College Awarded Full Accreditation
Dear friends and colleagues,
I am pleased to report that the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education has reaccredited the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine for a period of up to seven years. The COE’s faith in our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program not only reaffirms the quality and rigor of the education that our students receive, but also reflects the hard work of our community members to achieve this milestone.
The U.S. Department of Education recognizes the Council on Education as the official accrediting body responsible for assuring that veterinary education meets the high standards expected by students, parents, the public, and the profession. Seven years is the maximum period of accreditation possible before the college must be evaluated once again by a site visit team.
In the absence of any minor or major deficiencies, our accreditation status confirms that we are fully compliant with all 11 standards of accreditation: organization, finances, physical facilities and equipment, clinical resources, information resources, students, admission, faculty, curriculum, research programs, and outcomes assessment.
The accreditation review required participation from multiple constituencies, including faculty, staff, students, and external stakeholders. To prepare for the accreditation review and site visit, the college drafted a detailed self-study and invested over $1 million in deferred maintenance projects in the teaching hospital and Equine Medical Center. Many of our faculty and staff put in long hours to ensure that we were well prepared throughout the process.
Not for the faint of heart, accreditation is a formal, third-party recognition that is, at its most basic, a validation. Accreditation assures the quality of our educational program, enables our graduates to meet licensing requirements, and demonstrates to our peer institutions and stakeholders that we are committed to academic excellence.
I am extremely proud of our stellar review and thank each of you for your continued commitment to advancing our veterinary medical educational program.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
When Northern Virginia resident Jennifer Lucier began searching for her first horse in 2009, she saw several horses before 7-year-old Petunia caught her eye.
“It was a lifelong dream come true when I found her,” said Lucier, who lives in Arlington, Virginia, and keeps her horse about 50 miles west in Delaplane. “She was exactly what I was looking for.”
When Petunia tore a suspensory ligament in May 2011, Lucier’s veterinarian referred her to Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia. Dr. Jennifer Barrett, the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery, performed an ultrasound and determined that Petunia was a good candidate for stem cell treatment.
“Nine months from the date of the injury, she was back to work under the saddle,” said Lucier, who explained that Petunia’s alternative would have been to rest in her stall and hope for the best.
Through its Regenerative Medicine Service, the Equine Medical Center has turned a promising idea into innovative and effective treatments for a variety of conditions.
The veterinary college is hosting a summer Four-Day Vet School for community members to experience the breadth and sophistication of 21st century veterinary medical education.
The program starts with an introductory session on May 7 and ends with “graduation” on June 11. Veterinary college faculty members will teach about medical and surgical procedures available for animals, as well as cutting-edge clinical and biomedical research.
A session on May 7 will feature an introduction from Dean Cyril Clarke and a tour of the college’s state-of-the-art teaching, research, and clinical facilities from 6 to 8 p.m. Each of the four main classes will last from 6 to 9 p.m. and focus on different areas of veterinary medicine. A graduation will be held on June 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. Dr. Peter Eyre, dean emeritus, will present certificates of completion to the participants.
Tuition is $100 per person for the full series of classes and includes dinner each evening. Registration is due by April 24.
Nineteen veterinary students from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have been named 2015 Zoetis Veterinary Student Scholars Award recipients.
The second- and third-year students each received a $2,000 scholarship from the animal health company Zoetis and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.
The Virginia-Maryland students were selected from almost 1,200 applicants from colleges of veterinary medicine in the U.S. and Caribbean. From those applications, 487 recipients were selected for the award and will cumulatively receive nearly $974,000 in scholarships.
Applicants were evaluated based on several criteria including academic excellence, professional interests, financial need, diversity, leadership, and potential for contribution to the veterinary profession.
Students from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech had a strong showing at the 2015 Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) Symposium held last month at the University of Minnesota.
Each year a veterinary school hosts the educational symposium for students from across the country. The three-day program consists of interactive wet labs, lectures, academic and athletic competitions, an exhibit hall, and the SAVMA House of Delegates bi-annual meeting.
In the academic competitions, Virginia-Maryland fielded two teams: bovine palpation and radiology. The Bovine Palpation Team finished second in this year’s competition, and second-year veterinary student Tyler McGill finished first among individuals.
The competition consisted of three rounds in which teams were eliminated until only the top three teams remained. “We were one of only two schools to advance all five team members to the second round, and the only school to advance four team members to the final round,” said McGill of Waterford, Vermont.
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech has recognized two former students with its Outstanding Recent Alumni Award and inaugural Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award.
Dr. Tom Cecere (DVM ’05) of Blacksburg, Virginia was honored with the 2015 Outstanding Recent Alumni Award. A chief criterion for this award is demonstrable positive impact from an alumnus who graduated from the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program within the last 10 years. It also recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally or through service to the university since graduating.
Dr. Sue VandeWoude (DVM ’86) of Fort Collins, Colorado, was selected as the first recipient of the college’s Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award. This award was instituted in 2014 in recognition of the college’s 30th anniversary. It recognizes alumni for exemplary and sustained accomplishment in veterinary medicine and demonstrable positive impact.
A scientist with both the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has helped develop new imaging techniques to watch dangerous brain tumor cells respond to treatment in real time.
Zhi Sheng, an assistant professor in the veterinary college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Deborah Kelly, a faculty member at the institute, published a study in NANO Letters that describes how the research team used nanotechnology to watch tumor cells respond to therapy.
“We’ve never been able to directly observe the actions of potential cancer treatments this way before,” said Sheng, a cancer biologist. “It was astounding. In all my years of researching glioblastoma, I had seen only static images.”
“We’re going to learn about where your breakfast comes from,” Shelly Rasnick told a class of kindergarteners at Dublin Elementary School.
As she addressed the group of about 20 youngsters, one boy immediately raised his hand in excitement as he knew exactly from where his breakfast came.
“It comes from a farm!” he said loudly. It was pretty clear he understood the point of Rasnick’s visit to the school that Thursday morning.
It was the first of many events that will promote the Farm to School program recently approved for Pulaski County Public Schools. The program is an initiative to bring locally grown foods into the schools’ cafeterias and onto the students’ trays, and help both the students and the community understand the significance of local agriculture.
Rasnick is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health at Virginia Tech, and was hired in January as the coordinator for the Farm to School program in Pulaski County.
The college's Equine Field Service unit was a recent recipient of a tonometer donation from I-Care Finland and Jorgensen Laboratories Inc. The I-care TonoVet measures intraocular pressure on animal patients.
I-Care Finland and Jorgensen Laboratories selected the college to receive a Tonovet rebound tonometer for the Harry T. Peters Jr. Large Animal Hospital. “I know that the Equine Field Service has used an older Tonovet and that is was shared between hospitals,” said Sandra Cassady, Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager for Jorgensen Laboratories Inc. “We wanted to gift the college with its own large animal tonometer.”
Each year, four veterinary colleges are selected to receive a tonometer from Jorgensen. In 2015, the company's focus is on large animal ophthalmology departments.
“They have been very supportive of our ophthalmology service over the years,” noted Dr. Phil Pickett, professor of ophthalmology. “In 2013, they donated a new tonometer for our Small Animal Hospital.”
Tonometry is an essential part of an examination for many veterinary patients. The I-Care Tonovet tonometer is based on a rebound measuring principle, in which a very light probe is used to make momentary, gentle contact with the cornea. The measurement is barely noticed by the animal and often does not even cause corneal reflex. Because it is painless, the tonometer creates no anxiety for the animal.
Every two years, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges honors the late Dr. Iverson Bell, the first African American veterinarian to hold the position of vice president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, by holding a symposium in his name.
Last month, four veterinary students and eight faculty members traveled to Washington D.C. to attend this year’s conference and symposium. Over the three days at the conference, the participants attended numerous presentations and discussions about diversity-related topics.
“One of the more lively discussions of the conference was led by Va-Md Vet Med's Dr. Jacque Pelzer and Dr. Jennifer Hodgson on expanding diversity in the student selection process,” recalled Amber Roudette, a second-year veterinary student. “They proposed expanding the traditional definition of diversity from race and ethnicity to include less obvious characteristics like socioeconomic status, gender and sexuality, ability, and even attributes and aspirations.”
Focus on Faculty: Dr. Mark Freeman
Dr. Mark Freeman is an assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. He joined in the college in 2012 after serving in small animal surgery and medicine faculty positions at Ross University and Tuskegee University. Freeman completed a bachelor’s degree in biology from Morehead State University and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Auburn University. He is board certified in canine and feline specialty by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.
I grew up in a very small town, Harrodsburg, Kentucky, which is about 25 miles southwest of Lexington.
What are your current responsibilities at the college? If you teach, what do you teach?
The majority of my assignment at the college is as a clinical instructor in the Community Practice. I currently spend 34-36 weeks of each year seeing patients and guiding students as they navigate their way through the Community Practice service of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The Community Practice service offers the students a unique opportunity within the teaching hospital in that they are acting as the primary doctor for each patient. Our hope is that this closely mirrors what they will be doing in actual practice after graduation.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
Since joining the veterinary college in 2010, Michelle Dobbins, TRACSS animal care supervisor at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, has steadily risen through the ranks, first as IDU coordinator, then area coordinator in Phase IV, and now Phase IV animal care supervisor. Her nominator wrote, “She has been promoted due to her hard work ethic, her genuine care for her staff, and the belief that her job is important (which it is) and should be done to the best of her abilities.”
In addition, specific instances were noted in which Dobbins played critical roles. “In August of last year, we had a CDC inspection in which the inspectors indicated that our facilities ranked in the top 10 percent of the cleanest facilities they had ever seen. This is a true testament to all of Michelle’s work to maintain a clean and well organized facility,” noted the nominator. “She was also an integral part of the July 2014 AAALAC site visit in which we achieved reaccreditation. Michelle has always pulled through with any last minute tasks, changes, and emergencies, and I know that having her work for TRACSS has only made it that much better. The veterinary college should be proud to have someone like Michelle working for it.”
Kimberly Ascue, assistant director of IT support services, was nominated for the Virginia Tech President’s Award for Excellence. Since taking the helm of the veterinary college’s IT Support Office in 2005, Ascue has been what her nominators described as a “driving force behind vast improvements in customer service, implementation of new technologies, and the career development of her subordinates.”
Ascue is responsible for significantly reducing the service turnaround time in her department and increasing the number of supported devices and technologies. “She has done this by constantly analyzing the efficiencies of the tools used by her staff and making sure her staff gets the superior tools when they exist,” her nominator wrote. “She has also found ways to enhance communication between technician and customer to reduce overhead and thus allow her staff to be more efficient.”
The President's Award for Excellence is presented annually to up to five Virginia Tech staff employees who have made extraordinary contributions by consistent excellence in the performance of their job or a single incident, contribution, or heroic act. Although Ascue was not selected as one of the five finalists, she did get a photo with President Timothy D. Sands at the awards ceremony and a shout out on his Twitter feed.
The Veterinary Teaching Hospital recently recognized staff employees for years of service:
- Melanie Gevedon, special procedures technician, for 15 years
- Maureen Perry, pharmacy supervisor, for 15 years
- Donna Burton, medical technologist, for 25 years
- Deanna McCrudden, small animal supervisor, for 25 years
- Carolyn Sink, supervisor of diagnostic and support services, for 25 years
- Ralph Roop, senior equipment repair technician, for 30 years
- Samantha Suroski, office services specialist supervisor, for 30 years
- Karen Whitt, nutrition technician, for 30 years
- Judy Hutchison, communications supervisor, for 40 years
Elena Cox, a first-year veterinary student, spent a few days during her spring break attending the Living With Animals Conference held at Eastern Kentucky University. She attended the event with her undergraduate mentor, Dr. Amy Nelson, associate professor of history at Virginia Tech, and presented a poster on “Lead Toxicity in Raptors.” Her poster represented research she conducted at the Wildlife Center of Virginia addressing ways in which game hunters can remain partners in wildlife conservation through voluntary ammunition changes to avoid lead toxicosis in raptors that consume lead ammunition left behind in game carcasses.
Taylor Engle, first-year veterinary student, received a scholarship and travel award at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) Annual Meeting in Orlando in March. He was one of 15 veterinary students to compete for awards in the student poster competition. Based on scores received in the original judging of abstracts submitted for the AASV Student Seminar, the top 15 abstracts not selected for oral presentations were able to compete in the poster competition. Engle received a $200 scholarship from Newport Laboratories and a $250 travel stipend from Zoetis and the AASV.
Anna Katogiritis, second-year veterinary student, won the “Best Graduate Student Poster Award” at the 2015 Virginia Chapter of the Wildlife Society Annual Meeting. Her poster was based on collaborative work between the college and the Black Bear Rehabilitation Center of Virginia Tech, supervised by researchers Dr. Sherrie Clark, Dr. Bernardo Cruz, and Dr. Marcella Kelly.
Dr. Daniel Nelson, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Medicine, is among nine nominees for the most promising new inventions at a Celebration of Innovation and Partnerships event to be held on April 30. This is part of a month-long celebration and exhibition of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland. Nelson has identified an enzyme produced by bacteriophages that selectively targets Staphylococcus bacteria, which causes life-threatening infections in humans. The new invention is PlyGRCS, an endolysin enzyme which chews up the cell wall of the bacterium, causing its death and offering a new alternative to traditional antibiotics. The new enzyme is capable of cleaving, or dividing, the cell wall through two places as opposed to traditional endolysins, enzymes which can cleave in only one dimension. Learn more about the award nomination.
Dr. Bess Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences, presented two lectures on stifle disease at the 2015 International Working Dog Conference in La Grande Motte, France, on March 23-26.
Dr. Beverly Purswell, professor emerita in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, has been selected to receive the David E. Bartlett Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theriogenology. Purswell, who taught canine and equine theriogenology at the veterinary college from 1985 to 2012, will be presented with the award at the Society for Theriogenology’s Annual Conference in San Antonio on Aug. 6. She is a former member of the Society for Theriogenology’s board of directors and served as president in 1993. The Virginia Veterinary Medical Association awarded Purswell with the Veterinarian of the Year Award in 2004, and the University of Georgia awarded her with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007. Read more about the distinction on the Society for Theriogenology’s website.
Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, traveled to Port of Spain, Trinidad, as an invited speaker for an Animal Disease Recognition and Response Training. The training was attended by chief veterinary officers and veterinarians from throughout the Caribbean. Ragan spoke on the detection and response to brucellosis and tuberculosis, both of which were identified as priority zoonotic diseases in the Caribbean. The training was part of the One Health, One Caribbean, One Love project, funded by the European Union. Ragan also met with the chief veterinary officer of Trinidad and his team to initiate the development of a herd plan to eliminate brucellosis from the large buffalypso herd, a water buffalo-type herd genetically unique to Trinidad.
Samantha Suroski, office services specialist supervisor at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, was nominated for the Hokie Wellness Supervisor Spotlight Award. This award recognizes Virginia Tech faculty and staff supervisors who promote work/life harmony through consistent recognition of and responsiveness to their employees’ professional and personal lives. Suroski was nominated for the award by the employees she supervises.
Christine Tin, a junior majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science, was one of three Virginia Tech students to receive a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2015-16 academic year. Tin works under the mentorship of Lijuan Yuan, associate professor of virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, to research ways to increase the efficacy of rotavirus vaccines through probiotics. She is among 260 sophomore or junior students selected for the Goldwater honor. Faculty members from colleges and universities across the United States nominated more than 1,200 mathematics, science, and engineering students for consideration of the award.
- April 25 — Annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K
- Virginia Tech Cross Country Course — Blacksburg, VA
- May 7 – June 11 — Four-Day Vet School
- Va-Md Vet Med Main Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- May 13 — DVM Program Application Cycle Begins
- Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS)
- May 15 — Spring 2015 Commencement Ceremonies
- Virginia Tech Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- May 20 — Virginia Tech Staff Appreciation Day
- Virginia Tech Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- June 20–23 — MVMA Summer Conference
- Ocean City, MD
- July 10–14 — AVMA Annual Convention
- Boston, MA
For More Upcoming Events…
Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Dean: Dr. Cyril R. Clarke
- Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
- Director: Sherrie Whaley
- Content Editor: Michael Sutphin
- Web Editors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak
- Contributors: Alison Elward, Calvin Pynn, Amber Roudette, Michael Sutphin, Ashley WennersHerron, Sherrie Whaley
- Photography: Alison Elward, Cathy Grimes, Calvin Pynn, Megan Quesenberry, Jim Stroup, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace, Sherrie Whaley