Biography: William 'Bill' McCulloch

Bill McCulloch was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1932, but spent most of his time until 1945 on family farms in Minnesota. He earned his DVM degree from Iowa State University (1956) and Masters Degree in Public Health (MPH) in 1960 from the University of Minnesota. He did his graduate degree under Delta Society Co-founder, Robert K. Anderson, DVM, MPH.

A younger brother, Michael McCulloch, MD, and Bill read about the human-animal bond from writings of Dr. Boris Levinson in the mid-1960’s, when Bill was on the University of Iowa medical college faculty and Michael was a medical student. Bill encouraged him to be a beacon of light to pursue the human health benefits of companion animals as a physician. He and the late Dr. Leo Bustad were life-long friends and colleagues in promoting Delta Society world-wide.

During his career and involvement with Delta Society, Bill has been a co-founder, Board member for 9 years, vice-president of the Board of Directors, and currently a member of the Honorary Board. During Delta Society’s capital campaign, Bill chaired an International Veterinary Leadership Committee for helping gain funds as part of the overall campaign that eventually raised over $7.6 million dollars.

Dr. Bill McCulloch’s human-animal bond efforts began long before the beginning of Delta Society in 1977, having published articles beginning in the late 1960’s and early 70’s with his brother, Michael and Drs. Richard Dorn and the late Donald Blenden.

He chaired or was on the planning committee for three national human-animal bond conferences with published proceedings. These efforts were on top of his regular academic responsibilities. Dr. Bill McCulloch was considered an expert on diseases transmitted from animals to man with eventual publication of a book in 1975, Diseases Transmitted from Animals to Man, co-edited by Drs. William Hubbert and Paul Schnurrenberger. His publications, over 100, included such journals as the New England Journal of Medicine and Scientific Publications of the Pan American Health Organization of the World Health Organization. He served on the faculties of the Universities of Iowa, Missouri, Texas A & M University, Baylor College of Medicine, Colorado State University and came out of retirement in 1999 to become Interim Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University.

McCulloch served as member and Chair of the AVMA Council on Education and also was founding Chair of the AVMA Human-Animal Bond Task Force. MCulloch’s major efforts throughout his career have been on what is now called One Health efforts of the health and allied professions. One of his seminal papers was “One Health Concept: the Human-Animal Bond as a Collaborative Model”. It was published as part of a One Health in Action Series in Veterinaria Italia edited by Laura Kahn, MD, Bruce Kaplan, DVM and Thomas Month, MD in 2007.

For his many contributions he has been given Outstanding Achievement and Distinguished Achievement Awards by the alumni associations of Iowa State University and Texas A & M University. McCulloch was the first recipient of the Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award in 1986 and was recently inducted into the Theodore Roosevelt High School Hall of Fame for his life-time achievements.

One of McCulloch’s former graduate students, Dr. Kelley Donham, Professor and Director of the Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, said the following about him, “….Dr. McCulloch has been extremely productive in organized veterinary medicine and many public and private health organizations. Perhaps one of his lasting achievements has been as a principle in the founding of the Delta Society….Bill and his late brother, Michael McCulloch, MD, contributed a tremendous gift to the principles of public health and the One Medicine concept. Delta Society lives on in strength and testament to Dr. McCulloch’s vision, energy and ‘get-it-done’ abilities.”

Bill is married to Janice McCulloch. They live in Beaverton, Oregon and have four children and six grandchildren.


Below is a Tribute to Dr. McCulloch, written July 19, 2010 by JoAnn Turnbull, then Delta Society Marketing Director.  Hope you enjoy reading a bit more about the 'soft' side of this inspirational man.

A Living Legend

Seventy eight years ago this week, one of the kindest, most intelligent and inspiring people I've ever had the honor of meeting was born. He grew up on a Midwestern farm with animals part of his daily life, and eventually became a veterinarian. Acting on his desire to help people, as well as animals, he then earned his Masters degree in Public Health. He has had a full career helping both people and animals live better lives, while influencing change for a better world.

Who is this person? It's Dr. Bill McCulloch – one of the co-founders of Delta Society. 'Dr. Bill' was one of the pioneers who recognized the important role animals played in helping people live healthier and happier lives. At a time when pets were often thought of as luxury items, Dr. Bill and his peers collaborated to change the public's and medical professionals' perception about the role of animals in our lives.

Dr. Bill's achievements over the years have been numerous, to say the least. For instance, in 1981 he helped initiate the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) Human-Animal Bond Task Force to review the professions role in recognizing and promoting the human-animal bond. This AVMA Committee continues to this day.

In 1983, he and others were instrumental in helping with the passage of the Housing and Urban Rural Recovery Act. This bill, establishing that federally subsidized housing for seniors and individuals with disabilities may not prohibit or prevent a tenant from having common household pets, sent a strong signal that the federal government recognizes the therapeutic value of pets in American's lives.

Last month I had the pleasure of going to dinner with Dr. Bill, his lovely wife Janice, and my co-blogger Lori Moak-Kean. It was a fun evening with dear friends. Many stories and memories were shared, but one story that Dr. Bill shared made a lasting impression.

Nibbs was Dr. Bill's childhood dog. Young Bill loved his 4-legged friend who kept him company on so many outdoor adventures and whom he settled in with during quiet times in the house. Then one day tragedy struck and Nibbs passed away while 17 year-old Bill was out of town at a football game. His father carefully buried Nibbs and lovingly marked his grave.

When Bill came home and learned of the news he was devastated. His devastation made worse as he didn't feel he was afforded the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to his beloved friend. Being a 'stoic farm boy', Bill didn't share his feelings of how he was so upset that he wasn't given a chance for closure and that he wasn't able to properly grieve as he was not able to bury his own dog of some 12 years of companionship. Dr. Bill commented that he may not have even realized at the time how upset he really was. His lack of time to adequately mourn his friend is something Dr. Bill still thinks about to this day.

Today, some 50+ years later, Nibbs is certainly not forgotten. A picture of Nibbs is next to his computer - and whenever Dr. Bill looks at it, Nibbs is still able to warm his heart.

Dr. Bill's story is one that exemplifies how our pets can really touch and 'get into' our hearts. They bring such joy and comfort that literally can last for decades after they've passed.

Thanks to the work of Dr. Bill, I suspect millions of people have been directly or indirectly influenced by his work supporting the importance of the human-animal bond in our homes, in our communities, and in society in general.

Thank you Dr. Bill for ALL the work you've done and continue to do in this field…and for just being who you are! You've inspired me in more ways than you will ever know.

In the bond,


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