Veterinary Education Provides Foundation for Varied, Successful Business Career

Jun 15, 2014 / Alumni Profiles

In the words of Condoleeza Rice, “Life is full of surprises and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success.”

Dr. Richard Wallin, Illinois DVM Class of 1963, has experienced the unpredictability of life first hand, having navigated many unforeseen twists throughout his career.

[Dr. Richard Wallin]

Richard Wallin, DVM IL1963, intended to practice small animal medicine but wound up being the CEO for a large biomedical company.

As a student at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Wallin was confident in his career plan.

“All I ever wanted as a student was to practice small animal medicine, but ironically, in my 37-year career I spent only two weeks in practice,” said Dr. Wallin.

Dr. Wallin continued his studies at the college after completing his DVM. In 1966 he earned a PhD in veterinary medical science under pharmacology professor Dr. William Huber. Two children were born to Wallin and his wife, Susan, while both were in graduate school.

As Dr. Wallin was preparing to graduate from his PhD studies, he was recruited by the aerospace medical division of McDonnell Aircraft to assist in preparing monkeys for space travel.

Dr. Wallin said “At the time the only medical personnel on staff were MDs, so I was brought in as a veterinarian to perform various preparations and research.” The project stalled and Dr. Wallin moved on.

In 1967, he joined Baxter Laboratories in Chicago as a staff veterinarian and senior research pharmacologist, working to develop anticonvulsants and inhalational anesthetics. His research efforts, in collaboration with Drs. Regan and Napoli, resulted in the discovery and development of sevoflurane, a widely used general anesthetic agent.

Eventually, Dr. Wallin became the director of research administration and associate director of pharmacology and microbiology.

“My time with Baxter Laboratories was invaluable. I was surrounded by individuals who served as mentors and teachers,” Dr. Wallin said. “In my experience, it’s so important to associate with people who have skills that you desire and a willingness to teach.”

In 1977, Dr. Wallin left Baxter Laboratories to become the scientific director for North American Science Associates in Northwood, Ohio. NAMSA is an independent contract research organization specializing in medical devices.

Ted Gorski, the creator and CEO of NAMSA at the time, introduced Dr. Wallin to a staff of 35 individuals. The company now employs over 650 associates and has a worldwide presence conducting both non-clinical and clinical research.

Dr. Wallin quickly climbed positions within the company and was soon appointed CEO. He also held the position of chairman of the board for NAMSA, beginning in 1996 and continuing nine years after his retirement in 2000.

“The greatest challenge that I faced during my time as a business professional and leader was managing the individuals who worked for me,” he said. “As a student, you are so focused on learning about medicine that you never realize how much business is involved with veterinary medicine, regardless of your discipline.”

By Kody Carr, Class of 2015