Jerry Saliki, DVM, Ph.D., DACVM, recently returned to the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine to serve as director of the college’s Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory

“Stillwater and OADDL have always been like my home,” said Saliki. “I came here in 1993 as a young assistant professor and worked through the ranks all the way to full professor in 2005. I will never forget the support that I received from this facility and also from the College of Veterinary Medicine. I have always thought that I needed to come back to this place in order to use my experience to help maintain and grow the lab.”

“We are excited to have Dr. Saliki on board,” said Dr. Carlos Risco, dean of the veterinary college. “He has extensive post-Ph.D. technical and administrative experience in two American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians-accredited veterinary diagnostic laboratories over the past 26 years.”

Originally from Cameroon in central Africa, Saliki earned his DVM degree from the University of Liege in Belgium in 1984. He came to the United states in 1989 earning a Ph.D. in Veterinary Virology from Cornell University in 1993 and becoming a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists in 1994. From 1993 to 2005 at OSU’s veterinary college, Saliki served as an assistant professor and subsequently associate and full professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and also as section head for virology, serology, and molecular diagnostics at OADDL. In 2005, Saliki went to the Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Georgia to serve as section head for virology and serology until 2007 when he became director of that laboratory until returning to OSU in 2020.

Saliki returned to Stillwater at the end of April at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From day one COVID was the name in town,” said Saliki. “I just had to get into the trenches and work with everyone on the effort. Right now we are receiving anywhere from 1,300 to 2,000 samples a day. We are trying to maintain a one- to two-day turnaround time for results. So that’s quite a major effort for the laboratory.”

Shortly after the onset of the pandemic through coordination with partners from the OSU Center for Health Sciences, OADDL was certified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to run the tests for COVID-19. In partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), OSU’s certified diagnostic laboratory processes approximately 25 percent of the state’s COVID-19 tests.

“As a veterinarian, we deal with multiple animal species. Humans are just one additional animal species so there was no real big surprise there,” continued Saliki. “The test systems are the same, the quality system is the same. The only other consideration that we had to take into account is making staff, who are used to handling only animal samples, more comfortable with also handling human samples.”

It should be no surprise that Dr. Saliki is able to handle the challenges presented by COVID-19. He is no stranger to trying times.

“Shortly after taking over as director of the Athens lab, we had the great recession of 2008 and budgets were slashed,” recalled Saliki. “We did two things. One was to develop some niche services which were very special and specific to our laboratory. We developed a program in laboratory animal diagnostics, which is unique to veterinary diagnostic laboratories. Second, we also had a marine mammal diagnostic program, which is actually something I started in the mid-90s at OADDL before moving to Georgia.”

Saliki considers serving as laboratory director for 13 years and seeing continuous growth of that lab during that time in spite of the great recession as one of his greatest accomplishments so far in his career. He was able to keep the lab going without cutting staff or cutting services through that period. He plans to continue that success at OSU.

“My vision is to make sure we can build a cadre of very trained and highly motivated staff with high morale because it all starts with people,” said Saliki. “We need to have the people, satisfied people who can do the job for us. So that’s priority number one. Priority number two is to continue to grow our services, reach out to stakeholders, especially in the swine and poultry industries, so we can offer them the services that we are trained to offer.

“I’m really so happy be back home. In spite of the challenge posed by COVID at this time, my family and I are so happy to be back here. We look forward to the next several years of serving here with the great people that we have met. We really like the welcome that we have received from the laboratory, from everyone in the city of Stillwater, and certainly from the College of Veterinary Medicine.”

While OADDL continues to support the state by processing COVID-19 human samples, the laboratory keeps up with its regular job of running about 100,000 tests annually for animal diseases.

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