Focus on Faculty
Elizabeth Howerth, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, says the diversity inherent in the field of pathology ensures that she and her students are never bored.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I received my B.S. from the University of Florida, my D.V.M. from Michigan State University, and my Ph.D. from UGA. My anatomic pathology residency was done at the University of California, Davis. I am a professor in the department of pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, where I teach pathology, provide pathology services to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Georgia veterinarians, and conduct research. I also am chief of the college’s biopsy service and the anatomic pathology residency coordinator.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I did my Ph.D. here in the early ’80s and then worked at LSU for about three years while my husband finished his Ph.D. I then returned to Georgia in 1989 as an assistant professor in the department of pathology because I could be involved in great pathology and research on wildlife and infectious diseases.
What are your favorite courses and why?
My favorite courses are those that involve our post-D.V.M. pathology residents. These are small group courses with active participation rather than lectures, and I am teaching people what I love and what they love, which is pathology.
What interests you about your field?
Everything. Veterinary pathology is so diverse. We get to study diseases in numerous species and can even relate that back to human disease. Every day there is something new; we don’t suffer from boredom in this field! The other draw for me is diagnostics; I love to figure out why an animal was sick, and I get to use tools, especially power tools. If I weren’t doing this, I would be a car mechanic or a dentist. They get to do diagnostics and use power tools too!
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
There are many. I am proud when one of our pathology residents becomes certified in veterinary pathology or one of my graduate students completes his or her Ph.D. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I have helped an undergraduate student working in my lab get accepted into medical school, veterinary school or a Ph.D. program or have helped a veterinary student enter my chosen field of veterinary pathology. The personal relationships that have developed with these individuals are priceless, and I rejoice when they land a fantastic job, when they get married or when they become parents.
Another highlight is the collaborative research I have participated in, which is something we pathologists do better than anyone else in science. In particular, the research group of Howerth (me), Stallknecht and Mead has given me great joy as we study the pathogenesis of many interesting diseases, both at the animal and cellular level.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I believe this goes both ways. Any research or diagnostic work I do gives me more experience to draw from and keeps me current so that my teaching can be more relevant. On the other hand, when you teach, at least for me, I really have to know my stuff, so it makes me read more and this often gives me new ideas for research.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
Hopefully they gain from my expertise because what I teach is laced with practical knowledge from many years of experience.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student is someone who wants to learn everything that is given to him or her, loves to read to expand his or her knowledge and is curious as to why something happens. In graduate students, my ideal would also include someone who is willing to try to develop new techniques.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
My favorite place to be on campus is at work, whether it be my office looking at microscopic slides, in my lab working out a new technique or on the postmortem floor figuring out why an animal died.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
I am a little obsessed with physical activity. I swim every day and lift weights (albeit only 8-pounders) a couple of times a week. I also garden a lot. A master gardener would cringe at my gardens, but I love to plant and weed. I also love home improvement projects, especially painting large expanses of walls; Lowe’s is my candy store.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
I would rather read a book than see the movie. I read a lot and of any fictional genre, and anything by Hemmingway gets my vote. I would say the most recent book I have read, and it’s really not that recent, that I keep thinking about, probably because it was so disturbing, is “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”
Proudest moment at UGA?
There probably have been many because I have been here so long. This will sound corny and it has really nothing to do with me or my accomplishments, but my most recent proudest moments involve an undergraduate student who turned 21 while working in my lab, went on to complete a D.V.M., went on to do an internship in small animal medicine and is back here doing a residency in veterinary oncology. I even got to see her get married. In a nutshell, that is why I love being here and love my job.
(Originally published Oct. 13, 2013)