A new beginning for College of Veterinary Medicine

New Iowa State dean of veterinary medicine Dan Grooms poses with a student. Grooms started his position as dean on Oct. 1.  

Jordyn Dubois

Dan Grooms started as the Stephen G. Juelsgaard Dean of Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine on Oct. 1.

Growing up just north of Columbus, Ohio, Grooms lived on a farm in an agricultural community. Grooms was inspired to give veterinary school a thought after watching the work that his two uncles did as veterinarians.

“I think growing up on a farm with cattle and dogs and cats and everything, animals were always a part of our family’s life,” Grooms said.

But Grooms can point to the specific experience when he knew he wanted to become a veterinarian.

When he was younger, Grooms showed cattle at country fairs through 4-H and FFA.

One day, a steer ended up gorging himself on corn, which is a problem for cattle because their first stomach is a fermentation bag. All the corn in the first stomach ferments very quickly and produces bad things for the steer.

Grooms’ local veterinarian, Bill Taylor, came to the farm to help save the steer.

Although his steer was unable to be saved, Grooms remembers the dedication of the veterinarian.

“What I remember is how hard he worked, and the fact that he came back every 6 to 8 hours to try and treat the steer,” Grooms said. “That made an impression on me with how hard he worked to help my animal and hopefully save his life.”

Grooms received his Bachelor of Science from Cornell University in 1985, followed by his degree in Veterinary Medicine from Ohio State University in 1989, and finally his doctorate in veterinary prevention medicines from Ohio State in 1997.

As an expert in infectious disease for cattle, Grooms said he was really attracted to the idea of infectious diseases when he went back to graduate school. His main focus was on viral diseases, bacterial infections and how to prevent them.

When an animal is sick, that causes a huge impact economically and can potentially cause a huge risk in food quality and safety.

Grooms wanted to learn not just how to treat the animals when they are sick, but how to stop them from getting sick before an issue occurs.  

“Any time an animal gets sick there are lots of negative consequences, so the proper way to deal with this stuff is to prevent it from happening in the first place,” Grooms said.

Before coming to Iowa State, Grooms served as professor and chair of the department of large animal clinical sciences at Michigan State University. 

Grooms spent 21 years at Michigan State, with most of his time looking at ways to prevent infectious disease, whether it is vaccines, management practices or disease surveillance. 

Grooms represented cow veterinarians all over the United States and North America when he was elected into the leadership role of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. This organization provides continuing education, advocacy and representation to veterinarians at a national level.

The leadership role is a four-year commitment, starting out as an elect, vice president, president and then past president. This gave Grooms a chance to work with veterinarians from the United States and Canada and provide leadership within the cow veterinary profession.

Grooms also served on the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Committee on Animal Health. The committee includes animal representatives from all over the industry that serve to advise the secretary of agriculture on issues related to animal health at the federal level.

Currently, Grooms is on the Council of Research for the American Veterinary Medical Association. His job is to advocate for animal research and oversee policies.

If Congress was thinking about doing something that might impact animal research, Grooms would be the voice for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Our job as council research is to chime in and say this is a good idea or a bad idea or here’s a better idea,” Grooms said. “That’s been really rewarding in that we’re helping our profession and hopefully our society.”

For his future at Iowa State, Grooms said at this point, he has no major plans because not only is he new to the university, but also to the state of Iowa.

“Although certainly the veterinary profession is small so I know quite a bit about what goes on, but probably at this point not enough to have big plans,” Grooms said.

Maynard Hogberg, retired Iowa State animal science professor, worked alongside Grooms at Michigan State. They were both on the faculty, with Hogberg in animal science and Grooms in veterinary sciences.

“I’m excited he’s at Iowa State because he’s a good collaborator and a good person to work with,” Hogberg said. “I’m pleased he’s at Iowa State, and he will bring a lot to the program.”

D.M.V Kent Hoblet, current dean of veterinary sciences at Mississippi State, was a mentor to Grooms in college. Grooms said his career has mirrored Hoblet’s over the years. They both started in practice and then went back to work in academia.

Back in academia, Grooms worked as an extension appointment for 17 years. Here he would take the knowledge from the university, translate it into the field and get it put into practice. Both Hoblet and Grooms then moved into a department chair position followed by a dean position.

“He was a great mentor, I’ve kinda watched how he has led and kinda tried to mirror some of the things he did over time,Grooms said. I guess it’s helped him be successful, and I hope it helps me be successful as well.” 

Grooms is dedicating his first 90 days as dean to really learning about the college and the people in it. He said wants to figure out how the school works and find any problems that need to be addressed.

After the 90 days, Grooms plans on looking at the strengths and weaknesses and planning accordingly.

“What are the opportunities we can build on here, what are the strengths we can capitalize on, or where are the big holes that are really important for us to think about addressing,” Grooms said.

Creating a great place for students to learn, people to work build a career is one of Groom’s major passions.

Celebrating success, whether as individuals, teams or the entire college of veterinary medicine is important from a leadership standpoint. Last week, during veterinary technician week, Grooms walked around thanking many technicians.

“People need to know when we’re doing great things,” Grooms said. “I strive to do that every day, whether its a simple thank you, or sending someone an email congratulating them on getting a grant.”

As for his leadership style, Grooms said he has no desire to lead as a dictator. His goal is to put together a leadership team that works well together and can trust each other, which will hopefully lead to the team making great decisions.

“’So how does it feel to be dean?’” Grooms said. “Well it’s exciting. There’s a lot of great things going on here in the college of veterinary medicine at Iowa State. I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg as knowing the good stuff that’s going on here. Every day I’m learning about some really cool stuff.”