Vital Signs
December 2006

Holiday Greetings from Blacksburg

Dr. Gerhardt G. SchurigDear Friends and Colleagues,
 
It is a pleasure for me to extend my personal best wishes to all of you- on behalf of all of us in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine during the 2006 Holiday season. Despite the "hub-bub" and occasionally frantic pace, the holidays are a time that tends to bring out the best in everybody, and everything.
 
Veterinary medicine is a helping profession, and we see the best of what this profession does throughout the calendar year. But looking over this edition of "Vital Signs," I find myself reflecting about all of the "goodness" that emanates from the people and the programs of our college. Empowering the compassion and talents of our faculty, staff and students with the generous spirit of our donors, we are able to do things that truly make a difference in the lives of so many people and animals.
 
Take, for example, the story below that describes how a special boy and his dog will now be able to enjoy many years of happiness together. Or read about the work of an alumnus and faculty member who has made it a "personal mission" to enrich the lives of a proud but primitive and impoverished people on the other side of the world. Or consider all of the people in our college who annually join together in our "Adopt-a-Family program."
 
Speaking of dedication to others, I want to add my personal congratulations and note of sincere gratitude to my friend and predecessor as dean, Peter Eyre, upon his retirement from the college. Former Dean Eyre has made historic contributions to the VMRCVM, to Virginia Tech, and to the profession of veterinary medicine. His life's work will live on and be reflected in the good works of our college in perpetuity. We wish him well, and know we will see him often while he continues to teach selected courses at Virginia Tech.
 
Please enjoy your holidays, and your family and friends. Be safe, and join me in looking forward to a successful New Year, for the college, and for yourselves.
 
Sincerely,  


Gerhardt G. Schurig
Dean


Holiday Blessings for a Boy and His Dog

Jackson Furst and his Chocolate Lab, Wonka For many, Christmas is a time to count your blessings, appreciate the love of family and friends and reach out to others.
 
For a young and growing Stevensville, Maryland family, it will also be a time to remember how the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and the generosity of the human spirit combined to keep a very special boy and his dog together.
 
Mr. and Mrs. David Furst noticed their son Jackson was encountering some challenges with motor function, and eventually, speech, as an infant. Jackson was eventually diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy and apraxia and they began the process of adapting their lifestyle to meet Jackson's special needs.
 
About ten months ago, the Fursts adopted a year-old chocolate Labrador retriever they named "Wonka" from owners who had surrendered it because they said they could no longer care for the dog.
 
Wonka and Jackson formed a special bond, according to Jackson's father. "Jackson would wake up and say, 'where's Wonka,'" recalled Furst. The natural and therapeutic benefits of the relationship between Jackson and Wonka were powerful and clear.
 
But soon, the Furst's noticed that Wonka was not moving well and seemed to be in pain. Workup at a nearby veterinary practice determined that Wonka was suffering from severe hip dysplasia, an orthopedic disorder that afflicts many large breed dogs. While they thought they were adopting a healthy animal that could become a special friend for Jackson, they had in fact adopted an animal with a pre-existing condition that would cost thousands of dollars to surgically improve.
 
"Jack has had an extremely difficult time relating and interacting with his peers due to his speech and developmental delays, but with Wonka, it's been unconditional love," recalled Furst, who says the cost of care was beyond their capacity to address. "We knew we had to find a way to save Wonka once our son, who only spoke about five or ten words by the time he was two-and a half, began saying 'hi Wonka!'"
 
Knowing how important the dog was for Jackson's development and well-being, Jackson's mother, Susan Furst, began systematically contacting every veterinary surgical facility and Veterinary Teaching Hospital she could locate, asking if they could help. "My wife is tenacious, to say the least," said David. "She's crusaded for his cause."
 
When the VMRCVM's Veterinary Teaching Hospital director Dr. Robert Martin learned of their plight, he responded.
 
After evaluation, Wonka's hip dysplasia was diagnosed as severe subluxation. Martin determined that total hip replacement was the best course of action for Wonka. Financial limitations dictated that a second surgery, called a femoral head ostectomy, would serve to salvage the opposite hip. The surgeries would be extensive and require time and effort to manage the dog's convalescence, but the prognosis was good.
 
In June 2006, a titanium cementless artificial hip joint was implanted in Wonka by a surgical team during a two-hour operation. Wonka recovered well from the procedure and spent the next several months convalescing in Annapolis with the Furst family.
 
Wonka Undergoes Hip Replacement Surgery On Thursday, December 14, Wonka underwent his second major procedure at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The femoral head ostectomy involves the surgical removal of the "ball" and neck portion situated on the proximal end of the femur that actually fits into the "socket" portion of the pelvis.
 
The procedure often works well because the muscles and ligaments in the area eventually strengthen enough to support the scar tissue formation and provide the animal with pain-free mobility, according to Dr. Martin, who is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). In time, the dog will learn to favor the stronger, artificial hip joint. Wonka was discharged on Saturday, December 16 and is recovering as expected.
 
"We obviously cannot offer total hip replacement very often for clients with limited resources, but this was a very special situation and we felt justified in helping," said Martin. "We are fiscally responsible as a state institution, and are responsible for recovering costs involved in providing surgical services for our clients. But funding is occasionally available from charitable donations which gives us the flexibility to help out from time to time."
 
VMRCVM Director of Development Dr. Frank Pearsall says that several funds have been established over the years by people who wish to provide resources to provide veterinary care for animals whose owners cannot afford it, and for unusual circumstances. The funding cannot nearly address the enormous demand, Pearsall said, but it does provide the hospital administration with some discretion in some situations.
 
For the Furst family, it provided a life-enriching opportunity for a special young boy. "Susan and I have seen remarkable improvements in Jack's overall attitude and disposition since Wonka entered our lives," said Furst, who added that Jackson is also responding very positively to hippotherapy (equine-assisted therapy), where patients are emotionally and occupationally treated through clinically assisted horse-back riding.
 
With a full recovery expected, the Furst family, which includes Jackson, three, Josie, two, and another child expected in February, can look forward to years of happiness with Wonka, who will be able to romp pain-free thanks to modern veterinary surgery and unknown philanthropists.
 
"God bless the faculty and the entire staff at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine," wrote Furst in an email.
 


VMRCVM's Pierson helps bring change to Mongolia

Dr. Bill Pierson Dr. Bill Pierson, an associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, recently returned from a trip to Mongolia where he provided training in biosecurity, food safety, and avian influenza for local veterinarians in the developing country.
 
This was the fourth time Dr. Pierson has traveled to Mongolia. His first visit occurred in 1996 when he spent time teaching disease prevention and food safety procedures to personnel working with the one large poultry company that is situated in the country's capital of Ulaanbaatar.
 
In 1997, he and his wife Mary Ellen, an information technology professional, returned to the country to design a website server that linked the country's veterinary school with veterinary schools in the United States, an intervention that dramatically improved their access to modern information and veterinary professional resources.
 
In 2004, Dr. Pierson returned to Mongolia to assist with development efforts, this time with a veterinary student who was conducting a training clerkship in Corporate and Government Veterinary Medicine.
 
Funding to assist Dr. Pierson with his international development work has come from a variety of sources, including the VMRCVM, the Christian Veterinary Mission, the Swiss Agency for Development, the United States Department of Agriculture, and Mercy Core.
 
The assistance offered by Pierson and other veterinarians is vital to Mongolia, as livestock and agricultural production are the country's primary economic activities.
 
World health officials have recently become very interested in helping the Mongolia people identify early signs of a possible outbreak of avian influenza, according to Dr. Pierson, since Mongolia is on a major bird migration route that extends from Southeast Asia to Siberia. Pierson hopes that his work will help the country prepare for an emergency should one arise.
 
Pierson, who graduated with the college's charter DVM class in 1984 and went on to earn his Ph.D. before assuming his faculty post, says he is motivated to pursue the international development work because he feels a sense of moral obligation to share the wealth of knowledge that exists in America with those who are less fortunate.
 


Former Dean Eyre Retires from College

Dr. Peter Eyre Dr. Peter Eyre, who served as dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine from 1985 through 2003 and has worked with the college for 21 years, has announced his retirement effective December 31.
 
During his tenure as dean, he presided over the funding and construction of the remainder of the college's Virginia Tech based physical plant and the development of many academic programs that help define the school today.
 
"I have spent nearly half my career at our college, and it was a rare privilege to serve during an exciting period of growth and transition - from the dream to the reality," said Dr. Eyre. "The successful, mature institution that we see today was created by thousands of dedicated professionals - faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. It is a genuine pleasure to extend my sincere gratitude and warmest wishes to everyone who made it all possible."
 
"Margot and I intend to remain in Blacksburg for the foreseeable future. We will be proud to retain our close associations with the college, Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland, and the veterinary profession for as long as we are able," he said.
 
Eyre is widely credited with leading a series of initiatives in the late 1980's and early 1990's that consolidated the operating partnership between Virginia and Maryland in the joint administration and funding of the regional college and fortified its political and economic foundations.
 
In a January 22, 2004 event that crowned his 18-year career as dean, he was formally recognized in the Virginia State Capitol with a joint resolution of commendation that was presented by the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate during a rare "center-aisle" presentation that culminated with a 15-second standing ovation in the historic chamber.
 
Dr. Eyre served on the board of directors and as president of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). He also served on the American Veterinary Medical Association's Council on Government Relations, and provided leadership for many other professional associations.
 
He has been honored for outstanding leadership by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, and the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. He spoke frequently at professional veterinary association meetings and universities around the nation concerning curricular reforms designed to promote the veterinary profession's economic well-being.
 
Eyre is a recipient of the Norden Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Sigma Psi Award for Excellence in Research.
 
Prior to assuming the deanship of the VMRCVM, Eyre served as Chairman of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College in Ontario Canada, where he also served as associate director of the Canadian Centre for Toxicology.
 
After earning the BVMS degree and the MRCVS diploma in veterinary medicine, Eyre earned B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in pharmacology, all from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
 
As a biomedical researcher, Eyre has been responsible for the acquisition and completion of over $1.2 million in sponsored grants and contracts, and has authored 350 scientific publications, including more than 200 in refereed journals.
 


VMRCVM's Adopt-a-Family Continues Annual Tradition

Adopt-a-Family In keeping with a well-established VMRCVM tradition, almost $1,000 was donated from faculty, staff and students in the college to assist area families during the 2006 holiday season.
 
As is also traditional, the program organizers looked to New River Community Action to help identify two families who might benefit from the program. The first family was a mother and her four children who are living in a homeless shelter. The second family was a father with disabilities and a 14-year old son.
 
Program organizers would like to thank everyone who participated for their generous donations and efforts to buy and wrap gifts.
 
While a number of people volunteer in different ways, Biomedical Artist Terry Lawrence in the media unit has been active with the program since its inception. Others that helped with shopping and wrapping gifts include:

Dreama Webb, Sharon Carbaugh, Tracie Smith, Lovie Price, Gretchen Berg, Judi Lynch, Amanda Hall, Anne Cinsavich, Patti Goudy, Monica Taylor, JoAnn Lytton and Terra Dews.
 
"We would also like to send a special thanks to Tracie Smith's mother Mrs. Porterfield, who, in spite of a lengthy hospitalization, asked Tracie to purchase their usual basket of fruit for each family," said Lawrence.
 


K-9 Memorial Project

Proposed K-9 Memorial Statue Grassroots fund-raising for the Virginia Law Enforcement K-9 Memorial Statue project has reached almost $10,000 on a $50,000 goal, according to Officer John Hoover, a Roanoke K-9 officer who is spear-heading the program. The news was shared during a recent meeting of the steering committee held on the campus of Virginia Tech.
 
The Virginia Police Work Dog Association (VPWDA), along with the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), are working with the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) at Virginia Tech to create a memorial designed to honor police dogs killed in the line of duty. The proposed memorial statue will be installed on the veterinary college's campus at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
 
There are an estimated 250-300 working police dogs in Virginia, according to Hoover, a certified master trainer with the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) and a master trainer with the VPWDA.
 
The Virginia K-9 Memorial will be entirely financed from private donations, according to Hoover, who is one of three NAPWDA master trainers in Virginia and only 54 in the nation, according to the NAPWDA. Interested citizens as well as organizations and corporations familiar with the law enforcement and security communities are invited to participate in the project through charitable donations.
 
Those interested can forward contributions to the Virginia Police K-9 Memorial Fund, Office of Development and Public Relations, VMRCVM, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24061.
 


VMRCVM mourns the passing of Dr. Germille Colmano

Dr. Germille Colmano Dr. Germille Colmano, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, passed away November 16, 2006.
 
Dr. Colmano was born August 21, 1921 in Pola, Italy. During World War II, he served as a Sergeant in the Italian Army. He then went on to earn his D.V.M. in 1949 and his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biochemistry in 1950 from the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy.
 
He came to the United States in 1951 and joined the faculty of Virginia Tech in 1962. Prior to moving to Blacksburg, Dr. Colmano worked in a variety of capacities including Project Assistant in enzyme biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Biophysicist at the Research Institute for Advanced Study in Baltimore, Maryland.
 
Dr. Colmano began his tenure with Virginia Tech in the Veterinary Science Department of the College of Agriculture. In 1978, he became part of the newly forming College of Veterinary Medicine which is now the three-campus Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. He remained with the VMRCVM until his retirement in 1992. During these three decades, he shared his knowledge with hundreds of veterinary students and vigilantly pursued his numerous research interests, which included Colloidal Chemistry and Spectral Analysis of Bio-systems.
 


EMC Director White Delivers State-of-the-Art Lecture at AAEP Meeting

Dr. Nat White at AAEP Meeting Nathaniel A. White, II, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director at Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, presented the prestigious Frank J. Milne State-of-the-Art lecture at the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) 52nd Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas, on December 4, 2006. The dynamic address, "Equine Colic: A Real Pain in the Gut," was attended by nearly 3,000 industry representatives and equine practitioners.
 
Using case examples from his clinical experience and research for illustration, White showcased advances in the diagnosis and treatment of colic in horses. Topics included the response of the intestine to inflammation, ischemia and pain, as well as the clinical signs used by practitioners to diagnose colic and to select the most effective courses of treatment. Computer generated movies of intestinal diseases and rectal examinations were used in combination with specific clinical values that are utilized to determine the need for surgery in horses with colic.
 
A world-renowned expert in colic, White has authored several books on the topic including Equine Acute Abdomen, and Handbook of Equine Colic as well as the surgical texts Current Techniques in Equine Surgery and Lameness, and Current Practice of Equine Surgery. White is a former director-at-large for AAEP and is currently chair of the AAEP Foundation Advisory Committee. He is also a past president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) and has served as director of the ACVS Veterinary Symposium since 1997.
 


VMRCVM announces Lisa Marie Tedora Memorial Fund

Lisa Tedora In memory of Dr. Lisa Tedora (Class of '00), her family and friends have established the Lisa Marie Tedora Memorial Fund to help support the Lisa Marie Tedora Memorial Lecture Series in Critical Care/Emergency Medicine.
 
These annual lectures will be held each spring and will address cutting edge issues, diagnostics, and treatments related to critical care/emergency veterinary medicine. All lectures will be offered to VMRCVM students at no charge.
 
Dr. Tedora passed away April 22, 2006 at her home in Manassas, Virginia after a courageous battle against metastatic malignant melanoma. She was a graduate of Yale University where she received her B.S. in English and a 2000 graduate of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine where she focused on equine and small animal medicine.
 
After graduation, Dr. Tedora practiced veterinary medicine at Animal Emergency Hospital and Referral Center in Leesburg, Virginia. She was a member of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and she founded the Creature Comforts Veterinary Care practice to proved acupuncture services to companion animals. She was also an avid horsewoman and was a member of the Virginia Dressage Association.
 
If you are interested in contributing to the Lisa Marie Tedora Memorial Fund or desire more information, please call 540-231-4259 or visit www.vetmed.vt.edu/development/waystogive.asp and click the link for the online giving page.
 
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