Iowa State's College of Veterinary Medicine celebrates 125th anniversary

AMES, Iowa --This year marks the 125th anniversary of Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, the nation's oldest public veterinary college and the first veterinary college west of the Mississippi.

When the college was founded in 1879, hog cholera was among the most prevalent and devastating diseases threatening the fledgling livestock industry. The best minds in veterinary medicine believed the disease was caused by bacteria. However, vaccine development and testing carried out in 1905 by veterinarians from Iowa State and the new U.S. Department of Agriculture Hog Cholera Research Station in Ames helped establish that the disease was viral. Their live-virus hyperimmune vaccine made historic advances in the control of the disease.

A founding premise of the college was to provide a scientific method and organization to the control of animal diseases, helping to ensure the success of the food animal industry, said Dr. John Thomson, the college's 14th dean.

"The visionaries who established the college recognized the importance of veterinary medicine to the livestock industry and to the safety of the food supply," Thomson said.

The college continues to play a leadership role in livestock disease eradication. Last fall, the Iowa Pork Producers Association honored ISU's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) and others for cooperative efforts in eradicating pseudorabies, a highly contagious swine disease. In 2000, the VDL processed more than 850,000 pseudorabies serology tests as part of the state's eradication program.

"The college has a rich history of research contributions to the understanding and control of infectious diseases of production animals," Thomson said. "In fact, no other college of veterinary medicine in the U. S. has studied swine infectious diseases more extensively than ISU."

Some highlights from the College of Veterinary Medicine's contributions to production animal medicine are presented below.

  • In the late 1950s and the 1960s, Dr. William P. Switzer determined the causes of atrophic rhinitis in swine, and also isolated the cause for one form of pneumonia in swine. These findings led to methods to save U.S. pork producers an estimated $60 million annually.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, vaccines and diagnostic control methods for infectious bronchitis in chickens were developed by Dr. M.S. Hofstad. These research advances save poultry producers an estimated $80 million annually.
  • Research by Dr. Richard F. Ross in the 1970s led to the reduction of the severity of a disease that causes lactational failure in sows, saving U.S. pork producers an estimated $37 million annually.
  • In 1998, faculty members Drs. Kyoung-Jin Yoon and Bruce Janke identified a new subtype of Swine Influenza Virus (SIV H3N2) -- the first new subtype detected since the disease was discovered in the U.S. in 1918.
  • In 1997, Dr. Pat Halbur and collaborators discovered the first animal strain of hepatitis E virus. The novel virus -- designated as swine hepatitis E - was determined to be different from the virus found in humans and opened new avenues of research.

The college has designated April 30 as Celebration Day to commemorate the 125th anniversary with a gala banquet.