Paul Plummer, DVM, PhD, DACVIM-LAIM

​AVMA Members Working to Advance Animal and Human Health through Research

Assistant Professor in Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Educational Background

I did my DVM at the University of Tennessee, graduating in 2000. I then did a Large Animal Medicine and Surgery Internship at Texas A&M followed by a Large Animal Medicine Residency at Tennessee. I moved to Iowa State University in 2004 where I did a PhD in Veterinary Microbiology while working as a Ruminant Clinician. My present position is as an Assistant Professor in Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Do you have any pets?

My family and I breed and milk Toggenburgs Dairy Goats. In addition we have 3 Kangal Livestock Protection dogs and several cats. We have also raised captive White-Tail Deer in the past.

What is the focus of your research?

My laboratory has a variety of diverse research interests. Our primary focus is on zoonotic and infectious disease pathogens of ruminants and their impact on animal productivity, health and human health. At present we have significant research projects focused on Campylobacter jejuni, Digital Dermatitis in cattle, Dromedary Camel health and disease in Africa, ecology of pneumonia in Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats, and the development of novel large animal models of human sepsis.

What is the scientific and clinical significance of your research?

We strive to make sure that all of our projects are translational in nature. Being involved in clinical medicine, as a large animal internist, as well as the microbiology research tends to focus our projects on infectious disease issues. We are particularly interested in the ecology of infectious disease as it relates to cross species disease transmission, be it other livestock, wildlife or humans. Our work with C. jejuni impacts human food safety and the health of sheep with C. jejuni associated abortions. The digital dermatitis project focuses on the leading cause of cattle lameness in the US and seeks to identify a better understanding of the disease as well as novel interventions to prevent and control the disease. The camel projects seeks to improve the food security of some of the most food vulnerable human populations in the world, and our new sepsis work seeks to develop new tools for understanding a major cause of human illness.

What do you find most enjoyable about research?

The diversity afforded by bridging the gap between clinical medicine and biomedical research. I love what I do. I get to work with a variety of animal species, infectious diseases and research collaborators. I can be working on East-African camel disease one day, human sepsis the next day, and using a super computer to sort out 13 million DNA sequences from a metagenomic study the following day. I also get to see direct benefit from my work in animal health as well as human health and the basic day-to-day food security of people.

What advice do you have for veterinarians considering a career in biomedical research?

Don't limit yourself. Pursue excellent training in clinical medicine and excellent training in research and combine the two. I think many veterinary students often view research as sitting down at a bench mutating a gene in a bacteria and never touching an animal. Certainly that is sometimes the case, but it doesn't have to be. I have worked hard to combine all my favorite parts of medicine and research together and it has resulted in an immensely fun and rewarding career.

See how other AVMA members are advancing animal and human health