Introducing our New President:
Dr. Michael Blackwell
Dr. Michael Blackwell was recently named as the new president of Humane Society University. Read about the legacy Dr. Michael Blackwell envisions for HSU. Dr. Blackwell draws from experiences as HSUS Board Member, University of Tennessee Vet School Dean, Food and Drug Administration Chief.
What interested you in being president of Humane Society University (HSU)?
Accepting the position as President of Humane Society University represents an important milestone in my professional life. As a veterinarian, I am dedicated to the well-being of animals. I’ve been disappointed in the lack of organized efforts regarding animal welfare and I wanted to do something that I know will make a tangible difference in the quality of life for all animals.
What is the source of your passion for animals? My dad was a veterinarian, so I grew up watching him practice veterinary medicine and address the needs of animals every day - it’s in my blood.
How do you think you can make the greatest difference as president of HSU? The university is still off of the radar for people involved in animal welfare work. It is my desire that we improve our visibility. We’ll be looking for ways that we can better market to the animal welfare community and beyond.
How do you feel your previous experience will be an asset as president of HSU? I’ve had my own private medical veterinary practice where I provided direct care to animals. I’ve also had extensive experience in the public health arena - where my primary concern was preventing and reducing risks of disease but where I also gained an in-depth understanding of the flagrant welfare issues that need to be tackled in production agriculture. Industrial approaches to developing food derived from animals presents major problems, such as the usage of chemicals that threaten public health, the inefficient and unsustainable waste management process, and the inhumane treatment of animals. As the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, I acquired experience in the delivery of educational content and leading effective collaboration between the faculty and staff. Throughout my career, I’ve addressed both the clinical and global needs of animals – providing direct care, shaping regulatory policy and structuring programs to address issues such as health, homelessness, cruelty and abuse. I believe the diversity of my experience will serve me well as president of HSU.
What makes an HSU education valuable? It’s hard to inspire people to make a difference on many of the world’s pressing issues but in the animal welfare community people are already inspired. There are many people who have a heart for animals but I think it’s equally important to have a university that is dedicated to sharpening the minds of the committed and empowering them with the knowledge to take informed action on behalf of animals.
What groups of people do you think HSU could target/reach more effectively? I think we need to reach the people who provide direct care to animals - professionals whose job is to go out and investigate where animals may be at risk of harm, who have to determine the line between appropriate care and abuse, conduct investigations, and have to handle animals after they’ve been confiscated. For example shelter workers have to have better community education programs and operate more efficiently to address issues such as: spay/neuter disease control, strong adoption, and effective training programs for staff and volunteers who work in an advocacy role. I think that animal welfare groups can serve as models of humane environments that can lead to improved policies and legislation for animals.
Which non-traditional segments do you intend to reach? I’m Interested in reaching corporations and federal agencies. It’s important for corporate executives and employees as well as federal officials and regulatory agencies to remain current and informed on the issues that impact animals. Corporations are under increasing pressure to address the health and well-being of animals and there is an increasing demand for humane practices to be utilized in industries. I believe HSU can be a tremendous resource for these institutions in increasing the general awareness of issues related to animal welfare and protection and making information about humane practices and policies more readily available.
What challenges do you expect to face and why? I think it will be important for HSU to refine the online delivery of educational content. Human beings are transitioning from the industrial age where we conducted our work in fixed spaces to a virtual age, in which more work is increasingly being done remotely. The younger generation is adapting to this change but we have to address the challenge of bridging the “virtual gap” for the older generation who also needs the education and training that HSU provides.
What would you like to see be the legacy of HSU? I want HSU to be the premier institution of higher learning for issues related to animal welfare and protection. I envision potential students (college graduates, shelter managers, corporate executives, etc.) automatically identifying HSU once they’ve determined that they want to pursue an education in animal policy and advocacy, animal studies or humane leadership. I see an HSU education being synonymous with valuable and distinct programs, knowledgeable faculty, an active student body and alumni leading the way in the implementation of humane policies, legislation, workplaces and ultimately a more humane world for people and animals.Press Release 4-19-13