Vital Signs
April 2007

Strength and Resolve in the Face of Horror

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The world has watched in disbelief as our university community has dealt with a horrifying mass murder on our campus. All of us, from those of us here in Blacksburg to hundreds of millions of good and decent people from around the world, have been profoundly shocked by the terrible events of April 16, 2007.
Our VMRCVM community extends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who so tragically lost their lives, and to those who were injured and wounded we extend our best wishes for a quick recovery.
It just seems unimaginable that such a tragedy could occur in the beautiful sanctuary of learning and discovery that is our campus community. But it has. And we must deal with it.
It is often said in life that people are defined not so much by what happens to them but how they respond to what happens to them. As tragic and catastrophic as this event has been, it has illuminated for the world how a university community has squared itself with strength, courage and resolve in the face of unimaginable adversity.
There are some who say that we will never be the same; that the quality and the excellence that has been associated with our name will be eclipsed by this tragedy for a long time to come. We don't know if this will be the case. This tragedy has happened and it will become a part of history. But it should be remembered as something that happened to us; we cannot allow it to define us.
Perhaps this tragedy presents an opportunity for us to learn from this terrible episode and become a university that will be a leader in developing strategies that will prevent similar atrocities from occurring elsewhere.
We will all be trying to come to terms with this tragedy for a long time to come. Perhaps one strategy for us to undertake, as difficult as it may seem right now, is to commit ourselves to fostering the great achievements in learning, scholarship, discovery and service that have come to define Virginia Tech.
If we do this, maybe we can begin to create a future that will be a fitting tribute to those professors and students who have so tragically lost their lives.

Gerhardt G. Schurig

College Graduation Ceremonies Scheduled

VMRCVM Graduation Membership in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's Alumni Society will soar past the 2,000 mark with the graduation of the Class of 2007.
Eighty-eight new veterinarians will be awarded diplomas during the college's 24th commencement exercises on Saturday, May 12 at 8:30 a.m. in Virginia Tech's Squires Student Center. Guests are asked to be in their seats by 8:15 a.m.
In addition to the 88 DVM degrees, the college will award nine Ph.D. degrees, 14 M.S. degrees and seven Certificates of Residency during the ceremony.
With the graduation of this class, the college will have awarded a total of 2,020 DVM degrees, 89 Ph.D. degrees, and 188 M.S. degrees.
Featuring dignitaries from both Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland, the colorful pageant will include the presentation of diplomas jointly awarded by Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland at College Park, the administration of the "Veterinarian's Oath," the "Hooding Ceremony," and numerous awards and honors.
In keeping with tradition, the graduating class selected a favorite faculty member to address them during the ceremony. Dr. David Panciera, professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, will present keynote remarks.
Dr. Greg Svoboda, president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, will welcome the new graduates into the profession on behalf of organized veterinary medicine and Dr. Lauren K. Keating, president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, will swear the new veterinarians into the profession through the administration of the "Veterinarian's Oath."
Hillary H. Chase, the valedictorian of the class of 2007, will be honored with the presentation of the Richard B. Talbot Award, and Dr. Lesley A. Colby will be honored as the Outstanding Young alumna.
On Friday, May 11, at 11 a.m., the college will hold its annual Graduation Awards Luncheon at the Custom Catering Dining Room at 902 Patrick Henry Drive in Blacksburg. Scores of students and faculty members will be honored for their academic performance and teaching excellence during that ceremony.

VMRCVM to hold Nineteenth Annual Research Symposium

Annual Research Symposium The VMRCVM's 19th Annual Research Symposium will focus on advancements in virology when it gets underway May 15-16, 2007.
The annual event highlights VMRCVM student and faculty research. This year's symposium will feature a special "Faculty Virology Seminar" and include presentations by virologists who joined the Virginia Tech campus as part of a cluster hire supported by the Commonwealth Research Initiative and others.
On Tuesday, May 15, graduate students in their last year of study will present their research in fifteen-minute time slots in the morning. All other students will participate in a poster session following lunch. Awards will be given for best presentations and best poster session in the Basic and Clinical Science categories.
Faculty presented during the special faculty seminar on virology include Dr. X. J. Meng, associate professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP); Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah, assistant professor, DBSP; Dr. Paul Christopher "Chris" Roberts, associate professor, DBSP; and Dr. Lijuan Yuan, assistant professor, DBSP.
For more information, please visit

Maryland dog honored as service dog of the year

Judge, Service Dog of the Year A service dog from Laurel, Maryland was awarded the Omega Tau Sigma "Service Dog of the Year" award during recent ceremonies held during the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's annual "Open House" on the Virginia Tech campus.
"Judge," a 3-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever trained and placed by "Fidos for Freedom" was honored for 2007.
Judge is the first service dog for Roberta "Bert" Shipp, who requires help with balance and retrieving things she has dropped.
In her nomination, Shipp explained how Judge has made her life easier. Judge not only assists with Shipp's balance, but also helps her remove her coat and shoes at the end of the day and helps her get up when she has fallen.
Shipp recalled one particular incident when her "canine angel" tugged her ten feet to her front porch after she had slipped on ice.
"Sharing my life with Judge has removed many barriers to my independence," wrote Shipp. "No more meaningful relationship exists then between me and my ever faithful companion, Judge."
The Omega Tau Sigma service organization at the VMRCVM and the St. Francis of Assisi Service Dog Organization annually recognize the dog of the year from a field that includes police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and assistance dogs.
The award honors Booker, a service dog that was named the American Animal Hospital Association's Service dog of the Year in 1988. Booker was owned by and worked with Carol Willoughby of Roanoke. Willoughby is the founder of the St. Francis of Assisi Service Dog Foundation.

Samal Receives Honors from University of Maryland

Dr. Siba Samal Dr. Siba Samal, associate dean of the VMRCVM's Maryland Campus, has been named the recipient of two awards from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) in the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). Samal was honored for his ongoing work in virology and his continuous dedication to teaching.
The first honor was the 2007 Excellence in Research Award from the AGNR Alumni Chapter. To be eligible for this award, the candidate must be actively involved in a distinguished research program in basic or applied sciences that has gained significant recognition. Dr. Samal was presented this award on April 18, at the Twentieth Annual Alumni Reunion and Awards Program at the College Park Campus.
The second honor given to Samal, who also serves as chair of the Department of Veterinary Medicine in the College of AGNR at the UMCP, was the 2007 Dean Gordon Cairns Award for Distinguished Creative Work and Teaching in Agriculture. This is the highest award given by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It recognizes those individuals who are leaders in the initiation and development of creative ideas leading to the enrichment of the learning process and/or discovery of new frontiers in agriculture and related fields. He will be formally recognized with this award on May 3 at the AGNR Awards Ceremony.
Siba K. Samal received a BVSc degree from Orissa Veterinary College in 1976, a MVSc degree from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, and MS and PhD degrees from Texas A&M University. He joined the faculty at the University of Maryland in 1988, and is currently the associate dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and chair of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland, College Park.
His primary research focus is virology, most particularly the use of reverse genetics in the study of Newcastle disease virus (NDV), foot and mouth disease (FMD), avian metapneumovirus and other paramyxoviruses as vaccine vectors. Dr. Samal recently secured a $4.1 million contract from National Institutes of Health (NIH)-National Cancer Institute, the largest amount ever awarded by the NIH in a single-principal investigator grant, for development of avian paramyxovirus vaccine vectors.

Equine Medical Center Returns to Full Operation

Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center reopened to outpatients on Friday, March 30, following the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' issuance of an official release of quarantine on Wednesday, March 28. The hospital resumed full operations, including inpatient and emergency care, on Monday, April 2.
According to Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, patient visits have returned to pre-quarantine levels.
"Upon reopening, there was a waiting list of clients who wanted appointments and couldn't be seen right away due to capacity issues," said White. "We have since been able to accommodate those clients and are pleased to once again be offering the best in equine healthcare."
The center continues to offer a wide range of specialized veterinary services for foals and horses, 24 hour emergency and critical care and board certified veterinarians in anesthesia, internal medicine, and surgery. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 703-771-6800.
The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is a Leesburg based full-service equine hospital that is owned by Virginia Tech and operated as one of three campuses that comprise the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Purswell Honored as Georgia CVM's Outstanding Alumnus

Dr. Beverly Purswell Dr. Beverly J. Purswell, interim head of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), has been awarded the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine's 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award.
Purswell, a professor of theriogenology (animal reproduction) received her D.V.M. and her M.S. and Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Georgia.
She served as an equine veterinarian in Clarkston, Georgia, immediately following graduation from veterinary school. Dr. Purswell is board certified by the American College of Theriogenologists (A.C.T.) and currently serving on the examination committee for the A.C.T.
She is a member of numerous professional organizations including the Southwest Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Society for Theriogenology, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, and the American College of Theriogenologists.
Dr. Purswell has served as president for the Southwest Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, and the Society for Theriogenology. She was chosen as the Virginia Veterinarian of the Year in 2004.

EMC Sponsors Virginia Horse Council's 2007 Legislative Trail Ride

Legislative Trail Ride Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center has signed on as a sponsor of the Virginia Horse Council's 2007 Legislative Trail Ride. The two-day event, which will take place May 11-12 in Leesburg, Virginia, is intended to raise awareness of the Virginia Horse Industry among local and state legislators.
According to Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, participation in this event will increase the visibility of the center within the public sector.
"The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is honored to help sponsor the 2007 Legislative Trail Ride," said White. "We are happy to help the Virginia Horse Council in its efforts to strengthen the presence of the equine industry in the state and to reinforce the relevance of equine healthcare to the Commonwealth's economy."
As part of the Legislative Trail Ride, legislators and other invited guests will attend a barbecue on the evening of Friday, May 11, that will feature tours of the center as well as educational activities for children with a focus on veterinary medicine. Other highlights of the night include environmental outreach organization Animal Ambassadors, Johnny Cash tribute band Cold Hard Cash, Dallas the Seabiscuit Star, a presentation by a student from Loudoun Therapeutic Riding, speaker David O'Connor, and trick horse rider Doug Sloan.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for us to demonstrate the value of our facility to the Commonwealth," said White. "We are proud to be a part of this prestigious event which showcases the best of Virginia's horse industry."
The Legislative Trail Ride is an annual family weekend that has been held at various locations throughout Virginia for 27 years. This year, the trail rides will take place at historic Morven Park in Leesburg. Additional sponsors of the Legislative Trail Ride include Morven Park, the America's Cup of Polo, Linden Development, Microsoft Corporation and Wickliffe Veterinary Pharmacy, Inc.
The Virginia Horse Council is a nonprofit organization formed by horsemen for horsemen. The membership and Board of Directors represent all breeds. More information about the Virginia Horse Council is available online at

Not Your Average Spring Break

Alida Kinney and H. Groch Mexico attracts many college students to its warm waters and sandy beaches during the Spring Break season. However, for Alida Kinney, a member of the Class of 2010, her Spring Break trip to Mexico was less about soaking up the sun and more about helping the animals and people of Tunkas, Mexico. Alida, H. Groch, a fellow member of VMRCVM's Class of 2010, and students from other American and Mexican veterinary colleges assisted with rabies vaccinations and surgical sterilizations for the local animal population. This annual travel abroad program is organized by Dr. Bettye Walters, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Jorge Hernandez of the University of Florida.
Alida's journal entries provide a valuable look at the role veterinary medicine plays in developing cultures.
By Alida L. Kinney
Class of 2009

3/10/07 ¡Bienvenidos a Merida! Well here I am! Half a semester's worth of hard effort so I can deserve this! H. and I are sitting in the outdoor patio restaurant of Hotel Caribe having lime soup and staring off at this lush tropical courtyard! There is also a beautiful pair of Toucans in a birdcage just in front of us. Everyone is really friendly, but I am already a little overwhelmed by the language barrier - not having taken Spanish since high school. However, I am picking up words here and there, and sometimes I'm able to throw out some sentences that even surprise me. This is going to be quite a cultural experience!!!
3/11/07 We have arrived into Tunkas and moved into our bungalows. Ours is much nicer than I expected. It has two rooms, a powder room, and a bathroom, plus a kitchen that is open to the outside, so we have shut off that room. There are six of us in the house: from U.Georgia, AJ and Rachel; from U.Florida, Katie and Marisa (4th yrs) and Stephanie - and we are all sleeping in hammocks strung up across the rooms.
The town is quite interesting, sort of what I expected! Lots of old crumbling cement hovels that one can never determine if inhabited or not. Entire families are balancing on bikes in the streets, and it is very common to see dog packs roaming in the streets, attacking each other. Tomorrow, hopefully we will bring some of them under control.
Alida Kinney 3/12/07 A hot sunny day in Tunkas. This morning, we were placed into teams with two Tunkas high schoolers. Stephanie and I were paired with two girls named Salia and Lady to accompany us, and we walked all over town to complete the survey portion of the trip. The survey was targeted at various families in the community, what types of animals they had, how many, and reasons for not having certain animals like chickens turkeys, goats, cows, etc. Neither girl spoke any English, so we were faced with quite a language barrier. We returned for an excellent lunch of cooked rice and veggies. A few ladies in the community make all the food for us - a real cultural treat! After which we returned to our huts and hammocks for a much-needed siesta!
I hear the surgery teams are going well with the spays and neuters. It is interesting the requests villagers have when they bring their pets. Some want them euthanized simply because they eat the backyard chickens - these people really depend on their backyard livestock productions. One dog who came in for a spay was a show dog for the circus, so we had to explain the recovery period in order to properly rest her before she can dance and jump through hoops again!
3/12/07 This afternoon, we started vaccination teams. A girl named Ashley and I were paired with Jorge, a veterinary student from Univ. of Yucatan, and several Tunkas high schoolers. We were assigned an 8-block radius and essentially went door to door asking for perros y gatos. The inhabitants would bring out their animals into the street and muzzle and hold them for us, and we would quickly inject 1ml of rabies vaccine into the hind leg. It was very important that the animal owners did all the restraining in order to protect us. Likewise, cats had to be put in a bag, and vaccinated through the fabric for sufficient restraint. We three vet students took turns injecting, and the high schoolers were in charge of writing the vaccine record and ensuring we didn't get lost. Occasionally we broke the rules and entered the front yards to vaccinate, but luckily no one got hurt and we had no problems (especially since we used the same needle on all 5 dogs).
H. Groch 3/13/07 For the first half of today, I helped Marisa (4th yr surgeon) and the other doctors on the surgery teams. We spayed two kittens (gatitos) and one puppy (perritos). The townspeople, who have now all heard word of us, just come to the town center (the palacio) bearing their pets. The palace is where we do surgery and has become our home base! All the surgeries have been going well. It is difficult communicating to them post-surgery instructions, but the Spanish-speaking surgeons manage. We have also been using Lidacaine as well as other pain - relieving drug combos so that the animals wake up easier. It is relatively quiet and pain free because their owners would not understand and would undergo unnecessary distress! They also do not seem to understand the basics of surgery because many pets were fed breakfast, and we had one vomit post-surgery. Aspiration is always a big concern we have to consider.
I sat with one dog post-surgery and just removed as many ticks and fleas as I could. We, unfortunately, cannot do anything about their parasite problems. Anyway, as I was collecting these ticks and fleas, several Mexican elementary-aged students came up, gathered around me, and watched. They kept asking me questions about what I was doing, but I was not capable of fully answering them!
3/14/07 I am intrigued in the whole veterinary concept in Mexico. From what I have learned, their school, La Universidad Zoologica, is in Merida. It is a 5yr program post-undergrad and of the 60 classmates, not many are women! Rita, one of their students who happens to be staying with us, has told us that the female doctors are allowed to treat large animal livestock and that things are just now changing, allowing female veterinarians more opportunities! ¡Muy interesante!
3/15/07 Morning duty included more vaccine teams, and even though we still had plenty of vacuna left, we noticed that many of the people had already been covered (which is a very good thing). It was quite hot out, and I have to give credit to the high schoolers - all week in fact! They were a huge help and volunteered quite willingly. At one house, after getting the cat in the little shopping bag ready to vaccinate (as we did with all of them - quite hilarious), this clever cat got out and the entire household threw up their hands in celebration (universal celebration of the departure of a cat)! Anyway, funny thing, the cat ran half way down the street and jumped the fence back into their yard! Haha oh well.
Chichen Itza Pyramids 3/16/07 The week has ended, sadly. The bus ride back to Merida was a time for reflection - feeling the cool wind on my face and thinking about all the differences from my own life back in Blacksburg. I am going to miss Tunkas and my experiences there! The kindness that everyone willingly shows; the participation and effort put forth by everyone - high schoolers, adults, even the elderly; the younger kids' intense curiosity with us (at least all the blond-haired us) and what we were doing, and the fact that by the end of the week they had learned to say 'Hello', 'Hi', and 'How are you' back to our greetings in Spanish; the beautiful shaped Mayan features in everyone's faces; the multi-person effort to house us and make us meals, and to correct the meals after all our pesky American dietary stipulations; the mid-evening roaming dog packs that emerged on the streets; sleeping in hammocks, or at least trying to; the various pesky insects and arthropods we had to ward off; and most importantly, working with other veterinary students nationwide to collaborate with a rural Mexican village incapable of progressive medicine to help many animals who had never been exposed to or assisted with veterinary care. The total count, from our work Monday through Thursday came to an approximate total of 586 animals vaccinated; 27 neuter and spay surgeries; no animal complications, and most importantly, no injuries to the volunteers. It was an overall extremely successful week!