July 10, 2007 | By: Laura Skillman

Craig Carter, a 26-year veteran in diagnostic veterinary medicine, is the new director of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center.

Carter, who currently serves as epidemiology professor and section chief, will take over the helm on Aug. 1 replacing Lenn Harrison, who is retiring after serving 16 years as director.

“The appointment of a nationally distinguished successor to Dr. Harrison at LDDC continues our progress toward our goal for the LDDC – to become a world class center commensurate with Kentucky's world class animal enterprises,” said Scott Smith, dean of the College of Agriculture.

Since coming to the state two years ago, Carter has spearheaded the development of Kentucky’s first fully integrated animal health information and surveillance system which provides near real-time analysis of health events involving animals.

This analysis is currently conducted on information gathered at the LDDC but soon will capture health events at the farm level and will be integrated with information captured at the Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville. Once validated, the system will generate automated alerts to the state veterinarian and other stakeholders when statistical thresholds are exceeded. These alerts will allow for rapid response to emerging diseases as well as providing early detection of possible agri-terrorist attacks. It also includes a sophisticated disease mapping application that will aid the State Veterinarian’s Office in its emergency response to animal diseases. The system will become fully functional in 2008. 

“We are fortunate to have Craig’s experience and abilities with animals important to Kentucky, from cattle, poultry and other food animals, to horses, dogs and cats,” said Nancy Cox, UK College of Agriculture associate dean for research and Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station director. “His information management skills have already brought Kentucky to a new day of animal health surveillance and enhanced partnerships with the Office of the State Veterinarian and the Breathitt Veterinary Center.”

“I look forward to working with Dean Scott Smith and Associate Dean Nancy Cox, our clients and stakeholders, the Gluck Center, Veterinary Science faculty and staff and faculty and staff of the LDDC to take the next steps to better serve Kentucky animal agriculture and public health,” Carter said. “We all salute Dr. Lenn Harrison for his many outstanding years as LDDC director and wish him and wife Sandra the very best in retirement.”

In his first 100 days, Carter said he plans to assess client satisfaction in specific service areas as well as the quality of LDDC-client communications and build a consensus action plan for improvement. With the delay in funding of the LDDC facilities renovation and upgrade, Carter wants to review the budget to ensure adequate resources are available to complete it the project.

“During the last two years, I have gained a strong perspective of the many challenges that LDDC is facing,” Carter said. “Veterinary diagnostic laboratories are being asked to do so much more with dwindling resources. We need to better communicate the importance of our mission. The work done at our laboratory, in concert with the Breathitt lab, is directly related to the marketability of Kentucky animal agricultural products. In addition, we are the only ones capable of diagnosing diseases transmissible from animals to humans, thereby providing a crucial public health service for the citizens of Kentucky.”

Carter said he will work in collaboration with many partners to ensure that the lab provides the level and quality of diagnostic service that will enable Kentucky animal agriculture to grow and thrive in state, national and international markets. Significant additional resources must be committed to this, and he is committed to help find and secure these resources.

Additionally, he plans to review the budget for 2008 and identify any critical shortfalls that will have to be addressed; propose and implement some fundamental organizational changes for LDDC to enhance overall operations; fill some critical positions such as the diagnostic services coordinator, virology lab supervisor, epidemiology research analyst and start a search for an equine extension veterinarian. Carter also hopes to quickly approve and fill the position of associate director of LDDC in-house and acquire critically needed instrumentation for toxicology, molecular biology, serology and other laboratory sections.

Over the longer term, his goals are to complete a much needed facility expansion and upgrade, achieve full American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) accreditation and join and participate in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. He also plans to review and possibly restructure the lab advisory committees to better serve LDDC stakeholders; complete a comprehensive strategic and operating plan with five-year planning projections; expand the pathology post-doctoral scholar program to enhance pathology service and to help resolve the national shortage of veterinary pathologists; and pursue private and foundation funding for endowed faculty chairs and endowed technician positions to help recruit and retain the very best veterinary diagnosticians for the state.

Other goals are to fully implement the statewide animal health information network including web-based access to clinical reports and epidemiological animal health and zoonotic disease data. Carter also hopes to justify and add the necessary staffing and contingency funding to meet surge testing demand during emerging disease outbreaks like Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS), Avian Influenza and
foreign animal diseases such as Foot & Mouth Disease. In addition, a solid contingency plan needs to be in place to deal with a possible agri-terrorist attack in the commonwealth.

Carter’s skills as a communicator, his extensive laboratory experience and background in military administration make him a great choice to take over the helm at the LDDC, said David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

“It is very important to be able to communicate well with constituents – the livestock producers and veterinarians,” said Switzer, who is a member of the LDDC advisory council and search committee member.

The diagnostic laboratory is very important to the growing cattle industry in the state and needs to be a first class facility, said Dave Maples, executive vice president of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association.

“I’m very excited with Dr. Carter’s selection,” Maples said. “We need the LDDC to be a first class facility and we believe he has the leadership ability to bring this to fruition.”

Carter holds several degrees, including a doctor of veterinary medicine and a doctorate in veterinary public health, from Texas A & M University. Before joining UK, he served in various capacities at Texas A & M including head of the Department of Epidemiology and Informatics. He also was co-founder and served as president from 1989 to 2005 of Texas Medical Informatics (TMI Inc.), a company that developed and marketed medical information systems which aid in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases for veterinary and human medicine.

Carter has had a military career spanning four decades and still serves as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves overseeing and coordinating activities surrounding training and readiness of Reserve Veterinary Corps soldiers for overseas deployment in support of the U.S. Army Reserve medical mission. He is a Vietnam veteran and led the first Army Reserve veterinary unit into Afghanistan after 9/11 and was awarded a Bronze Star for his leadership. Carter is currently part of a civilian advisory team that travels to Iraq and Central America to assist in improving animal agriculture. His hobbies are physical fitness, music and flying. 

Scientists at the LDDC work with farmers and veterinarians across Kentucky to improve animal health and find solutions as new diseases develop. In 2005, the facility had about 60,000 cases that included nearly 150,000 animals ranging from horses and cattle, to cats and dogs, to reptiles and a zoo animal. The equine industry makes up about half of the center’s work. Cattle comprise 30 percent or more, and poultry also makes up a significant amount of the center’s work. The rest is varied animal species.


Craig Carter, 859-253-0571