Strategic Plan 2024-2028
We provide unparalleled veterinary diagnostic services and stay on the forefront of emerging diagnostic challenges to meet the unique needs of all clients. Through our highly-skilled staff, top-tier technology and strong partnerships, we support and safeguard the health of animals, people and the planet.
To deliver expert veterinary diagnostic services and cultivate strong partnerships that together generate a resilient, far-reaching disease response.
Message from the Executive Director
In my eight years as executive director of the Animal Health Diagnostic Center & New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University, we have seen extraordinary technological advancements and new disease threats emerge across the world. The last few years alone have utterly transformed our way of life, thrusting the diagnostics profession at large into the forefront of American consciousness.
The College of Veterinary Medicine has a distinguished history of diagnostic services that date back to the 1910s under the leadership of Dr. Veranus Alva Moore, second dean of the college — himself a pathologist and bacteriologist. By the 1930s, this evolved to include both mastitis and poultry disease testing in the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology in Ives Hall. In 1966, a partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets led to the establishment of the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. To meet the growing diagnostic needs of the state, a separate building was constructed between 1975-1976, which greatly increased our capacity to provide practitioners with the latest in-depth laboratory diagnostic support. Another milestone came in 2008, when we broke ground for the building we occupy today, the Animal Health Diagnostic Center. Here, we have processed millions of accessions in our efforts to guide veterinary communities, the state and the nation through disease outbreaks, to advance overall disease surveillance and to support public health efforts — with no better and more timely example than our response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Our work equips us with the unique ability to make a difference in the world. There is no other organization in New York state that offers the same level of veterinary diagnostic expertise and professional ingenuity in responding to an array of current and emerging diseases.
Much has changed since the days of Dr. Moore. Under our roof, we provide diagnostic services in anatomic and clinical pathology, a suite of microbiology diagnostics — including bacteriology, molecular diagnostics, parasitology, serology and virology — as well as comparative coagulation, endocrinology and toxicology. The AHDC furthermore operates Quality Milk Production Services, the Duck Research Laboratory and programs in avian and wildlife health.
With this plan, we explore how to leverage current and future domains of expertise to serve the public good, meet the expanding needs of our many clients and hold ourselves to the highest standards. In every role and every unit and laboratory of our enterprise, we are united in our dedication to clients and stakeholders in animal health.
Our community is both inspired and humbled by the impact we have on the lives of people and animals. As you read through our plan, I trust you will recognize the progress we have made — and the potential for us to have an even greater impact on our own community, the Empire State and beyond.
Conducting such work requires collaboration, planning, stewardship and the input of our diverse communities of stakeholders. After over a year of listening sessions, focus groups, surveys, feedback, committee discussions and more, we have arrived at an exceptional list of priorities that are reflected in our mission statement:
- Strong partnerships
- Service excellence
- Top-tier technology
- Workplace stewardship
I thank everyone who has contributed to the creation of this plan. I’m grateful for your confidence in our mission and our shared excitement for the future — and look forward to a rewarding five years that highlight why we do this work in the first place.
Dr. François Elvinger
Animal Health Diagnostic Center & New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University
"The professionals at our Animal Health Diagnostic Center have a distinctive commitment to the people and animals of New York. They have risen to the challenge of providing excellent veterinary diagnostic services in a time of extraordinary demand, while cultivating strong, resilient partnerships that will life us even higher in the years to come."
— Lorin D. Warnick, D.V.M., Ph.D. '94, the Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
"A leader in diagnostic services, expertise and innovation, the Animal Health Diagnostic Center plays a pivotal role in the health and well-being of food and fiber producing animals, companion animals, sport and recreational animals, exotic animals and wildlife. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is proud to partner with the AHDC to respond to disease outbreaks that could jeopardize animal health, public health or the agricultural economy."
— Dr. Joy Bennett, New York State Veterinarian, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
Facts and Figures
Our vibrant, professional community has far-reaching impact on the lives of animals and people in New York, the United States and across the world.
Facilities and space
AHDC & NYSVDL Ithaca
Quality Milk Production Services
Laboratories in Canton, Cobleskill, Ithaca and Warsaw, NY
Duck Research Laboratory
Eastport (Long Island), NY
Accessions over the last five years
- FY19: 227K
- FY20: 224K
- FY21: 262K
- FY22: 283K
- FY23: 292K
- Anatomic Pathology
- Clinical Pathology
- Comparative Coagulation
- Molecular Diagnostics
- Quality Milk Production Services
- Avian Health
- Quality Milk Production Services
- Veterinary Support Services
- Wildlife Health Laboratory
- Client Resource Team
- Regulatory Affairs
The AHDC thrives on relationships with its partners and stakeholders, including thousands of veterinarians from across New York state and beyond, state and federal government agencies, many corporate, research and charitable organizations, as well as the Cornell University Hospital for Animals. Animal clients across the world benefit daily from our veterinary diagnostic partnerships, expertise and services. Outreach to our stakeholders, both external and internal, was a major component of our strategic planning to ensure and enhance the value and impact of our diagnostic services.
In addition to diagnostic testing, clients rely on our suite of diagnostic consultation services and programmatic assistance for dairy, wildlife and avian health, which are supported through our contracts with the New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) and Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). Our professional expertise is underlined by our integration into the College of Veterinary Medicine. We highly value our relationships with both New York state and Cornell, achieving our greatest impact when working together.
Professionalism and expertise remain our hallmark to preserve the AHDC as a trusted resource to safeguard human and animal health.
As the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, we embrace our responsibility to perform regulatory testing on behalf of state and federal agencies in support of livestock, poultry and human population health. Our laboratory is a Level 1 member of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) and we collaborate with laboratories across the country to rapidly detect and respond to high-consequence animal disease outbreaks. Endeavors like the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program and the Sheep and Goat Health Assurance Program will benefit from proposed expansions of strategic diagnostic testing, and we plan to assess and expand diagnostics for emerging and underserved domains, like apiary and aquatic health. Quality Milk Production Services addresses the pressing needs of dairy farmers in New York state and beyond, the Duck Research Laboratory on Long Island is an international resource for duck health, and our Wildlife Health Program, under contract with the NYSDEC, supports state and regional wildlife health efforts.
We will evaluate opportunities to build formal partnerships with veterinary medical associations, national and international clinical and laboratory diagnostics groups and corporations, biotech firms, academic and corporate research organizations, and other stakeholders in veterinary laboratory diagnostics.
Achievement of these goals may be limited by space constraints, and the AHDC will carefully assess and forcefully advocate for the expansion of its physical space to maintain and protect animal health in New York state and beyond.
Cultivating strong partnerships requires a strong communications infrastructure to receive and share information with our stakeholders. Through surveys and outreach, we will take the pulse on evolving needs and provide relevant, informative and timely materials.
Our communications will be targeted and data-informed. In collaboration with the college, we will undertake initiatives that support client communications and overall messaging, including to currently underserved animal health stakeholders. We will assess our existing communications channels for cost, effort and urgency, and keep them current with best practices.
Our social media, newsletter and website will focus on educating clients and stakeholders. With the college communications team, we aim to generate informative, engaging, timely and professional content, collaborating with and cross-promoting this content alongside campus and external partners to maximize its reach.
Reviews and revisions, the continuous improvement of content and functionality — based on user experience and accessibility best practices — are essential for the maintenance of a modern, professional website. Highlighting laboratories and services, presenting current diagnostic issues and providing sample collection guidance will keep our website relevant and informative.
Stay receptive and agile
It is critical that we seek feedback from clients and stakeholders. The AHDC will enable both internal and external clients to share their thoughts on current processes through standardized, iterative and accessible surveys to inform our decision-making at every level. Feedback will be shared with stakeholders and participants to demonstrate transparency and maintain trust.
The AHDC, as an expert in the field, encourages, promotes and shares scholarly publications relevant to stakeholders. Findings germane to animal and public health, case reports of broad interest and other research will be promoted via all applicable communications channels.
Cutting-edge and comprehensive testing options that anticipate and meet client needs determine service excellence in veterinary laboratory diagnostics — alongside the pillars of quality assurance, efficient submissions, rapid results, real-time access to test reports and expert guidance in the development of testing strategies and result interpretation.
The AHDC is a leader in diagnostic services and a premier resource for state agencies, veterinarians, animal food producers, pet owners and other clients. The AHDC builds on its strengths to expand testing capabilities and capacities, advance processes and enhance current programs. As we are the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, we must ensure all Empire State animal owners and producers, including niche producers and underserved communities, through their veterinarians, have access to our cutting-edge veterinary diagnostic laboratory support; we are committed to serving animal and public health, reaching well beyond state lines, across the United States and the world.
The analysis and evaluation of data on how submissions reach us will help determine the need for additional courier services, drop-off locations, supply of materials and more, in order to create seamless submission, shipping and receiving processes that ensure we remain the top diagnostic choice. We frequently examine internal workflows for efficiency and streamline processes to deliver faster results.
We will continue to provide specialized support to enhance the caliber of our services, particularly through our veterinary support services, client resource, receiving and regulatory teams. Our stakeholders rely on the expert guidance these groups provide.
Deliver quality work
The AHDC‘s dedication to quality work for the benefit of animal and public health is reflected in its accreditations by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians and by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, under International Organization Standards ISO/IEC 17025 for testing and calibration laboratories. Quality assurance documentation is essential to the many clients we serve and new software to be installed in the near future promises seamless document control, training and equipment record compliance. A community-wide training program for this new software will ensure that our team maximizes its capabilities.
We continuously adapt, enhance and expand diagnostic services and programs to respond to current and emerging animal and human health challenges and opportunities. Supporting crucial service and research efforts by developing new tests, embracing a thoughtful digital mindset to achieve sustainability goals with clients, and adding value to existing and expanded data streams through top-tier technology — all bolster service delivery and cement the AHDC as a leader in the field.
Deploy cutting-edge technologies and modern tests
Testing is the core function of the AHDC. Assay development and improvements keep us on the cutting-edge of veterinary laboratory diagnostics. Advanced tests and testing require state-of-the-art, efficient technologies, as well as expertise, bench space and funding to support their deployment and maximize their value. We will prioritize technological advances to streamline workflows, and facilitate high-throughput testing in particular for high-consequence disease outbreaks. Assessment and improvements of software, particularly at the client interface, are crucial for high levels of preparedness and responsiveness.
Embrace a digital mindset
The AHDC will proactively shift to digital services without abandoning efficient existing methods. A digital-first approach prioritizes sustainable, eco-friendly practices, while creating more opportunities to effectively and efficiently reach clients and stakeholders.
Adoption of a unified sample tracking system is one such opportunity. Replacing common paper forms with electronic templates and implementing barcodes to track sample movement to and across our laboratories increases the accuracy and speed with which samples are processed and results released. We will leverage existing software capabilities for quality assurance, data storage and sharing, with scanners, tablets, laptops and other hardware investments.
Recent online portal improvements have led to a rapid increase in its use. We are building on this success to refine user experience and expand portal capabilities. Incentives to reduce paper submissions support our digital transition. How-to videos for individual animal and herd or flock submissions will promote portal use, with expectations of fewer transcription errors, increased result speed and real-time responsiveness.
We are exploring investments in central systems to reduce administrative burden for inventory, temperature monitoring and information management. We plan to build capacity in project management and information technology to ensure that system transformations are methodical, modern and supported.
Strengthen data and materials governance and reporting
The AHDC testing and results database is a treasure trove of information to be harnessed to inform veterinarians, state and federal clients, commodity groups, wildlife communities, pet owners and other stakeholders about the health status of animal populations and potential threats to animal and public health.
Maintaining our commitment to confidentiality and client privacy, while assessing the impact and research value of submissions and testing outcomes beyond the immediate case report, requires well-articulated data policies. We will create an agile, flexible data governance framework and environment, and refine processes for how, when and with whom results and other information can be shared for enhanced submission-based research opportunities, while respecting client rights and fulfilling ethical and legal responsibilities regarding medical records.
The AHDC community is unified by the goal of serving the health of animals and people. This unity is strengthened through targeted education, staff and faculty recruitment and retention practices, support of employee well-being and growth, and advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion. We will explore educational programs that stimulate interest and enthusiasm in the many opportunities available in veterinary diagnostic laboratory disciplines to keep the AHDC a rewarding place to build and enjoy a fulfilling career.
Advance professional unity
The AHDC maintains a workplace culture of teamwork, camaraderie and respect, and upholds the Cornell ethos of “… any person …” by supporting a community that is diverse, inclusive, welcoming and accountable.
To strengthen positivity and help ensure job satisfaction, we encourage feedback from all employees on workplace climate through surveys and other mechanisms, and explore ways to recognize staff and best appreciate everyone’s impactful work. Increasing communication across units and job categories — whether through teambuilding exercises, rotating topic meetings, peer support programs and more — allows staff, managers and faculty to share tactics and ideas for building community. Sharing information on laboratory activities, case findings and technology showcases enhances belonging and promotes a sense of ownership among a well-informed and unified workforce.
Support a resilient workforce
We will strengthen our recruitment efforts by reaching out to and educating students and health professionals about the high-impact role veterinary laboratory diagnostics plays in animal and human health. Outlining career goals to visualize a rewarding professional path for prospective and current employees helps promote and retain talented staff.
Learning opportunities are crucial for all employees. Top-notch technical training not only enhances diagnostic skillsets, but also creates an efficient and consistent environment. Management training opportunities ensure that directors, managers and supervisors have the tools to provide valuable guidance to the employees they oversee.
Bolster training and education
The AHDC is in a prime position to help build a new generation’s interest and enthusiasm in STEM and health care careers by collaborating with 4-H programs, Future Farmers of America and other youth organizations. Affiliation agreements with SUNY Upstate, SUNY Broome and other SUNYs, in addition to collaborations with institutions that offer veterinary and medical paraprofessional and technician programs, help establish a pipeline into veterinary diagnostic laboratory careers.
Our unique placement within the College of Veterinary Medicine provides opportunities for the education and training of future veterinarians and animal and public health scientists in veterinary laboratory diagnostics. Incorporating our disciplines into college curricula and extracurricular activities is crucial to attract new professionals. We will explore expanding certificate and professional degree programs, such as the master of professional studies degree and diagnostic residency programs, to train students in the various diagnostic laboratory disciplines, laboratory administration and leadership. This will help forge a path for students and practicing veterinarians to consider joining the veterinary laboratory diagnostics workforce.
Manage and safeguard resources and workspaces
Our enterprise faces unique challenges regarding space, ergonomics and more, and we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that every employee works in comfort and safety. Workspaces must be assessed and expanded, requiring significant capital funding, in order to safely and efficiently incorporate new testing methodologies, and to accommodate the necessary expansion of test portfolios and ever-increasing caseloads. The AHDC will explore all avenues of capital and operational funding sources to address workspace challenges and meet client needs. Doing so will enable us to fulfill our mission of service, research, testing and outreach in a resilient, sustainable way.