Gary Gackstetter has been named the director of South Dakota State University’s new Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine.
Enrollment applications are now open for the first class of students who will be part of the new, collaborative program between SDSU and the University of Minnesota. Once students have completed their pre-veterinary requirements, the program will allow admitted students to complete the first two years of their veterinary medicine education at South Dakota State University and the final two years at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul.
Gackstetter is a professor, veterinarian, epidemiologist and public health practitioner with over 40 years of experience across a broad range of veterinary clinical practice, teaching, research and operational public health activities. He began his duties at SDSU in November 2019.
“I am very excited for Dr. Gary Gackstetter to join us in the role of director of the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine at SDSU,” said John Killefer, South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “Dr. Gackstetter brings with him a tremendous pedigree of veterinary and scientific education along with exceptional leadership experience in professional medical programming. Our program and students are fortunate to have Dr. Gary Gackstetter provide guidance and mentoring as we begin this exciting new professional program.”
As a result of an U.S. Air Force ROTC scholarship, Gackstetter attended SDSU and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and completed the pre-veterinary medicine requirements. He then attended Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and after graduating entered active duty as a veterinarian. While employed by the U.S. Air Force, he was provided the opportunity to complete a Master of Public Health degree from Boston University and a doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota.
“I’m thrilled to be back at SDSU and am excited by the opportunity to provide the next generation of South Dakota veterinarians with a science-based professional education that will prepare them to contribute to South Dakota’s agricultural and public health systems,” Gackstetter said. “While our program will focus on farm animal medicine, it is our responsibility to ensure our graduates are well-prepared to contribute across the whole spectrum of veterinary medicine."
Gackstetter is board certified in veterinary preventive medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology. He has had a distinguished academic and research career, including 67 peer-reviewed publications and two book chapters.
He spent the past four years as professor, vice chair of research and co-director of graduate research and practicum programs at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine in the Department of Preventive Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition to his research and executive administrative duties, he taught epidemiology and research methods to both graduate and medical students.
The majority of Gackstetter’s career was spent in the U.S. Air Force where he served in a wide variety of leadership roles with veterinary clinical and public health responsibilities. Some of his various duties included military working dog and companion animal care; food inspection; food facility sanitation; animal bite and rabies control; vector-borne, waterborne and food-borne disease prevention programs; occupational health programs; hospital infection control; and infectious disease prevention programs.
While in the Air Force, he was assigned to the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as the deputy director of the Military Public Health Section. Some of his other Air Force roles included the chief of Veterinary Public Health Services at the U.S. Air Force Hospital George in Victorville, California; chief of Environmental Health Services at the U.S. Air Force Clinic Hanscom in Boston; chief of the Epidemiology Department at the U.S. Air Force Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio; associate professor and director of advanced courses at the U.S. Air Force Academy; and director of graduate programs and acting chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine in the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine.
While serving in the Air Force, Gackstetter also continued to work off-duty in local veterinary practices wherever he was stationed. Since he was relocated by the Air Force every three years, he became licensed to practice veterinary medicine in each new state and was able to practice in eight states from California to Massachusetts.
“I have been very fortunate to see many different practices, treat thousands of animals and help owners from coast to coast,” he said.
After the Air Force, he worked for Analytic Services Inc., involved in chemical and biological defense issues. He returned to the Pentagon, and later was asked to aid in the enhancement of the National Biosurveillance Integration Center inside the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also helped to identify, fund and manage chemical and biological defense-related research at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in the U.S. Department of Defense.
Gackstetter’s leadership roles in veterinary medicine have included serving on the executive committee for the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, chairman of the board of directors for the International Council for Veterinary Assessment, a member of the board of directors for the District of Columbia Academy of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the examination development advisory board for the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
His honors include the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ Distinguished Service Award, the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine Dean’s Impact Award, the Dr. Charles Stange Distinguished Alumni Award from Iowa State University, selection as a Corporate Fellow of Analytic Services, Inc., the James A. McCallam National Award for outstanding accomplishments as an epidemiologist in the field of Medicine and Public Health, the U.S. Air Force Academy Outstanding Military Educator Award in Biology, and the Presidential Leadership and Service Award from the University of Minnesota.
One can contact email Gackstetter or call 605-688-6645.
About the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine
The Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine leading to a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree is a new, collaborative program between SDSU and the University of Minnesota. Once students have completed their pre-veterinary requirements, the program will allow admitted students to complete the first two years of their veterinary medicine education at South Dakota State University and the final two years at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul. The first 20-student cohort is expected to begin classes on the SDSU campus in Brookings within the Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Department in August 2021. Learn more about the application process for the Professional Progam in Veterinary Medicine by visiting https://www.sdstate.edu/professional-dvm-program-veterinary-medicine/how-apply.