This message will appear in the Spring 2022 issue of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association Epitome.
The new head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine will be familiar to any of you who earned your veterinary degree at our college in the past 20 years. Dr. Anne Barger was chosen for the role after an international search. She takes the reins in March from Dr. Denny French, who oversaw tremendous growth during his five years of leading the department.
Like her predecessor and counterparts at many veterinary colleges, Dr. Barger will face the challenge of recruiting clinical specialists to academia during a period of high demand for these professionals. She comes with a few strategies in mind.
Focus on Wellness
“I want to focus on wellness for the people who are already in the department,” she says. “This impacts recruitment because when candidates visit, they see that the faculty are happy and fulfilled and that wellness, inclusiveness, and diversity are valued.”
To this end, one of her first steps will be to lead the department in envisioning and implementing a wellness program with a half-time social worker hired to run it. She’s also planning a formal survey to identify the issues that are most important to the people in the department.
“Once we identify strategic goals as a department, then we can begin to work on the issues,” she says. “I can’t fix every problem, but I can listen and communicate and be transparent about the process.”
Dr. Barger is currently participating in the Leadership Academy of the American Association of Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, a program to develop skills and networking among emerging leaders in academic veterinary medicine.
Leader in Clinical Pathology, Gifted Teacher
She is already widely known as a leader in veterinary clinical pathology. She has served as president of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and as editorial board member for Veterinary Clinical Pathology. With research interests in cytology, immunohistochemistry, and osteosarcoma, she has published more than 60 peer-reviewed articles and co-edited two textbooks: Small Animal Cytologic Diagnosis and Clinical Pathology for Veterinary Technicians.
You may remember her as a gifted teacher and speaker at Fall Conference. Students have twice selected her for the Carl Norden-Pfizer Distinguished Teacher Award and she’s been chosen as the faculty speaker at graduation innumerable times. She’s also received the Zoetis Teaching Award and, in 2017, the American Society of Veterinary Clinical Pathology Educator Award.
Dr. Barger hopes to tap into the Illinois veterinary alumni network to recruit new faculty members. “I know the past 20 years of graduates,” she says, “and there are many who are very talented. I plan to contact them and through them their trainees about our open faculty positions.”
Large, Active, Diverse Department
There are many of those: as of early February 2022, 14 faculty positions, from ophthalmologists, cardiologists, surgeons, and neurologists to veterinarians for primary care and urgent/convenient care roles, were searching for candidates. Additional openings will be announced in coming months.
With around 100 faculty members counting unfilled positions, the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine is among the largest on the University of Illinois campus.
“Faculty in this department teach in every year and every semester of the veterinary curriculum,” points out Dr. Barger. “They also pursue scholarship, and most have extensive time commitments to clinical or diagnostic service.”
Dr. Barger is one of 17 faculty members in the department whose primary appointment is within the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. As department head, she leaves her diagnostic service role but will continue to teach in the second-year veterinary curriculum and offer a third-year elective course.
Success in the Illinois Family
She brings to her new role an understanding of the challenges faced by faculty who have clinical appointments or who are lecturers or instructors.
“It can be hard for them to navigate the promotion and tenure process when they don’t fit neatly into the pathway set up for tenure-track faculty at the university,” she notes. “I want to show them that they have a critical role at the college and help them envision their future at Illinois.”
Dr. Barger has certainly devoted her career to the University of Illinois. She earned bachelor’s, master’s, and veterinary degrees here. After graduating with the DVM Class of 1996, she completed a clinical pathology residency at North Carolina State University. She worked at Antech Diagnostics in Chicago before returning in 2002 to join the faculty.
“I consider the people here part of my family,” says Dr. Barger. “I want to contribute in any way possible to making their lives better.”