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Thursday, January 6, 2011

A New Dean for the Nation's Oldest Veterinary College

Blog written by Dr. Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Posted January 6, 2011.


When Professor Lisa Nolan goes to work at Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine on January 15th, she will be assuming the position of dean of the oldest veterinary college in the United States.[i]

Dean Lisa Nolan
Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Photo provided by Iowa State University 

I met Dr. Nolan during an AVMA accreditation review site visit to the Ames campus five years ago. In her position as executive department chair at the time, she clearly and concisely represented the college’s academic programs, and provided a compelling vision for the future direction of teaching and research in the college.

Lisa took what she calls a “circuitous route to veterinary medicine”, having first been a school teacher in her native state of Georgia where she developed her imperturbability, that trait that the legendary medical scholar, William Osler, deemed essential for an effective leader.

Graduating in veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia in 1988 (followed by a PhD in medical microbiology in 1992), Lisa developed a research program in bacterial diseases of livestock and poultry, and their effects on animal and human health.

After moving to Iowa State University as department chair, Dr. Nolan continued her research and teaching in microbiology and preventive medicine. Because of her expertise in food safety issues, she was an effective spokesperson to both producers and consumers in the agriculturally-rich state of Iowa. Recognizing her growing leadership abilities, Dean John Thomson appointed her into successively more important associate dean roles.

Lisa recently told me how much she valued her supervisor’s support and guidance. “I am very grateful for the mentoring provided by Dean Thomson, whose principled and innovative leadership of our college has allowed me to develop the leadership skills necessary to transition into his position at the helm of the college”. 

As the first woman dean of the college, Lisa will join four other women who currently serve as veterinary deans of the 28 veterinary colleges in the United States.

Dean Nolan will face significant challenges as university budgets continue to shrink at the same time as programs must grow and diversify to meet the growing demands for veterinary services for both companion and farm animals. However, I am confident that her intellect, good judgment and―yes, her imperturbability―will make her tenure successful.

[i] Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine is the oldest of the ten surviving veterinary colleges established between 1879 and 1907. Cornell had a program in veterinary education starting in 1868, but Iowa State was the first to formerly establish a college.

Dr. Smith welcomes comments at