Vital Signs: August 2015 Vol. 4, Issue 8

A message from Dean Cyril Clarke

Welcome, DVM Class of 2019!

Dear friends and colleagues,

The new academic year is underway following a busy summer. Over the past few months, our faculty and staff continued their work in the college’s teaching, research, and service missions and our fourth-year veterinary students began their 12 months of clinical rotations. Meanwhile, second- and third-year students had many opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills, whether shadowing a veterinarian at a private practice in their hometown or conducting research with a faculty member right here in Blacksburg.

Last Friday at the “White Coat” ceremony, we were pleased to welcome the new Class of 2019 to the profession after a week-long orientation. They bring to our community a wealth of life experiences. They include artists and musicians, a winter sports enthusiast, a competitive swimmer, two siblings of current veterinary students, and a former technician from our own Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

More than 1,200 prospective students applied to join the Class of 2019, representing the second largest applicant pool in North America. The 124 students we accepted into the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program have an average undergraduate GPA of 3.5. A highly motivated and diverse group of students, they include 80 Virginia and Maryland residents and 44 out-of-state students who are well prepared for their next four years of professional training.

The college also welcomed its sixth class of Master of Public Health students, as well as new and returning master’s and Ph.D. students in our multi-disciplinary Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences graduate program. Now that classes are in full swing, all of our students can look forward to a high-quality education from our world-class professors and dedicated staff. They have access to hands-on, minds-on experiences in animal hospitals, research laboratories, and community health programs in Blacksburg, across Virginia and Maryland and internationally. They also benefit from facilities that we continue to enhance to accommodate advances in instructional technology, such as our 24-hour clinical skills lab and new Echo360 lecture capture technology in our large classrooms. Plans are also being implemented to expand instructional space to facilitate team-based learning.

Many people are responsible for the continued success of our college and our students, including supportive families, alumni, veterinary practitioners, and private donors. Our research work, curriculum advances, and facility upgrades would not be possible without their commitment and generosity.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean


Featured Stories

Rori Kameka, a first-year veterinary student, recites the veterinary students’ oath during the “white coat” ceremony.

White coat ceremony caps week-long orientation for Class of 2019

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has welcomed 124 new students who will spend the next four years pursuing their dreams to become veterinarians.

The Class of 2019 includes artists and musicians, a competitive swimmer, a pair of identical twins, two siblings of current veterinary students, and a former technician from the college’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. It also contains 80 Virginia and Maryland residents and 44 out-of-state students that came to the college with 3.5 average grade point average.

On Friday, Aug. 21, in front of approximately 500 students, family, friends, guests, faculty, and staff, the incoming students participated in a “white coat” ceremony at the Inn at Virginia Tech. The ceremony followed four days of orientation activities.

Speaking at the ceremony, Cyril Clarke, dean of the veterinary college, said, “This important event marks and celebrates the induction of trainee veterinarians into a very distinguished profession, a profession that was founded on service to society and advancement of medical knowledge.” He emphasized that students had been given a rare opportunity to become a veterinarian.

Students received a white laboratory coat and a stethoscope to mark their transition into the profession and were welcomed by representatives from the Virginia and Maryland Veterinary Medical Associations.

Earlier in the week, first-year students completed orientation activities designed to produce well-rounded and professional veterinary students. In addition to lectures, tours, and presentations at the college, students visited the Alta Mons campground in Shawsville, Virginia, for a day of team-building exercises designed to boost their leadership, self-confidence, and communication skills.

Read more about the incoming Class of 2019 and the “white coat” ceremony.

Andrea Woodley (center), a participant in the Veterinary Medicine Science Camp, practices taking the vital signs of a beagle with camp organizer Carling Sitterley (left), assistant director of admissions and student services.

Underrepresented students in InclusiveVT camp get up-close view into veterinary medicine

When campers rave about a new summer camp with phrases like “one of the best experiences in my life,” “loved the hands-on experiences,” and “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” it’s obvious that things went well.

The inaugural Veterinary Medicine Science Camp was held at the veterinary college during the last week of July. The week of tours, lectures, and hands-on experiences were part of a pilot program to create opportunities for students from underrepresented populations interested in a veterinary career.

Eight undergraduate students from Richmond’s Virginia Union University and Norfolk’s Old Dominion University were chosen for the camp based on socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and life experiences. The camp is one of three initiatives the veterinary college developed this year as part of InclusiveVT, Virginia Tech’s new approach to inclusion and diversity adopted by President Timothy D. Sands.

Kayvon Hill of Chester, Virginia, a sophomore majoring in biology at Virginia Union University, found out about the camp from his biology professor. “I am thinking about going to vet school after I graduate, but I am not sure about the best path for me because I also want to be a wildlife biologist and study felines, mostly lions,” Hill said. “I want to do research and study animal behavior.”

Hill explained that the camp gave him a real-life glimpse into what it would be like to be a veterinary student. He and the other campers spent a morning in the college’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital shadowing faculty members and fourth-year veterinary students on clinical rotations.

Read more about the Veterinary Medicine Science Camp.

Therapy animals with Virginia Tech Helping PAWS demonstrate the importance of the human-animal bond with regular visits to the library and other parts of the community.

Human-Animal Bond Symposium rescheduled for Sept. 26

The special connections between humans and animals will be explored at a Virginia Tech conference next month. The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is sponsoring the one-day symposium, “The Animal Human Experience: Exploring the Bond,” from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center.

The event was originally planned for February, but had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather. It will bring together experts from multidisciplinary fields to explore the benefits and challenges of human-animal interactions, services, and therapies.

Philip Tedeschi, executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work, will be the keynote speaker. He is internationally recognized for research, scholarship, training, and community practice focused on the therapeutic potential for animals in human health, as well as public safety and risk factors associated with animal abuse.

“Professor Tedeschi has many years of experience in non-traditional therapeutic approaches with children, adults, and families, as well as program development and intervention in interpersonal violence,” said Bess Pierce, director of the veterinary college’s Center for Human-Animal Relationships and symposium organizer. “He is well-known for giving practitioners best practices and evidence-based clinical methods for animal-assisted interventions, and we are grateful to have him speak at this year’s symposium.”

Read more and register for the Human-Animal Bond Symposium.

The 11-week program included weekly breakfast seminars on careers in veterinary research, laboratory training, and meetings with research professionals in policy positions in Washington, D.C.

Summer research program offers unique experiences for veterinary students

This summer, 11 rising second- and third-year veterinary students explored possible careers in research thanks to a program that creates opportunities for students both during and after their professional training.

Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program, the 11-week Summer Veterinary Student Research Program covers veterinary student expenses for conducting biomedical research with a faculty member and participating in weekly breakfast seminars on careers in veterinary research. This year’s participants included six Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine students and five students from other veterinary schools.

After a week of short courses on topics ranging from experimental design and analysis to research ethics, students participated in nine weeks of mentor-guided laboratory training. They also traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with professionals in research and policy positions with the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Read more about the Summer Veterinary Student Research Program.

The MVMA’s Annual Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland, attracted 15 students and several faculty members from the veterinary college.

Fifteen students attend Ocean City veterinary conference

Jimmy Shatt of Baltimore, Maryland, is a third-year veterinary student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, where he is pursuing the small animal track. In 2013, Shatt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal and poultry sciences from Virginia Tech. He is president of the student chapter of the Maryland Veterinary Medicine Association. This article originally appeared in the MVMA newsletter.

Each year, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) hosts its annual conference in Ocean City, Maryland. Fortunately, students are able to attend this conference for almost free, thanks to generous sponsorship of the MVMA and Maryland Veterinary Foundation. This year, the student chapter was able to increase its conference presence with 15 students attending.

From a student perspective, it’s not always obvious the importance of having close ties to one’s state association. However, the annual Ocean City conference not only provided students and professionals alike with top notch continuing education opportunities, it also was used as a venue to facilitate and strengthen invaluable friendships.

I had the personal opportunity to attend the MVMA executive meeting, where I was able to see firsthand all that it takes to run and sustain a great organization. In addition, I was able to understand and witness the collaborative partnership among the executive board, practicing veterinarians throughout the state, and students from the veterinary school in Blacksburg, with extension to the University of Maryland campus.

Read the full story about the MVMA summer conference.

The three pathology courses offered at the veterinary college featured lectures by 22 renowned experts in their respective fields.

Three courses turn college into pathology ground zero

During the week of Aug. 7, the college was pathology ground zero when it hosted a series of three pathology courses offered by the C.L. Davis DVM Foundation for the Advancement of Veterinary Pathology.

Approximately 40 participants attended the Current Laboratory Animal Science Seminar (CLASS), Pathology of Laboratory Animals (POLA), and Clinical Pathology courses. Attendees included current veterinary pathology residents, laboratory animal medicine residents, current laboratory animal veterinarians, and current anatomic and/or clinical veterinary pathologists from all over the country and also from abroad.

The courses offered a review of important aspects involved in each discipline for continuing education credits and also helped prepare residents to take certifying board examinations. Lectures were presented by 22 well-known experts in their respective fields of specialty. Virginia-Maryland faculty served as the primary presenters for the Clinical Pathology course.

After the first day of POLA, the attendees and lecturers enjoyed a tour of college facilities, including the VMIA building’s pre-op and surgical suites for teaching, renovated anatomy labs, clinical skills lab, and the teaching hospital.

View a Facebook photo gallery of the pathology courses.

John Rossmeisl, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, specializes in developing therapeutic approaches for gliomas, a fast-moving form of brain tumor

Cancer under attack: John Rossmeisl featured in Virginia Tech Magazine

While cancer research at the cellular level can feel only theoretical, veterinary medicine offers a bridge of sorts, providing foundational knowledge for those fighting cancer in animals and humans.

John Rossmeisl, associate professor of small animal clinical sciences, studies cancer in dogs whose tumors are closer in size and molecular and genetic heterogeneity to those in humans than are the tumors in rodents, which many researchers study.

“A mouse tumor may be 2 millimeters by 2 millimeters, but then you have to adapt it to humans, who may have tumors measuring 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters,” Rossmeisl said.

Both Rossmeisl and Timothy Fan, a 1995 graduate of the college and an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are collaborators on human trials with cancer treatments that originated in dogs.

Read more about their research in the summer issue of the Virginia Tech Magazine.

Sergo Karapetyan, the Armenian minister of agriculture (far left) listens closely as dairy farm manager Keith Wilson explains the brucellosis control measures followed at Cave View Farms in Weyers Cave. Also pictured (l-r) are Gagik Sardaryan, CEO of Armenia's Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development, Virginia state veterinarian Richard Wilkes, translator Levon Gulkhasyan, and Valerie Ragan.

Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine hosts Armenian officials

The college’s Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine recently hosted the Armenian minister and deputy minister of agriculture in Washington, D.C. and Harrisonburg, Virginia. Valerie Ragan, director of the center, has had a long-standing partnership with the Armenian government to work on brucellosis control in the Eastern European country.

Sergo Karapetyan, the Armenian minister of agriculture, and Armen Harutyunyan, deputy minister of agriculture, were accompanied on their trip by Gagik Sardaryan and Tigran Haroyan, two officials from Armenia’s Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development. They first traveled to Washington, D.C. as part of a USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) program on developing a national strategy for improved brucellosis control in Armenia.

Read more about the Armenian officials’ visit .

Around the College

Students, faculty participate in VVMA-sponsored tubing and cookout

More than 300 faculty, staff, students, referring veterinarians, guests, and officers in both the Virginia and West Virginia Veterinary Medical Associations participated in a cookout and tubing event along the New River on Saturday, Aug. 22. Sponsored by the VVMA, the event gave veterinary practitioners and faculty members an opportunity to connect with students celebrating the end of summer and the start of a new academic year.

College welcomes new Master of Public Health students

The Master of Public Health (MPH) program began a new academic year with an orientation for 42 incoming students on Friday, Aug. 21. Orientation activities included an opening reception, a welcome from Dean Cyril Clarke and MPH program leaders, and small group sessions to learn about the program curriculum, graduate student life, and resources. The incoming students include 28 Virginia residents and 14 out-of-state students. Of the new students, 22 are pursuing a concentration in infectious diseases and 20 in public health education. Three students are earning a dual doctor of veterinary medicine degree, two are earning a dual Ph.D., and at least one is an alumnus of the college’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.

View a Facebook photo gallery of the MPH orientation.

Orientation kicks off the year for new graduate students

The college welcomed new master’s and Ph.D. students in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences graduate program this month. An Aug. 20 orientation program included information sessions, a hospital tour, and a luncheon with faculty, staff, and graduate students.

View a Facebook photo gallery of the new graduate student orientation.

College hosts inaugural Small Animal Conference for Veterinarians

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine welcomed more than 100 alumni and referring practitioners in the region to Blacksburg on Friday, Aug. 21 for the First Annual Small Animal Summer Conference for Veterinarians. The conference offered continuing education, hospital tours, and a chance for small animal veterinarians in the region to catch up with one another.

View a Facebook photo gallery of the conference.

Video: Foal named “Miss Virginia Tech” in thanks for teaching hospital’s good work

When Tony Benvenuto and Janet Lewis sought treatment for their miniature mare's dislocated hip joint, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital staff were up to thechallenge. Ginger, the 2-year-old pregnant mare, also had a secondary injury — a locked stifle joint and was in pain. Veterinarians performed a femoral headostectomy on the horse, a surgery more commonly performed on dogs, and one that’s relatively rare for a horse. Surgery was successful and fixed bothproblems. Benvenuto and Lewis, who only weeks before were afraid that Ginger might have to be euthanized, named her foal “Miss Virginia Tech” inappreciation for the successful outcome and veterinary care they received.

Read more about Ginger’s success story at the teaching hospital and view photos of Ginger and Miss Virginia Tech on Facebook.

Awards & Activities

Dean Cyril Clarke with Megan Quesenberry

Megan Quesenberry named August Staff Member of the Month

Since joining the college in 2014, Megan Quesenberry, graphic designer in the Office of Public Relations and Communications, has given a new look to many college items. Her work with the Office of Academic Affairs was singled out for the Staff Member of the Month recognition. Academic Affairs is responsible for many high-profile college events. Along with their new office manager came new ideas on events and programs. Megan was responsible for bringing those ideas to life.

“Megan redesigned both the covers of the Spring Awards Ceremony booklet, as well as the Commencement booklet. She also re-designed and updated the awards certificates,” her nominator noted. “She has a keen eye for modern up-to-date materials to support our college and gives us a fresh, updated professional look. Her work with our team has been a tremendous help. Megan always has a cheerful attitude and is always willing to lend a hand. Our college is very fortunate to have her extraordinary and much-needed skill sets.”

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

More Awards & Activities

Two faculty members in the college are co-principal investigators on projects funded through the Translational Nanomedicine Initiative, a collaborativeeffort between the Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, the veterinary college, the College of Science, and the Fralin LifeScience Institute. Irving “Coy” Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences andPathobiology, is contributing to “Bacteria-based Autonomous Drug Delivery Agents for Cancer Therapy” led by Bahareh Bekham. John Rossmeisl, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, is contributing to “Combinatorial brain cancertherapy assessment via delivery of low level electromagnetic fields for blood-brain-barrier disruption and EM-responsive nanotherapeutics using amicroengineered platform for the brain” led by Rafael Davalos. The funding for each award is approximately $20,000.

Catharine Cowan, a dual DVM/Ph.D. student, and X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, were named to the Envisioning Virginia Tech: Beyond Boundaries steering committee by Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands. The long-range visioning committee will advance Virginia Tech as a global land-grant institution and strategically address the challenges andopportunities presented by the changing landscape of higher education.

Brady Hamady (DVM ’08), owner of Forest Hills Veterinary in Salix, Penn., was named “Outstanding Veterinarian” for the second year in a row by Johnstown Magazine.

Khan, D. and S. Ansar Ahmed. “Regulation of IL-17 in autoimmune diseases by transcriptional factors and microRNAs.” Frontiers in Genetics. July 14, 2015. 6:236. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2015.00236. eCollection 2015.

Nathaniel Tablante, associate professor and Extension poultry veterinarian at the University of Maryland, presented a paper on “The History of Cooperative Extension and theChanging Role of the Extension Poultry Veterinarian” at the poultry section of the American Veterinary Medical Association annual meeting in Boston in July. He was also recently awarded a USDA-NIFA Special Needs grant in the amount of $225,017 to fund an Extension project, “Preventing Outbreaks of AvianInfluenza Through Timely Dissemination of Practical Science-Based Information.” Tablante also organized and moderated a webinar entitled “Update on HPAI Mixed Origin Virus” in June for the Extension Disaster Education Network. This webinar involved David Schmitt, Iowa state veterinarian, and Beth Thompson of the MinnesotaState Board of Animal Health, who each provided an update on the HPAI mixed origin virus that has had a significant impact on the poultry industry in Iowa,Minnesota, and several states this year.

Shelly Threlkeld, senior lab specialist in the Office of Academic Affairs, was recognized by Virginia Tech’s University Organizational and Professional Development for completing a professional development certificate on customer service excellence.

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Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

  • Dean: 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: Mason Adams, Alison Elward, J. Scott Parker, Jimmy Shatt, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley
  • Photography/Videography: Alison Elward, Doug Margulies, J. Scott Parker, Jim Stroup, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley
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