring





A Summer with the CDC in Africa


raveling the world and experiencing cultures in Europe, Japan, and all over the United States is a goal some people hope to achieve by the time retirement becomes their next destination. For Utah State University veterinary medicine student Sam Kalis, having stepped foot on almost every continent has already been done. Last summer, Kalis checked off another continent after three months of research in Nairobi, Kenya, with organizations involved in public health, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Working through the


Spring 2020

Washington-Idaho-Montana-Utah Regional Program in Veterinary Medicine, Kalis connected with Washington State University Professor Guy Palmer, and collaborations with USU, WSU, and the CDC helped Kalis travel to Africa to do research and get paid for his work. While Kalis’s research on antibiotic-resistant bacteria was being approved by the Kenyan government, he used his time wisely and jumped at the opportunity to help other scientists with their projects. “One of the really cool ones was a project looking for a new virus called Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus,” Kalis said. “It's an influenza that is found in camels.” The virus originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012, but Kalis said not many people recognized the disease because camel herders were dying from it in remote locations. Kalis also assisted researchers in Nairobi with their work on a human health project in one of the world’s largest slums. “It might sound silly, but why not? I could have worked on most of my research interests here and not left Logan,” Kalis said. “Why not incorporate exploring my research interests with exploring the world? Why not get experience and also have an adventure at the same time?” For most of the three months in Kenya, Kalis spent time working on projects other than his own due to delays in his paperwork getting government approval. He finally


started his research on Aug. 5, just six days before his return to the United States. “I had one shot to get everything right,” Kalis said. “It would have been nice to have three weeks instead of one. I did manage to get more data than I was expecting, but not as much as I was hoping for.” Kalis focused on gathering data from water sources that are shared by humans, livestock, and wildlife around Lake Victoria called “water pans.” “It's essentially a drainage pond for lack of a better term,” Kalis said. “There would be somebody out there with a big yellow gasoline bucket filling up with water and there’s a cow, defecating into the water right next to them.” The lack of antibiotic regulation in Kenya has led to antibiotic resistance in most of the water sources, according to Kalis, including some freshwater springs. He gathered 38 different strains of bacteria from 20 sources which will be identified by species and antibiotic resistance. The results will be compared to a human study to understand if the resistance is coming from humans or animals. Conducting research isn’t a new challenge for Kalis, but applying his microbiology and veterinary science skills in a realworld situation in a different country was a new experience. He also said working with other researchers from different fields of study required a new level of communication.

Left: Sam Kalis with a memento of being at the equator. Top left to right: Water samples at the lab and the field lab entrance in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi. Above center: Sunset over the savannah wilderness at Maasai Mara National Park. Above: Time out for a photo safari.

“That's one of the biggest takeaways other than practical skills from this experience,” Kalis said. “I feel like communication is an underrated skill.” Right now, Kalis hasn’t decided on a specific path in the world of veterinary medicine, but he knew that using his skills to help animals be healthy was a way to be useful. Kalis was convinced of pursuing veterinary medicine after shadowing a veterinarian and watching someone he knew transform from a family practice physician, to an endocrinologist, dental surgeon, emergency surgeon, and radiologist. “It might sound simple and silly,” he said, “but veterinary medicine stemmed from the desire to be useful.”

By: Bronson Teichert Photos: Courtesy of Sam Kalis

2020 Spring




Dr. Karl Hoopes, DVM, Assistant Professor and USU Extension Equine Specialist


r. Karl Hoopes grew up in Afton, Wyoming, on a small dairy farm. From an early age, he knew he wanted to be a veterinarian. Hoopes discusses his journey through veterinary school, his years in practice, and his decision to switch to teaching and work with Utah State University Extension. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wyoming and DVM at Colorado State University.

What made you choose veterinary medicine?

Dr. Hoopes: I always wanted to be a jockey when I grew up, but I knew I was going to be too big. The next best thing was veterinarian. At the career fair in 8th grade, that’s what I chose, and since then, I’ve just worked toward it. What was your family situation when you were in vet school?

Dr. Hoopes: I got married a year before I got into vet school. I

had only been at the University of Wyoming for three years and had my prerequisites done. Two weeks into the semester they (Colorado State) called me and said ‘Somebody just quit, would you like to take their spot?’ It was pretty crazy. We had just found out we were pregnant, and my wife was finishing her student teaching in Laramie. She was going to have to walk to school to do her student teaching every day because we only had one car. I ended up commuting from Laramie to Fort Collins, 75 miles every day, and I did that through the first semester. After that, we moved. We had our first kid my freshman year, had our second kid my junior year, and then our third a month after I graduated (The Hoopes family now includes nine children).


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Where did you practice and what sort of practice did you have after graduating?

Dr. Hoopes: Immediately after graduation, I came to work in Cache Valley. I worked in Richmond at Valley Veterinary Services. It was interesting because the first day they gave me a truck, gave me the keys, and said, 'Here’s a farm call, go and do it.' They threw me right into it. [It was] a very rural practice and we had patients all over Cache Valley. Our clinic was built in a small grainery that was remodeled. I loved being up there. We were busy all the time. What sort of self-care habits helped you navigate vet school and vet practice?

Dr. Hoopes: My wife was a tremendous help, and I think

having my family in vet school was a tremendous help. It kept me grounded in reality. Too many times we get into vet school and we get thinking only about the school side of things; we have to study, we have to do all these things, we’ve got this test coming up. In reality, that’s a very short period of time in your life. Yes, it’s very important. Yes, it’s essential that you do well. But you’ve got to remember that it’s only a few short years, and your family is going to be there with you forever. You’ve got to have some recreation, even in college. I played softball, and my family and I like to go camping. We also got very involved in our church community there, and that was extremely helpful.

Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

MYSTERY CASE DUCK MYSTERY By Jane Kelly, DVM, MPH, Clinical Professor In late summer, the police department of a small town was contacted by concerned citizens because several ducks had died at a small urban park with a pond. A police officer went to the park and noticed several dead ducks close to the pond. Other ducks were still alive but were unable to fly and seemed weak and green fluid was draining from their mouths. The officer was able to catch affected ducks easily and they couldn’t lift their heads. People sometimes swim in the pond. Because of concern for the ducks’ health and any possible pathogens in the pond that may affect swimmers, three deceased ducks were submitted to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The ducks had a variety of minor gross lesions: one had an enlarged hemorrhagic spleen, in one duck the liver

was enlarged, and the third duck had numerous, small rice-like structures in the breast muscle (sarcocystis). Histologically, there were multiple and varied lesions but no definitive diagnosis was determined. They had evidence of multiple parasitic infections that were unlikely to be of high clinical significance overall; schistosomiasis and sarcocystis are relatively common in waterfowl. Cloacal swabs from the three ducks were pooled and tested for avian influenza. Results were negative: avian influenza virus matrix gene was not detected by real-time PCR testing of cloacal swabs from the ducks.

Why the move to teaching and Extension vet work?

4-H kids and developing programs and helping them understand how to take better care of their horses. There’s a lot of good that’s done there. With the vet school, I really enjoy teaching our students. I really enjoy going with the vet students to the Navajo reservation for our horse castration clinics. It’s a neat experience getting to spend time with the vet students and also with the Navajo people and being able to help their horses.

Dr. Hoopes: I loved vet practice. I loved driving around this valley and meeting new friends. That was the hardest part—leaving all those friends, leaving my partner. The biggest reason that I did it, I kind of laid it out in three ways. Number one, it was an opportunity for me to focus solely on horses and vet work with horses. Horses have been my passion my whole life. Second, it was a lifestyle change. Veterinary work is really hard, and being in a rural practice is very hard. You’re on call all the time, and I was missing a lot of my family’s activities, so number two was a lifestyle change. Also, I was palpating about 500 cows a week, and [it was hard on] my shoulder and my arm. I didn’t realize how much wear and tear it was taking on my body until I backed away from that line of work. I started at the university in August of 2015. The benefits that come with the job and the work I do now made coming to the university a good change. What keeps you motivated in your job as USU Extension equine specialist and vet school faculty member?

Dr. Hoopes: What keeps me motivated in Extension is Ride

Utah! It’s being able to go out and ride with the veterans, military personnel, and their families. I also really enjoy working with the

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Q: What advice do you have for students in vet school?

Dr. Hoopes: Stay in reality. Remember that vet school is a very short time of your life. Enjoy it. You’ve got to enjoy what you’re learning. There will be times you will wish you could go back to vet school and learn that again and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s what they were talking about, and if I would have known this now, I would have learned that a lot better.’ You’ve come into a wonderful profession. It is exciting, there are a lot of changes. We have a profession with as much variety of careers in it as you can imagine. But do what you enjoy. You can make a lot of money doing a lot of things, but if you don’t enjoy it, then it is hard work.

By: Mariah Spencer Photo: Bronson Teichert

2020 Spring




CONFLICT, COMMUNICATION & CORE VALUES You could say veterinarians are heroes. They provide medical care for animals, large and small. They support industries like agriculture and recreation. They protect human health by evaluating food safety and preventing cross-contamination. But heroes have their share of challenges, too. The hero’s problem is often taking responsibility for things outside their control, according to Clair Canfield, a senior lecturer in communication studies at Utah State University. In that sense, veterinarians absolutely fit the bill: their job requires them to take responsibility for the health of animals they do not own and deal with a range of problems that may be treatable, but are not wholly in their control. Assuming that responsibility can weigh heavily, as indicated by evidence from several large-scale medical research studies evaluating the mental health of veterinary professionals. Improving communication between veterinarians and their clients, staff, and loved ones has been recommended to address the high levels of distress, depression, and suicide reported among veterinary professionals. To implement these recommendations and promote wellness, USU’s School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) offered a conflict resolution certificate program comprised of three sessions of lecture and discussion led by Ms. Canfield and SVM Director of Wellness, Chris Chapman. Students, faculty, and staff began the program by selecting and ranking their core values in their personal order of importance. Participants pared a list of 83 values down to 30, selecting from among cards labeled, for example, authority, purpose, tradition, wealth, popularity, creativity, intimacy, independence, forgiveness and more that helped them physically visualize their ranking order.


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“It helps you figure out what you hold important and why you do what you do,” said Lauren Frary, a second-year student. “I came to learn more about managing conflict both personally and professionally.” A recent addition to the USU SVM faculty, Beth Granger said, “I think this training is invaluable. As a veterinarian, you’re an employee, a boss, and a doctor. You not only have to deal with superiors, but also with support staff and clients.” Canfield encouraged participants to reconsider how they see conflict because it is part of any relationship — working or otherwise — and how we treat those we are in conflict with is critical to success and well-being. “You never change anything from a defensive position,” Canfield said. “I haven’t changed my mind. I haven’t changed my behavior. I haven’t changed my clothes.” VOCAB serves as the program’s acronym for remembering tools of conflict resolution: “V” for vulnerability, “O” for ownership, “C” for communication, “A” for acceptance, and “B” for boundaries. Canfield said being vulnerable is about opening up and demonstrating trust, but vulnerability is counterintuitive in conflict. Ownership is the opposite of laying blame or making unfair accusations in conflict.



CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CLASS OF 2019! These new doctors of veterinary medicine and representatives of our faculty and staff gathered for a commencement group photo at Washington State University. Front row, left to right: Sarah Frandsen, Chad Bateman, Carine Otto, Sally Fleming McCaullagh, Kristen Jensen, Ariel Nelson, Dustin Liechty, Kathryn Kammerer, Dustin Kinney, Terek Behunin, Caleb Gwilliam, Michelle Yamashita Not Pictured: Anna Baker and Jayce Calhoon

Middle row, left to right: Mason Anderson, Blythe Jones, Lindsay Simmons, Kathryn Sigley, Patricia Neagu, Lindsey Cheetham, Rickie Warr, Alison Bellgrau, Alexa Hollingsworth, Blayde McClellan, Kristen Pitsenbarger, Marilize Van Der Walt

Back row, left to right: Michael Bishop, Melisa Bishop, Allison Willoughby, David Wilson, Kerry Rood, Ralph Meyer, Chris Davies, Ken White, Dirk Vanderwall, Frank Gayley, Mandy Langston

Photo by: After Images Visual Services

“Have you ever been successful after blaming someone enough?” Canfield asked. ”The gift of ownership is empowerment. Though you can take ownership to the extreme. It is not heroic to do for other people what they can and should do for themselves.” During the program’s second session, students engaged with Canfield by asking questions about their experiences with conflict. Of particular interest to students were scenarios where they perceived those in conflict with them as being manipulative or unreasonable. Chapman addressed these concerns when he said communication processes are the ways we express our thoughts and feelings when in conflict, and he labeled manipulative behavior in conflict as “the dark arts.” Chapman urged students to avoid “the dark arts” entirely because manipulation does not produce the changes one wants.

Finally, individuals in conflict need to set boundaries for the benefit of all involved because boundaries represent deeply important or personal values, Canfield said. Students asked questions about how to set the boundaries in a dialogue and what to do when someone is abusive in their requests. Chapman said conflicts that are especially difficult to resolve usually come down to differing values, and that no conflict can be solved by an agreement that violates a person’s core values. “Anytime you get stuck, a good, open, honest question is, ‘Can you help me understand?’” Canfield said. If someone is set on using manipulation or refuses to explain their boundaries, Chapman said you have to accept that they have made their choice and you can’t change their mind.

By: Ammon Teare

2020 Spring


resiliencyand HOPE Despite the challenges our society is currently facing, these challenges also bring opportunities for reflection that inspire people to help others and move forward with hope for a brighter future.

Today, USU’s top priority is the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and their families. Some of our students are facing unique financial hardships as they work to complete their education at this time. We understand the very real impact of the current health and economic crisis and we deeply appreciate the help we are receiving from our Aggie community to meet the needs of our students. While some are in a position to help with immediate needs, others wish they could. For those who wish they could do more, there are ways to do more than you ever thought possible. Even a modest gift from your will or trust can change the course of a future Vet Med student’s life. Would you like to know more? We’re just a phone call away. Already included USU’s School of Veterinary Medicine in your plans? We hope you will let us know. We would be honored to partner with you in building a bright future for tomorrow’s Vet Med students. USU Gift Planning Team: Ben Stahmann & Karin Hardy

435-797-7191 | giftplanning@usu.edu


ALUMNI/DONOR Recognition



hen I hear the word “resilient,” I think of determination and grit. During this unusual and challenging time, we have seen our current students and faculty exemplify resilience. As we were about to send this edition to print, the COVID-19 pandemic broke through every headline across the globe. Like many others, our course of action quickly changed. Students learned they would not be returning to campus after spring break, and faculty learned that most all courses were moving to a virtual environment. In only a few short days, this large undertaking was accomplished. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment for either parties to make, and yet, they both are pushing forward and adjusting to the “new norm.” In this edition, many courageous individuals have shared their story of trial, tribulation and grief. In every aspect, they are the definition of resilient. Upon reading their words, I feel inspired and motivated to not take anything for granted and help where I can. I have had the pleasure of visiting with many individuals who do just that! They help where and when they can. I am impressed by their sincere desire and determination to make a difference in a student’s life. I have recently been visiting with a woman whose heart-felt passion for animals and the veterinarian industry sincerely shines in every word she speaks. She simply wants to help students so they can help animals for generations to come. At this time, we applaud those who support our students in any way. Starting a scholarship or supporting our student emergency relief fund in the School of Veterinary Medicine is making a difference! It is improving lives! It is teaching what you love! Please visit vetmed.usu.edu or contact Michelle Merrill at 435-797-8556 for more information about student scholarship opportunities.

SCHOLARSHIPS Animal Reference Pathology Scholarship Barbara Troisi Scholarship Benny and June Benninghoff Scholarship Cache Veterinary Practitioners Association Scholarship Dirk K. Vanderwall and Allison R. Willoughby Scholarship Dr. Don B. and Joyce C. Olsen Scholarship Dr. Doug & Beth Murphy Scholarship Dr. Glen Esplin Scholarship Dr. J. Brent and ReNee Mckinnon Scholarship Dr. James P. Gibson and Dr. Paul B. Sanders Aggie Family Scholarship Dr. Kelly Esplin Scholarship Fanwood Foundation Scholarship George B. Caine Dairy Scholarship Humphreys-Collins Scholarship John Mathis Scholarship Joyce Nation Scholarship Jennifer Pastori Memorial Scholarship Michael and Melisa Bishop Servant Leadership Scholarship Ray Anderson Scholarship Oakdell Farms and Ritewood Scholarship Ross A. and Darlene Smart Scholarship Scott & Marla Boyer Humane Scholarship Utah Veterinary Medical Association Scholarship


Director of Development 2020 Spring





4815 Old Main Hill Logan, Utah 84322-4815


WE TEACH WHAT YOU LOVE. ANIMAL HEALTH extension.usu.edu/animalhealth

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LIVE WELL UTAH livewellutah.org

extension.usu.edu In its programs and activities, Utah State University does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information, sexual orientation or gender identity/ expression, disability, status as a protected veteran, or any other status protected by University policy or local, state, or federal law. The following individuals have been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Executive Director of the Office of Equity, Alison Adams-Perlac, alison.adams-perlac@usu.edu, Title IX Coordinator, Hilary Renshaw, hilary. renshaw@usu.edu, Old Main Rm. 161, 435-797-1266. For further information on notice of non-discrimination: U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 303-844-5695, OCR. Denver@ed.gov. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kenneth L. White, Vice President for Extension and Agriculture, Utah State University.