Focus on Faculty: Tanya LeRoith
Tanya LeRoith is a clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. She received her bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Maryland before completing her doctor of veterinary medicine degree at the the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She later earned her doctorate in microbiology/pathology from Washington State University. LeRoith joined the college in 2005 and holds research interests in animal models of infectious disease, viral immunology, and comparative pathology. She is also a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and has received numerous awards, including the 2005 Harriet B. Rigas Award for Outstanding Women in Graduate Studies at the Doctorate Level.
- I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa, and lived in different parts of South Africa and Namibia until I was 11. I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for six months when I first moved to the U.S., but spent most of middle and high school in Rockville, Maryland.
- What are your current responsibilities at the college? If you teach, what do you teach?
- I am the director of ViTALS, the college’s diagnostic laboratory, and am the section chief of Anatomic Pathology. I’m an anatomic pathologist and do both necropsy and biopsy service for clinicians in the hospital, as well as for referring veterinarians in Virginia and Maryland. I have a research lab that I share with Julie Cecere, and our interest is viral immunology. I serve on a large number of graduate student committees, and I provide pathology support to many investigators that use animals as models for human diseases. I teach Advanced Histopathology to third-year students, and in the spring of 2016, I’m taking over as course leader of Veterinary Virology. I also teach virology as part of the lab services clerkship. I represent my department on the Curriculum Board and have also been directly involved with revising the veterinary curriculum.
- When did you come to the college, and what brought you here?
- I am an alumna (DVM ’99), and when I left Blacksburg for my Ph.D. and pathology residency, my dream was to come back to the college as a faculty member. My position opened while I was finishing my Ph.D., so I jumped at the chance to come back. I have been here as a faculty member since 2005, and I love Blacksburg and the area.
- What interests you about your field?
- My hero in college was Nancy Jaax, and I always thought it would be exciting to work with BSL-4 pathogens. I gave up my goals to work on Ebola in veterinary school when I discovered that Rabies was scary enough. As a veterinary student, I found infectious diseases, especially virology, fascinating because of the implications on herd health and disease. I thought that the most interesting diseases were in pigs and poultry because of the zoonotic potential and the effects of the diseases on the food supply. But I was convinced that I would never work with pigs and chickens because of the smell. Many years later, my research focuses on diseases of economic importance in the swine industry, and we use a chicken model for hepatitis E virus research. I love pathology because it focuses on the mechanisms of disease, and the changes in the host that result from disease processes. I also like the opportunity to work with a whole host of species and types of diseases ranging from infection to cancer to degenerative and metabolic diseases.
- What is your area of research? Why did you decide to focus on that area?
- My research is focused on viral immunology, and I am specifically interested in how viruses manipulate the host immune response to become persistent or cause disease. Our lab currently works on two viruses of economic importance in pigs (PCV2 and PRRSV), and hepatitis E virus, which causes hepatitis in people. As a pathologist, focusing on how the host responds to virus infection is of great interest to me.
- Hobbies or interests outside of the college?
- I am a mom, a runner, and a sometimes competitive triathlete. I am also an amateur photographer, and I like to take photos of my kids, my friends, and the fabulous area that we live in.
- Do you have any pets?
- I have a Jack Russell Terrier named Maya, a mixed-breed dog that was rescued from a reservation in Colorado named Maxx, and two cats named Elana and Lucy.
- Anything else you wish to share?
- Even though I don’t teach a lot in the DVM curriculum, teaching students and residents is the best part of my job.