Director of Comparative Medicine

Asheley B. Wathen, DVM, MPH, DACLAM

asheleywathen.png Dr. Wathen serves as the director of Comparative Medicine and Attending Veterinarian at UNMC.

Most people know that a veterinarian’s job is to care for animals. What many people do not know is that as the director of comparative medicine at a large academic medical center, ensuring the health and wellbeing of all animals used in research is one of the most important jobs a laboratory animal veterinarian can do.

That is precisely why Dr. Wathen, diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, chose this role within the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at UNMC.

“While part of my job is to steer the ship and help researchers navigate the ocean of regulations surrounding the use of animal models in research, I also am the attending veterinarian,” Dr. Wathen said.

As the person who has the overall authority for animal care, Dr. Wathen said it is imperative that those high standards of animal welfare and the humane use of animals in research are always maintained or exceeded.

Dr. Wathen, who officially joined UNMC on Jan. 2, 2024, was born and raised in Moore, Oklahoma. She went to veterinary school at Oklahoma State University and completed her residency at the University of Michigan.

She spent most of her career in private industry before returning to academia at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and her alma mater, Oklahoma State.

Dr. Wathen said the breadth of research taking place at UNMC is what drew her to Omaha. Strong institutional support affords the opportunity for expansion of research endeavors as well as innovative collaboration, which is most exciting, she said.

“The program is very robust, with long-tenured personnel supporting it, and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.

As the CM director, Dr. Wathen will provide daily support for animal care and for advanced animal models, as well as consult with investigators to help them plan their studies to make sure they follow all regulations.

“Animal models have been pivotal in making big strides in research, whether in therapeutics or refining surgical methods and most recently were crucial in development of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Wathen said.

And while biomedical research is typically geared toward the development of human medicine, Dr. Wathen said, there is a trickle-down effect of drug development to benefit animals as well.

At the end of the day, Dr. Wathen said her passion and her job are to advocate for the animals, to make sure they are treated with respect and the utmost care so that humans and animals benefit from high-quality research outcomes.