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COLLEGE STATION — Dr. Lelve G. Gayle, executive director of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory since 2002, announced this week that he is retiring on July 31.
“We will greatly miss Dr. Gayle’s leadership,” said Dr. Elsa Murano, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences for The Texas A&M University System. “He has done much to make the lab one of the nation’s leading facilities for rapid testing and diagnosis of animal diseases.”
Murano has recommended Dr. Gayne Fearneyhough, head of the lab’s diagnostic services and informatics, to serve as the agency’s interim executive director effective Aug. 1. This appointment will be considered by the Texas A&M System Board of Regents at its July meeting. Murano also has asked James Hull, state forester and director of the Texas Forest Service, to chair a search committee for Gayle’s replacement.
“Drs. Gayle and Fearneyhough have made a strong leadership team at the lab,” Murano said. “We expect the transition to be a smooth one as the lab provides valuable veterinary diagnostic services for the state of Texas.”
Gayle, 67, who is ending a 31-year career with the laboratory, says he is stepping down to spend more time with his family, which includes eight grandchildren.
During his tenure as executive director, Gayle oversaw a major upgrade in the lab’s capabilities, making it possible to test for and diagnose many infectious animal diseases that threaten the nation’s livestock industry. The lab is one of five in the country that comprise the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, which provides surveillance and response to high-consequence animal diseases.
The lab is one of the busiest full-service diagnostic facilities in the world, handling more than 220,000 cases a year. At its two major locations in College Station and Amarillo, the lab performs diagnostic testing for thousands of veterinary hospitals and clinics across the country. Two smaller labs in Center and Gonzales provide disease surveillance and diagnostic testing for the poultry industry.
Gayle earned his doctor of veterinary medicine degree in 1964 and master of science degree in veterinary toxicology in 1980, both from Texas A&M University. Before joining the lab in 1976, he worked in veterinary medicine private practice and for the U.S. Air Force. Gayle is a 1999 recipient of the A&M System Regents Fellow Service Award.
Gayle was president of the Texas Academy of Veterinary Practice in 1985 and president of Texas Veterinary Medical Association in 1996.
Fearneyhough earned his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Texas A&M in 1977. As a veterinarian in the Texas Department of Health during the 1990s, he directed the state’s Oral Rabies Vaccination Program which was developed to contain a new strain of rabies virus through a 200,000-square-mile aerial distribution of vaccine-laced baits for coyotes and other animals. He succeeded Gayle as head of the lab’s diagnostic services in 2002.