Executive Director | 2002 to 2007
Dr. Lelve Gayle, a native of Lovelady, Texas, received his bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1963 and earned his DVM in 1964, both from Texas A&M University. Upon graduation, Dr. Gayle served as a staff veterinarian with the 819th Medical Group, SAC, in the United States Air Force. Later he worked in private veterinary practice in the Dallas area, served as a clinical associate professor of veterinary physiology at Texas A&M, then worked as owner and veterinarian at a large animal practice.
Gayle joined TVMDL in 1976 as case supervisor and was promoted to Head of Diagnostic Services in 1980. That same year, he also earned his master’s degree in veterinary toxicology from Texas A&M. After eight years, Gayle was again promoted to Associate Agency Director for TVMDL while continuing to lead Diagnostic Services. He was selected as Executive Director and appointed to that role by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in 2002 and served in that role until his retirement in 2007.
Dr. Gayle served a unique role for TVMDL. The lab was one of the first diagnostic labs to employ a case coordinator to review lab results and consult with practitioners. Dr. Gayle, while not the first to hold the role of case coordinator, truly laid the foundation for this service. As the caseload grew, so did the role of case coordinator. He and his staff were the face of the diagnostic lab, maintaining frequent contact with veterinary practitioners and ensuring lab results were interpreted to help arrive at a diagnosis.
As director, Dr. Gayle led the agency during several major animal and public health events: fallout from the 2001 anthrax attacks, the UK’s foot and mouth disease outbreak, and the first confirmation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States. In response, the United States Department of Agriculture identified the need for a National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) to coordinate Federal laboratory capacity with the extensive infrastructure (facilities, professional expertise, and support) of State-supported laboratories. Twelve laboratories across the United States were selected to become part of the NAHLN and under Dr. Gayle’s leadership, TVMDL was selected as a founding NAHLN member.
Dr. Gayle secured funds for TVMDL to build the agency’s first biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory, a high containment laboratory dedicated to handling pathogens that may cause serious harm through inhalation. These include the pathogens that cause foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever, among others. Though they are rare, outbreaks of these high-consequence diseases would have a disastrous effect on animal health, the food supply, the movement of animals and animal products, and the overall agriculture economy. Thus having immediate access to a BLS-3 laboratory was key for TVMDL to stand ready to test samples during an outbreak. Under Gayle’s leadership, the College Station lab opened its BSL-3 laboratory in 2004 and introduced a mobile BSL-3 trailer in 2006 to expand its capacity.
Dr. Gayle was selected as President of the Texas Academy of Veterinary Practice in 1985 and as President of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) in 1996. He was recognized with the Distinguished Achievement Award from TVMA, the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for Professional Services, the Regents Fellow Service Award, TVMA President’s Award and the President’s Award from the Texas Academy of Veterinary Practice.
The agency’s legacy of client-focused service continued to grow under Dr. Gayle’s leadership. He led TVMDL through a time of uncertainty in the animal health industry and ensured TVMDL and the state were prepared to support livestock and companion animals in the event of a major disease outbreak.