Like most people interested in veterinary medicine, Dr. Diana Coulon loves animals, but it was her passion for science that also led her to veterinary school.
And it was science that drew her out of private practice and to the LSU AgCenter, where she serves as the attending veterinarian for research animal compliance.
While Coulon isn’t providing day-to-day care for animals in this role, she is making sure that researchers follow federal guidelines and protocols for using animals in their projects. The use of animals in research at the LSU AgCenter is governed by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee; Coulon serves as the required veterinarian on that committee.
“I also support researchers with study design and implementation, and I assist them with what kind of animal model would be best for their particular project,” Coulon said.
Coulon said the transition from private veterinary practice to research and teaching was a logical one. She said she spent a lot of her time talking with and educating her clients.
“I like the lifestyle of academia. I can be more analytical and innovative with research,” she said.
Coulon recently joined the LSU School of Animal Sciences as an instructor. She developed and teaches a course based on the One Health Initiative, which aims to unite human and veterinary medicine to collaborate on health issues such as diseases transmitted from animals to humans.
“The course looks at the dynamics and interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health,” Coulon said. “As we have a growing world population, infectious diseases are emerging and re-emerging with regards to environmental impact, and there are the issues of food production and security. We all need to work together to help prevent and solve these global health issues.”
Coulon designed the course to include other scientists on and off campus who bring their expertise to the students. Guest lecturers have included a medical entomologist, the state public health veterinarian, clinicians at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine and researchers working on infectious diseases.
“We are trying to get them educated about One Health because as they go into their careers, they have to understand that veterinary medicine is not an isolated medicine in and of itself. We all live in the same environment,” she said.
She also teaches a foods of animal origins course, which she describes as farm to fork education for students interested in veterinary medicine. The class covers food products, food safety, processing and industry.
Her classes allow students to see that there are other possible career paths beside veterinary school because “not all these undergraduate students will go to vet school, so they need to consider some alternative careers,” she said. “I want to open their eyes to potential careers such as food safety, food production, public health, or other human health careers that may involve work with animals.”
Coulon said she aims to help her students understand what veterinary medicine really is so they can know if it is the right path for them.
“Yes, we care about animals. And, yes, we are there to be advocates for these animals, but veterinary medicine is also a science and in today’s age, we need to be the voice of reason and the voice of science,” she said.
Tobie Blanchard is assistant director of Communications at the LSU AgCenter and communications coordinator for the LSU College of Agriculture.
Dr. Diana Coulon is the LSU AgCenter attending veterinarian for research animal compliance. Photo by Tobie Blanchard
Dr. Coulon teaches a One Health course that aims to unite human and veterinary medicine to collaborate on health issues such as diseases transmitted from animals to humans. Photo by Tobie Blanchard