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Master Sleuth Works to Save Lives

If it’s true that a scientist is a kind of detective, then it’s not hard to think of Dr. Sandra Davidge as a master sleuth. Davidge (M.S. Animal Science, ’85) received the CAHNRS Women’s Leadership award for her contributions to her field as an outstanding professional and academic leader.

Davidge currently serves as the Canada Research Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health and as director of the research division in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alberta. “The importance of Dr. Davidge’s work is reflected by the support given by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research,” said Michael Dodson, a professor in the WSU Department of Animal Science. “She holds a coveted Canada Research Chair, a prestigious honor.” In his nomination letter, Dodson emphasized that Davidge’s work “is important to all women.”

In her role as researcher, Davidge spends a great deal of time investigating a variety of medical mysteries. Her current interest and focus is on cardiovascular physiology as it intersects with women’s health.

Sandra Davidge, Graduate of WSU Animal Science program and recipient of the CAHNRS Women’s Leadership Award
Sandra Davidge is a graduate of WSU's animal science master's program and recipient of the CAHNRS Women’s Leadership Award

Cardiovascular disease is a major killer. It kills more people than any other disease and is also a major disabler, especially of women. Davidge is a leading researcher, prolific author, university educator, and a division director who works tirelessly to understand and hopefully defeat this crippling disease. Her work — whether it is on pregnancy-related vascular impairment or the way a pregnancy with complications may affect the future cardiovascular health of resulting children, or on any of the myriad cases she and her team work on — is a process of discovering evidence, examining suspects, and arresting the culprit that inflicts such serious pain, damage, and sometimes even death.

Davidge (a dual citizen) was born and grew up in Worcester, Mass. “Even though I was a city girl,” she said, “animals and animal science interested me when I was growing up. As an undergraduate in animal science studying equine and dairy science, I found that research excited me.”

Davidge did her undergraduate work at Amherst and would later earn a PhD. from the University of Vermont, but WSU was where she learned to soar, literally. “I met my husband in Pullman,” she said, “and we both learned to fly. I soloed here on my 25th birthday.” She also recalled a few less lofty moments. “I remember going out at 3 a.m. to do heat detection to measure hormonal levels in pregnant cows,” she said.

Davidge chose WSU over other schools because she wanted to see the West. “WSU has a really strong department and a good national reputation in animal science.” She remembers her fellow grad students and her professors as being “just great,” she said. “It was so enjoyable and so sad to leave.”

At the University of Alberta, Davidge works as part of a team with both students and other scientists, and understands team spirit. “We have good teams, the Bears for men and the Pandas for women, but it’s not the same feeling of identification you got at WSU. Cougar spirit was so much more pervasive.”

“WSU provided the foundation for everything I do,” Davidge said. “There, I learned the basics and the excitement of science. The positive experience at WSU lead me to the career I have.”

By Kathryn Ryan