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Bustad Lecture with Dr. Phyllis Erdman

Animal Disease Biotech Facility (ADBF), 1855 E GRIMES WAY, Pullman, WA 99164
Room 1002 | Zoom information TBA
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About the event

The College of Veterinary Medicine’s annual Bustad Lecture

Phyllis Erdman, Ph.D. is a professor of counseling and Executive Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Education at Washington State University. She is a licensed mental health counselor and has conducted research in parent/child relationships and human-animal interaction (HAI).

She worked in the PATH therapeutic riding program for many years and helped expand that program to work with social emotional needs of children in after school and summer programs. She has conducted numerous workshops to help counselors and veterinarians understand the emotional impact of pet loss on their clients and how to respond to clients’ request for service and emotional support animals. She co-edited two book with Lori Kogan entitled Pet loss, grief, and therapeutic interventions: Practitioners navigating the human-animal bond published by Routledge in 2019 and Career Paths in Human-Animal Interaction for Social and Behavioral Scientists  in 2021. She has published articles on the impact of companion animals and service animals in our lives and teaches an honor’s class on research topics in human-animal interaction.

“The Human Animal Bond: A Critical Element in Veterinary Education”, by Dr. Erdman

Most students enter veterinary school for one primary reason – a long-held passion for animals and a commitment to the human-animal bond. Yet, financial, personal, and philosophical challenges that students encounter through their academic program can lead to disillusionment, leaving some to question their future as a veterinarian. While typically these students are well-equipped to handle the academic rigor of a veterinary curriculum, many, unfortunately, are less prepared for other types of challenges – compassion fatigue, dealing with grief and loss (their own as well as their clients’), addressing behavior problems, or identifying and responding appropriately to suspected animal abuse. Challenges such as these, coupled with an often substantial financial investment, can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression, leaving many students with limited emotional capacity to focus on the human animal bond – the real reason for entering the profession.

This begs the question- what can we, as educators, clinicians, and mental health providers, do to help these students maintain their enthusiasm for the field and their love and commitment to animals? I suggest we can begin by being sensitive and proactive in addressing these challenges and, equally important, explore ways to infuse Leo Bustad’s legacy – the importance of the human animal bond – throughout their educational experience. In this way, we can ensure these students stay the course, and ultimately, become successful veterinarians.

  • Reception to follow in the Mickelson Lounge, Bustad Hall, Room 134.
  • This lecture is the first event of our annual Veterinary Medicine Spring Conference.
  • Registration and Zoom info to be announced

The Bustad Lecture is named in honor of Dr. Leo K. Bustad (1920-1998), who was a pioneer in the field of human-animal bond research. Dr. Bustad (’49 DVM) was dean of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine from 1973-1984. His work significantly contributed to the understanding of the changing role of companion animals in Western societies and its impact on veterinary education, veterinary medicine, and society.


Katy Heaton