Following scare, vet lab shakes up its staff, model
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Despite extreme budget cuts to New Hampshire higher education last year, the future of the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Lab looks promising, thanks to staff reorganization and a new business plan.
The lab, which is a collaborative effort between the state, the public and the university, is housed on the UNH campus and provides veterinary care for the animals of over 400 clients, including livestock businesses. In addition, it deals with public health and laboratory initiatives, as well as agricultural testing for the state.
For UNH pre-vet students, the lab also provides valuable hands-on experience.
Jon Wraith, interim dean and director for the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, identified the lab as a “vital contributor to career development,” and notes that all those who utilize the facilities are aware of this fact.
According to Wraith, the decision to reorganize the lab’s management structure was a joint one between the N.H. Commissioner of Agriculture, the State Veterinarian, and the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture Dean’s office, and was prompted by the reductions in state allocations to the Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food and the University System.
The reorganization is multi-faceted; Robert Gibson, who has worked in the lab for 18 years, will oversee the business processes and management. This will allow current lab director and pre-vet advising program head Dr. Richard French to focus his attention on pathology and diagnostics as head pathologist of the lab, and on the students whom he advises.
Wraith is confident in both professionals’ abilities to reform the lab, and in their dedication to the establishment.
“Rich is widely recognized for his professional abilities in veterinary pathology, and has done a superb job in leading the college’s pre-veterinary students to a level not previously seen here,” Wraith said.
Gibson, too, is looking forward to his new directorial role.
“I’m excited to have such a wonderful staff with whom I can work and provide the direction needed to continue moving forward. Because I see the lab as such a valuable resource, I will bring a level of dedication, communication and collaboration needed to see its continued success,” Gibson said.
In addition to staff changes, the lab seeks to adopt a new business model.
Gibson explained that, traditionally, labs like the NHVDL receive additional state funding for providing various public services. However, budget cuts are forcing the lab to explore new fiscal options.
“The ‘new business model’ is a renewed and expanded effort to look at ways of augmenting the revenue generating services of the lab to increase profits and build a foundation that will help ensure an economically sustainable future for the lab,” Gibson said.
Wraith identified several possible strategies to do so, including the development of new services, a decrease in the turnaround time for submitted samples, gaining certified status for specific analyses, and moving to an electronic system.
The laboratory is also looking into seeking philanthropic assistance and into adjusting tuition costs to supplement revenue.
According to Wraith, the state will need to play an active role in assisting the lab.
“Of critical importance will be seeking to have the state return substantial funding to the NHDAMF and the university system in the next biennial budget, so that we are able to maintain our levels of support to the lab,” Wraith said.