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Presenters & Facilitators:  2006


Rick DeBowes, DVM, MS
Kathleen Ruby, PhD
Jeff Thoren, DVM
Suzanne Kurtz, PhD
Jennifer Brandt, PhD
Karen Cornell, DVM
Susan Seaman, EdD
Julia Brannan, DVM
Betsy Charles, DVM  


John and Fay Bachelder
Gilbert Burns, DVM, PhD
Carolyn Wyatt, PhD
Abbie Demeerleer
Kelly Farnsworth, DVM, MS
Margaret-Mary McEwan, BVSC
Leslie Sprunger, DVM, PhD
Graham Swinney ,BVSc, DVLS


Dr. Gil Burns   Gilbert A. Burns is the Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, the Director of Admissions, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Veterinary Comparative Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology (VAPP) in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University (WSU). He holds Ph.D. (Neuroanatomy) and DVM degrees from Cornell University, as well as a B.A. in psychology (magna cum laude) from Michigan State University and physician’s assistant certification (PA-C) from the University of Wisconsin.
By the time he joined the CVM faculty at WSU in 1992, Gil had functioned as a primary-care physician’s assistant, a private practice veterinarian, and an academic with research interests that include the elucidation of the hindbrain neurocircuitry involved in the control of food intake. While at WSU, Gil has been active in scholarly research and publication, teaching (veterinary anatomy, neuroscience, and leadership development courses) and service (at the university, state and national level). Most recently, he has participated in ongoing efforts to enhance the personal growth, leadership, and communication skills of veterinary medical students and has presented the WSU-derived Emotional Competency Model at veterinary schools and professional meetings in the United States and Canada.
  Jennifer Brandt is the Program Director of Honoring the Bond at
the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

As director for the Honoring the Bond program at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Jennifer Brandt is leading the effort to provide veterinary teams with the communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills needed to promote quality veterinary care and veterinary career success.

Honoring the Bond services include professional development, communication skills training and practice management education. These courses provide applied learning opportunities that foster veterinary teambuilding and enhance veterinary team communication, while promoting a culture of superior client service that enhances veterinary client satisfaction and advances the clinical learning model. Additional services include providing grief support outreach services for pet owners and providing continuing education and consultation for veterinary professionals.

Dr. Brandt was one of two faculty members in North America asked to serve as a faculty trainer for the Bayer Institute for Healthcare Communication’s Faculty Development Program in 2004 and 2005. This is her second year as a Veterinary Leadership Experience (VLE) faculty member. She also was invited to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine to teach an educational series on “Communication in Veterinary Medicine.” Dr. Brandt has presented several lectures at the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association’s Midwest Veterinary Conference and at other conferences around the nation.

Dr. Brandt previously served as a medical social worker, educator and researcher specializing in work with survivors of crime and trauma and bereavement facilitation. She received her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Indianapolis and her master’s and doctoral degrees in social work from The Ohio State University.

  Julia Brannan is a 2000 DVM graduate of the University of Illinois where she started the CARE Helpline, a pet loss support helpline.

Dr. Brannan received many awards in veterinary school, including several human-animal bond awards for her work in end-of-life issues and animal behavior. Her most cherished award was being voted “Most Compassionate” by her veterinary classmates at graduation.

Dr. Brannan was on faculty at Colorado State University, working with the Argus Institute and the Community Practice Service until 2004. At Colorado State University she was the first recipients of the Argus Institute’s Bond-Centered Practitioner Certification and co-authored the Argus Institute’s Guidelines for a Bond-Centered Practice. Her love of teaching and desire to make a positive difference in the profession has won her several awards and acknowledgements for teaching and compassionate client and patient care.

Dr. Brannan joined the staff of Washington State University, this year, to pursue a PhD in the area of clinical communication skills. With a previous history of being Wilderness Education Association Outdoor Leadership certified, she was drawn to Washington State University because of their groundbreaking work in the area of leadership in the profession of veterinary medicine.

  Betsy Charles is a 2003 graduate of Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She developed an interest in lameness and equine imaging while working closely with Dr. Bob Schneider, a pioneer in equine MRI. Her senior thesis summarized an AQHA project investigating the use of MRI in furthering our understanding of navicular disease.

After graduation from veterinary school, she completed a one-year internship at San Luis Rey Equine Hospital in Bonsall, CA, a large referral hospital specializing in equine medicine and surgery. During this internship, she continued to pursue her interest in equine radiology by working with Dr. Norm Rantanen.
After a year in the field, she was given the opportunity to narrow her focus and became the supervising veterinarian at Equest Diagnostic Imaging Center, a clinic solely devoted to equine imaging and lameness. This has allowed her to combine her love for equine imaging with leadership as it applies to veterinary medicine.

Her passion is to make a difference in equine veterinary medicine for both horses and the practitioners who care for them by becoming a leader in the field. To that end, she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in organization leadership from Biola University. This is her second year facilitating at the VLE.
  Richard M. DeBowes is the Professor of Surgery and Chair for the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences (VCS) in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University (WSU). He also currently serves as special assistant to the dean for leadership and professional development. Rick holds a Masters Degree in Veterinary Surgery from Washington State ('82) and a DVM from the University of Illinois ('79) as well as BS degrees from Illinois and Massachusetts. He is a Diplomate of and Regent for the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, a former chair of Clinical Sciences at Kansas State University a member of the AVMA House of Delegates, an active contributor to organized veterinary medicine and a past president of several national veterinary organizations including the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians and the North American Veterinary Conference.
Although formally trained as an equine clinician/surgeon and engaged for most of a 27year career as a veterinary clinical educator and academic surgeon, Dr. DeBowes has spent much of the past 6 years of his career focusing on changes in student and program needs in Colleges of Veterinary Medicine and specifically, how best to equip students with the skills they need for success and continued professional growth.

Abbie DeMeerleer   Abbie DeMeerleer is the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment Officer at Washington State University. My primary goal is to recruit students to enter the field of veterinary medicine and to study at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. I travel throughout the western U.S. visiting various colleges and universities to meet with prospective students, explain the details of a professional DVM program and answer general questions.
States I will generally travel to are: Idaho, Montana, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming and occasionally Oregon and maybe even California. I also travel around Washington State to meet and recruit prospective students, as well as talk to junior high and high school students about careers in veterinary medicine.

When I’m not on the road, I am helping coordinate and give tours of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, serving as a liaison between the admissions committee and students who are involved in the admissions process, as well as developing new recruitment materials and strategies. I am also on the Leadership Team and help plan, coordinate and facilitate the National Veterinary Leadership Experience and WSU Student Leadership Experience, as well as assist with the Leadership Development series.

My position is ever-evolving and always exciting! It pairs my passion for helping people discover and achieve their potential with my love of travel and meeting people.

Kelly Farnsworth   Kelly Farnsworth graduated from Washington State University in 1993. He completed an equine ambulatory internship at The Ohio State University and completed an Equine Surgery residency and Masters degree at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, which is part of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr Farnsworth is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Dr. Farnsworth is currently an Assistant Professor of Equine Surgery at Washington State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. His clinical and research efforts have been concentrated in minimally invasive surgery, laparoscopy, and lower limb lameness.
  Suzanne M. Kurtz was Professor of Communication, joint appointed in the Faculties of Education and Medicine, University of Calgary from 1976 through 2005. Effective January, 2006, she joined the faculty of Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where she is Clinical Professor and Director of Clinical Communication. Focusing her career on improving communication practices in health care and education and on developing curricula and methods for teaching and learning communication skills, she has worked with a variety of groups: medical and education students, residents, practicing physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, patient groups, veterinarians and students of veterinary medicine, teachers, and administrators in health and education.
For 27 years she directed the undergraduate communication curriculum in Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine and has consulted nationally and internationally at all levels of medical education regarding the specifics of setting up effective communication programs for medical students, residents, faculty and staff. In 1998 she began working with colleagues in the Ontario Veterinary College to pioneer communication programs for veterinary medicine. Currently she is directing development of Washington State University’s communication program for veterinarians and veterinary students. She has served as advisor to the Bayer Institute for Health Care Communication, Cancer Care Ontario’s Communication Task Force, and Health Canada’s Canadian Breast Cancer Initiative. She was appointed to the task force that initially developed Calgary’s innovative inquiry-based Master of Teaching program. Currently she is a consulting member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada’s national CanMEDS Phase IV Communicator Working Group, the Medical Council of Canada’s Executive Committee for the National Strategy for Physician Communication Skills Assessment and Enhancement, and Pfizer Animal Health’s ‘Frank’ communication project. Working across diverse cultural and disciplinary lines, she has collaborated on communication program development, team building, and conflict management in education, law and business, and has served on several international development projects related to health and education in Nepal, Southeast Asia and South Africa.

Along with numerous articles, her publications include two companion books co-authored with JD Silverman and J Draper entitled Teaching and Learning Communication Skills in Medicine and Skills for Communicating with Patients (Radcliffe Publishing, Oxford, England and San Francisco – originally published in 1998, the revised 2nd editions of both books were published in 2005). An earlier book co-authored with VM Riccardi was entitled Communication and Counseling in Health Care (1983, Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Illinois). Her interest in communication in medicine began in 1974 when she did her doctoral thesis research on the relationship between the nonverbal communication of physicians and patient satisfaction. Dr. Kurtz has also published in the areas of participatory education and participatory development. She collaborated with A. Chuchat, MP Carunungan, KJ Foreman, and BJ Spronk on a volume entitled Participatory Education in Cross-Cultural Settings that reflects on a five-year development project based in the Philippines, Thailand, and Canada (1997, for the Dialogues on Development Series, published by the Division of International Development, University of Calgary, Alberta).

Educational degrees
PhD 1975, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA
MA 1972, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA
BA 1967, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, USA

Other interests: spending time with family and friends, travel, music and almost any outdoor activity, especially those that take place in the wilderness

Margaret Mary McEwen   Margaret Mary McEwen is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Anesthesiology at Washington State University. She received her Bachelor in Veterinary Science from the University of Sydney, Australia and performed a Residency at Cornell University. She is a member of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists and a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. She is a Diplomate in the ACVA.

She is interested in perioperative equine pain management.


Susan J. Seaman is the education specialist member of the WSU CVM VLE/SLE Leadership Team, with Master’s, Education Specialist, and Doctor of Education degrees in Educational Administration from the University of Idaho.

As a teacher, Susan has been involved with district, state, and regional leadership in the areas of curriculum, instruction, and assessment development. A teaching highlight was to receive the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teaching from the National Science Foundation.

As an administrator, Susan has implemented and evaluated a variety of programs, policies, procedures, supervision, and grants, has worked with state department of education personnel and legislators, has planned professional conferences, and has presented at state and regional conferences, in addition to co-chairing an Idaho Achievement Standards committee. An administrative highlight was to receive the Educator of the Decade Award from the University of Idaho Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa. Additional leadership training has been in Expeditionary Learning/Outward Bound, including completing a Puget Sound Longboat Course and a New York City Urban Expedition.

Susan also has experience with breeding and showing Arabian horses and Irish setters. She donated a carrier mare and affected colt to the WSU combined immunodeficiency (CID) program and successfully test bred and registered her ISCA Top Brood Matron/Top Litter producer as one of the first to be certified as a non-carrier of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

  Leslie Sprunger received a B.S. in Biological Science from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (1983), a D.V.M. from Washington State University (1987), and entered private practice as a small animal veterinarian. Dr. Sprunger returned to academia to earn a Ph.D. in Physiology (1995) from the University of Minnesota Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, where she was the recipient of a Graduate School Fellowship, the Louise T. Dosdall Fellowship for Women in Science, the Charles and Dorothy Andrew Bird Award for Research, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute predoctoral fellowship.
An NIH Clinical Investigator Development Award funded Dr. Sprunger’s post-doctoral training in the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Physiology, and the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Sprunger was appointed research faculty at University of Michigan in 1999, and joined the Department of IPN as Assistant Professor in July 2000.
  Kathleen L. Ruby is a licensed professional clinical counselor with more than twenty years experience in the counseling and educational fields. She has been the head of WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine Counseling and Wellness Department and on the veterinary school faculty for the past seven years. In this capacity, she has counseled veterinary students and faculty, served as a faculty member teaching professional skills, and developed and conducted programs and workshops related to professionalism, communication skills, stress management, life balance, and leadership within the college.
Dr. Ruby also developed and supervises WSU’s Pet Loss Support Hotline, and trains students in client bereavement management. The development of an integrated method teaching and reinforcing life/professional success/ non-technical skills in veterinary students is a central goal of her work.

She is a frequent speaker at state veterinary associations and practice venues. With a background and training in individual and organizational psychology, human development and leadership, Dr. Ruby brings a unique mix of people-skills, psychological insights, and programmatic ideas to the profession of veterinary medicine. Her special research interests include the psychology of high achieving individuals and the development of emotional competence in medical professionals.

John & Fay Batchelder

John is the Executive Director and Fay is the Program Director at Ross Point Camp and Conference Center in Post Falls, Idaho. John and Fay Batchelder have been in the camp and conference field for approximately 19 years, and actively involved in team building and outdoor adventure for 17 years. John has a B.S. in Zoology.


Previous to camping they toured with an International Drama Group performing plays and leading drama and communication workshops. John traveled with the group for 6 years traveling through the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Fay was with the group for 3 years. It was there they met and were married.

They have three children, Zachary, Rachel, and Joel. They love camping, climbing, skiing, motorcycles, music ….life!

Graham Swinney   Graham Swinney

  Jeff Thoren is the founder of Gifted Leaders LLC. His personal mission is to bring joy and fulfillment to individuals and to transform organizations into renewed workplaces by emphasizing effective leadership and nurturing a positive and inspiring team culture.

This passion for leadership and effective organizational culture has developed over a 22-year professional career including experience in both private business as well as in the corporate world. Jeff has a strong interest in encouraging human development, particularly through one-to-one coaching relationships with others.

A graduate of Washington State University with a bachelor's degree in Veterinary Science (1981) and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree (1984), Dr. Thoren worked as an associate veterinarian in small animal practice in western Washington from 1984-87. In 1987, he left private practice to serve as a Professional Service Representative with Hill's Pet Nutrition. He stayed with Hill's until 1994 when he joined Novartis Animal Health as the Regional Technical Manager for the Pacific Sales Region before moving to Greensboro , NC as Associate Manager of Professional Services in 1995. He became Manager of Professional Services in 1998.

From October 2000 through June 2005, Jeff served as the Director of Professional Recruitment and Development for Pet’s Choice, Inc., a family of 46 community veterinary hospitals and specialty practices in five U.S. States. His primary goal there was to help transform Pet’s Choice into an employer of choice within the veterinary profession.
Carolyn Wyatt Carolyn Wyatt is a licensed psychologist who joined the Counseling and Wellness Deparment in the summer of 2005 after working for more than 20 years in her own private psychology practice. Having grown up in a family of veterinarians (father, uncle and brothers) she is familiar with some of the rewards and challenges of the profession.


Her primary role in the veterinary college is that of counseling students about the wide range of issues and problems they deal with in their school and personal lives. She also conducts workshops and presentations that address common student problems such as learning difficulties, study skills, relationship and communication problems, and job search strategies.
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