Graduate Programs

Combined Anatomic Pathology Residency/PhD Graduate Program

VMP PathologyWashington State University was the first NIH supported training program in veterinary pathology. To date, the program remains one of the largest and most successful programs in training pathologists for leadership positions in academia, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, and government institutions. The program combines anatomic pathology residency training leading to eligibility for American College of Veterinary Pathologist (ACVP) certification coupled with state-of-the-art training in biomedical research leading to the PhD.

The Department's research and training programs are focused in immunology, epidemiology and host-pathogen interactions at the molecular level, and pathogens include bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections of animals and humans. Trainees develop a strong background through coursework in biochemistry, bioinformatics, cell biology, disease pathogenesis, immunology, molecular genetics, and statistics. Dissertation research is carried out under the direction of a highly collaborative internationally recognized research faculty who are experienced in mentoring trainees within state-of-the-art laboratories funded by NIH, USDA, Morris Animal Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, and additional international, federal, state, regional, and private institutions and organizations. This academic research environment is enriched by integration with the USDA-ARS Animal Disease Research Unit, the Washington State University Animal Health Research Center, and the School for Global Animal Health.

Residency training occurs within the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL), a full service veterinary diagnostic laboratory staffed by faculty of the Departments of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology and Veterinary Clinical Sciences. WADDL has 3 primary facilities, a primary full service laboratory in Pullman, an Aquatic Health laboratory in Pullman and an Avian Health and Food Safety Laboratory branch in Puyallup. The laboratories are accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), WADDL is one of 12 founding members of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (funded through USDA/APHIS), and one of the 9 veterinary diagnostic laboratories that serve as a reference lab in the Laboratory Response Network for Bioterrorism (funded through the Centers for Disease Control). This ensures that residents develop a strong background in all aspects of laboratory medicine, including detection and diagnosis of emerging and zoonotic pathogens. The faculty includes 10 ACVP- and ACLAM- certified pathologists with training focused on close interaction among faculty and trainees. The high level surgical biopsy and necropsy case loads provide direct experiential learning and are supported by specialized pathology seminars. More than 90% of trainees in the past 10 years have attained ACVP certification. Additional information about WADDL is available at

Although the program is rigorous, the dual training leading to the PhD in combination with ACVP certification prepares trainees for leadership positions in academia, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, and national and international laboratories. Trainees are very competitive for these positions. Of the 19 most recent residents, 12 hold academic faculty positions, 2 are pathologists in the biotechnology or pharmaceutical field, 3 are pathologists with state or national laboratories and one is employed at a private veterinary diagnostic laboratory and one is in a post-doctoral fellow in Comparative Pathology.

Overview of the Graduate Program

Research training leading to the PhD degree is tailored to the individual's background and career goals, with the proviso that a strong foundation in basic sciences is indispensable in preparation for infectious disease research.  PhD candidates are required to earn 72 credits; 16 of these credits must be formal graded graduate courses. The remainder is earned in courses related to diagnostic microbiology and supervised dissertation research. Mentored laboratory research is the most critical part of the PhD training and is the primary mechanism by which the philosophy of research is imparted to new scientists. The major advisor and trainee interact intensively to define a research hypothesis and the appropriate experiments to test the hypothesis, and develop a directed course of research. Throughout the training period, all graduate students attend weekly research seminars where faculty and trainees present recent results. The goal of trainee participation in these seminars is exposure to critical analysis of data, experimental design and discussion of research significance. Trainees are expected to conduct original research leading to a significant contribution to knowledge in the trainee's area of emphasis and culminating in publication in leading international scientific journals. Publication is required for and constitutes the PhD dissertation. The final PhD examination is preceded by a public presentation of the research, followed by an oral examination that is a defense of the original research, and also may cover the general fields of knowledge pertinent to the degree.

Areas of Research Emphasis

Department research interests surround a central theme of microbial pathogens and their interactions with animal hosts and the environment. Integrated and complementary programs include:

  • Bacterial and viral respiratory and gastrointestinal disease
  • Innate immunity, immunogenetics, and vaccine development
  • Parasitic infections
  • Persistent viral infections
  • Transmissible Spongioform Encephalopathies
  • Vector-borne diseases
  • Zoonotic and food-borne pathogens

Overview of Pathology Residency

The training in anatomic pathology occurs primary through one-on-one and small group interactions with ACVP or ACLAM board certified pathologists. Residents are exposed to a wide variety of animal species ranging from companion animals (dogs, cats, horses), livestock (cattle, goats, sheep), laboratory animals (mice and rats) and wildlife including fish.


  1. Develop practical gross and microscopic pathology skills, including the skills needed to prepare for sitting the American College of Veterinary Pathologists board examination.
  2. Develop skills in comparative anatomic pathology and diagnostic medicine leading to the ability to judge the relative importance of laboratory findings, and summarize all diagnostic information into a concise and valuable report.
  3. Develop written and verbal skills appropriate for communicating lesion descriptions and disease processes in a timely and professional manner appropriate for diagnostic and research laboratories.
  4. Develop the work management skills necessary for competent, efficient completion of service, teaching and research responsibilities, often simultaneously


Anatomic pathology residents are an integral component in the surgical biopsy and necropsy service provided to veterinarians across the Pacific Northwest by WADDL. To this end, prompt and accurate diagnosis and communication of results by pathology residents to practicing veterinarians is essential. The residency program within the WADDL is structured to provide the training and faculty support to complete this goal while allowing the resident to have the responsibility of making diagnostic decisions as the case coordinator. The service responsibilities are varied over time related to PhD research responsibilities such that case loads are initially high and then decrease as research responsibilities are increased. The following table shows the approximate service duties, either as days on the necropsy floor or number of surgical biopsies that anatomic pathology residents are responsible for during the specific years in the program.

ServiceYear 1Year 2Year 3Year 4 and Beyond
Necropsy1 day/wk1 day/wk1 day/2 wksup to 1 day/4 wks
Surgical Biopsy~5/wk~5/wk~10/wk~10/wk

Anatomic Pathology Seminars and Rounds:

  1. Anatomic Pathology Seminar: Every Thursday during the spring and fall semesters the Anatomic Pathology Seminar provides ACVP board style quizzes of gross necropsy images and training in histopathology including oral and written descriptions of lesions and case discussion.
  2. The Joint Pathology Center Wednesday Slide Conference (WSC): Every other Wednesday a faculty member or senior resident present one of the WSC slide sets to the faculty and residents. This activity was established for documenting continuing education and lesion discussion by boarded anatomic pathologists on faculty. Anatomic pathology residents gain perspective on the presented lesions, variation of similar lesions seen at WADDL and case discussion between faculty members.
  3. Gross Pathology Rounds: Every other Friday one of the anatomic pathologists on faculty provides gross necropsy images in an ACVP board style format increasing anatomic pathology resident exposure to lesion images that would be appropriate for board examination.
  4. Daily Necropsy Rounds: In the afternoon of each weekday, necropsy rounds are provided to the faculty and residents by either the resident on necropsy duty or fourth year veterinary students providing increased exposure to gross anatomic pathology lesions.


The faculty believes that each anatomic pathology resident should have a teaching experience. It is difficult to appreciate the planning, efforts, and time required to be an effective teacher without doing it. Relatedly, if one does not understand a concept, it will become evident while trying to teach it. Anatomic pathology residents have the opportunity to teach in the Veterinary Systemic Pathology course within the veterinary medical curriculum. Anatomic pathology residents also have a teaching role during necropsy service via the instruction of fourth year veterinary students enrolled in the Diagnostics block.

Application Procedures

Applicants must hold a DVM degree or equivalent from an AVMA accredited institution. U.S. citizens or permanent residency (green card status) is not required, but is preferred. Applications should include veterinary college transcripts, curriculum vitae, statement of professional goals, and names of three references.

Please submit applications to:

Josh Ramsay, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVP
Anatomic Pathology Residency Coordinator
Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology
402 Bustad Hall
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-7040

Candidates with a DVM and who are US citizens may apply for a position integrated with and supported by the USDA Animal Diseases Research Unit. These positions are fully integrated with the program. Application should be made directly to VMP. Candidates eligible for and interested in a USDA position will be nominated for a position by the Department Chair.

Washington State University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity educator and employer. Protected group members are encouraged to apply.