Associate Professor Arnaud Van Wettere received the 2022 Mid-Career Educator Award from the American College of Veterinary Pathologists in a ceremony at the organization’s annual conference in Boston. Dr. Van Wettere teaches in Utah State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“I try to present the material in the context of where students are going to see it,” Van Wettere said. “I want to show them that we’re not learning this material just because it exists, but because it’s pertinent to their life as a veterinarian. When we teach them something, it’s because they need to know it, even if it’s a rare disease.”
As a diagnostic pathologist at the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Van Wettere has no shortage of experience with rare and common diseases alike — and that makes a difference.
“It’s easier to teach a material you live every day rather than teaching out of a book you don't practice,” Van Wettere said. “I can show them cases in class I’ve seen before that are relevant to what they’re learning. I wouldn’t conceive of teaching a material I don’t practice. I wouldn’t feel good about teaching it.”
As a graduate of the University of Liege’s doctor of veterinary medicine program, a former assistant professor of avian medicine at the Ludwig-Maximillian University in Munich, and a former assistant professor of pathology at North Carolina State University, Van Wettere has perspective on educating vet students that goes beyond the United States. He noted that while many American programs place more emphasis on the practical aspects of veterinary medicine, his own education in Belgium provided a deeper look into some of the sciences behind what veterinarians do, such as biochemistry and bacteriology, as well as some things that aren’t part of American vet school curriculum at all, like food safety.
Van Wettere sees value in both approaches and notes that neither has remained static over time. And as Utah State works to establish its four-year program, he knows that the educational experience will continue to evolve.
“We're changing,” explained Van Wettere. “The curriculum and the way we teach vet students will be different from what we do now. We keep trying to improve what we do.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for Van Wettere is his love of birds. As an accomplished falconer and birder, he also spends his free time working with or watching birds, and his passion has informed many of his career choices.
“It's pretty much driven my life since I was 12 years old,” Van Wettere said with a laugh. “I became a veterinarian because I had a passion for animals and birds especially. That drove me to vet school and afterward a residency in avian medicine at the University of Minnesota. During my avian residency, we were meeting with a pathologist every week, and that led me to seek more training in pathology and to become a pathologist myself. My passion for birds and wildlife directed where I live, what I do, everything. I still do a fair amount of bird-related pathology work.”
Finding time to instruct students can be a challenge when there’s also diagnostic pathology work and research to be done, but Van Wettere also manages to mentor residents at the UVDL and advise USU doctoral students. He takes pride in his work as a professor.
“I feel very privileged to teach vet students,” Van Wettere said. “They’re very bright and very motivated. Not everyone is so lucky.”
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