Vital Signs
February 2006

Raising the Bar

Dr. Gerhardt G. SchurigDear Friends and Colleagues,
Many of you have probably enjoyed some of the television coverage of the Winter Olympics Games in Torino, Italy. Watching these athletes perform at the very limits of human potential is incredible. not to mention inspiring. How do these people achieve all that they do? Talent, coaching, training, personal leadership, and self-discipline all play a role. But so do intangibles like the pure desire for achievement that is hard-wired into all of us. 

These qualities and examples are a timely reminder, as we begin to move more deliberately into a period of greater achievement and continuous improvement for our college. We have already taken several steps to create a more agile and responsive organization. We have streamlined some internal governance structures to create decision-making efficiencies for the leadership team. We will soon begin national searches for two department heads and a Veterinary Teaching Hospital director. 

As a college community, it is time for us to take a look at some of the programmatic goals we formulated for collegiate success during the earliest months of my administration. We know that, like the rest of the university, we need to enhance and expand our research and scholarship in every dimension. It is now time for us to start asking ourselves the question: "how are we doing?" 

In order to assist us with this process of bench-marking our progress, we are preparing to launch a new "video-based" organizational communications program. Video monitors will soon be installed in six convenient locations across our three campuses, and every three months we are going to provide updates on the progress we are making in discovery, learning and service, for all audiences to view. 

We will provide data on such metrics as faculty scholarship, sponsored research proposals submitted and funded, clinical caseload in our teaching hospitals, client satisfaction testimonials, professional presentations before professional society and commodity organization meetings, our fund-raising successes and in many other areas of our campus life. We will also use this medium to provide more anecdotal information concerning activities that provide evidence of our institutional progress and faculty, staff and student achievements.

Our hope is that this visible reminder of our obligation to continually strive for greater success and achievement in the workplace will inspire us all to reach a little bit higher as we go about our daily tasks. This information will also be made available on a section of the college web-site. As always, we welcome your comments and feedback about these new programs.

Looking back at an earlier issue of Vital Signs, I can see that I wrote of going "from silver to gold" as we transitioned from our 25th anniversary and began focusing on our 50th. Perhaps the ultimate goal for Olympic athletes is the quest for glory and honor. For us, the goal of our everyday labors is something a bit more enduring: everything we do helps make the world a better place for people and animals. During this time when the Olympics remind us of the nature of human potential, it seems to me that we should think again of how we can all go "from silver to gold." 


Gerhardt G. Schurig

EMC Research Institute Task Force

Equine Research to Create NoVa based Research Initiative Plans are shaping up to create a northern Virginia based equine research initiative that will combine the talents of equine veterinarians and scientists from the VMRCVM and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Virginia Tech with those working at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg and the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Education Center in Middleburg.
About a dozen people, including VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig, CALS Dean Sharon Quisenberry and Virginia Tech Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Mark MacNamee met on February 1st at the MARE Center in Middleburg to discuss the concept and consider strategies for implementation.
"It is apparent to us that as a result of recent events and initiatives underway at the university, key faculty recruitments, and plans for the development of new research facilities, we are now at a point where we can move decisively to strengthen our collective efforts in equine research," wrote Schurig and Quisenberry in a memoranda following the meeting that announced the appointment of a task force charged with the development of a plan.
Dr. Jill McCutcheon, the Leesburg Campus based assistant dean for research in the VMRCVM, will chair the task force. Members include Dr. Martin Furr, the Adelaide C. Riggs Professor of Internal Medicine at the Equine Medical Center, Dr. Rebecca Splan, assistant professor, Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in CALS, Dr. Mark Crisman, associate professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Dr. Ray Gehr, the Middleburg-based Paul Mellon Professor of Equine Nutrition in CALS.
The group is expected to complete their report by late February or early March.
The timing is right for the initiative because of the recruitment of new scientists, the planned development of new research-based facilities, as well as widespread recognition at the national level that more equine veterinary research needs to be conducted to advance the healthcare of this species.
Funding is in place and advanced architectural and engineering work has been completed on a new equine research laboratory that will support molecular level investigations conducted by faculty and graduate students working at both the MARE Center and the EMC.
The idea behind the consortium is to enhance collective achievement by developing greater collaboration among researcher working on four distinct sites.
"If you open the doors, you open the minds," said Quisenbery during the meeting. VMRCVM Dean Schurig indicated that the new research consortium would be very consistent with college efforts to create greater collaboration between basic and clinical research scientists though a translational research program.
While focus areas need to be determined by task force members in their proposal, it is likely that equine nutrition, colic, and inflammatory diseases in general will emerge as strong areas of emphasis. There is a great deal of human research underway in ischemia and reperfusion and much of what is learned through colic research could support those advancements as well.
Dr. Craig Nessler, associate dean for research in CALS and director of the Experiment Station, indicated the group could collaborate with other research centers in the northern Virginia area such as the Howard Hughes research center in Loudoun County. He indicated that the pari-mutuel racing revenues that the VMRCVM receives to conduct equine research might also provide resources to support the program.
Schurig and Quisenberry's memorandum announcing the emerging collaborative program has the capacity to "ultimately create world-class excellence in equine research."

Zoonotic Infectious Disease Conference Planned

Dr. Toth, a virologist at VMRCVM Bird flu..small-pox.. plague.. These dangerous diseases conjure apocalyptic images in the minds of many - and with good reason.
While modern medical science has made enormous progress in controlling infectious diseases over the past half-century, the battle rages on. Pathogenic viruses and bacteria still represent an ever-present danger to people and animals.
Faculty members from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) will present a day-long continuing education course on "Emerging & Re-emerging Infectious Diseases of Man & Animals"on Saturday, April 22 on the college's Virginia Tech campus.
Designed for veterinarians, physicians, and members of the general public who wish to learn more about the characteristics of infectious disease agents that might be used as agents of bioterrorism, the workshop will feature virologists, bacteriologists, epidemiologists and other scientists associated with the college's Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases (CMMID) and clinical departments.
Topics and disease agents slated for discussion include Avian Influenza H5N1, small-pox, plague, Brucella, Foot and Mouth Disease, (FMD) transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE's) that cause disease such as "Mad Cow," and other food and water-borne bio-threat viruses.
Faculty members participating in the event include Dr. Thomas Toth, professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP); Dr. Nammalwar Sriranganathan, professor, DBSP; Dr. Willard H. Eyestone, research associate professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS); Dr. X. J. Meng, associate professor, DBSP; and Dr. Francois Elvinger, associate professor, DLACS; and Dr. F. William Pierson, professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.
Sponsored by the VMRCVM and Virginia Tech's Office of Continuing and Professional Education, the conference will feature seven contact hours of continuing education (.7 continuing education units). The $95 registration fee includes lectures, refreshments, lunch, handouts and CE credits.
For more information, contact Anne Cinsavich in the college at 540-231-5261 or register on-line at

Enhancing Lifestyles for the Elderly and their Pets

Enhancing Lifestyles of the Elderly and their PetsDeveloping new products and systems to enhance the lives of the elderly and their pets is the focus of a $40,000 competitive grant awarded by Procter & Gamble and the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) to a Virginia Tech team led by Ed Dorsa, associate professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Affairs (CAUS).
Dr. Marie Suthers-McCabe, an associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and director of the college's Center for Animal Human Relationships (CENTAUR) is a co-investigator on the project, which also includes faculty from business, human factors engineering and other disciplines.
The Virginia Tech team is looking at the development of a variety of customizable, interactive products and services that will enable the elderly to take better care of their pets and improve communications flow between the elderly, their families and medical providers as part of a project entitled "PAWS: Pet Care Awareness System."
Because of the 10-week project turn-around time, the PAWS system will remain largely conceptual at this time, according to Dr. Dorsa; however; the group has already developed several provocative ideas which will be presented on April 6 during a "Procter & Gamble Town Hall Meeting" in Cincinnati.
Using a "Magic Mirror" conceptual design, the team is considering the development of a "seamless, virtually intuitive" communications interface that can provide veterinarians, physicians and family members with important information about the health and behavior of the animal owner and the pet.
For example, he said, designers have conceived the idea of a key-chain based point-of-purchase encoder that could signal a veterinarian that an elderly owner has mistakenly purchased the wrong animal chow for a senior pet that might be on a health-restricted diet.
Other ideas include the perfection of elevated systems that allow an elderly person to feed their animal without bending over, and systems that might enable the elderly to combine medications and meals in a singular package for their pets while traveling.
Designers are also looking at the creation of incentive-based toys for senior pets that can deliver a treat following a prescribed interval of exercise and play, he said.
The Virginia Tech proposal was scored as the highest among four U.S. universities that were also selected to compete on the program themed "Aging Consumers: Men, Women & Couples."
Other universities selected for the competition include Arizona State University, The Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati.

Alumni Board Meeting and Officers

The New President of the Alumni SocietyA new president and president-elect of the college's Alumni Society were formally installed during a recent meeting of the board held in conjunction with the "Virginia Veterinary Conference" at the Hotel Roanoke.
Dr. Doug Graham, (Class of '98), was formally installed as president of the Alumni Society and Dr. Sara Salmon (Class of '98) was installed as president-elect of the alumni Society.
Graham, a Gaithersburg, Maryland veterinarian, worked in private practice with the West Frederick Veterinary Hospital before joining the Emergency Animal Center in Hyattstown, Maryland. Salmon, a Charlottesville, Virginia, practitioner, works with Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service, Inc. Both veterinarians traveled to New Orleans to volunteer as first responders following the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe.
Dean Schurig briefed the group on recent activities at the college and announced that several searches for departmental and program leadership positions would be getting underway in the near future.
Outgoing President Dr. Bill Tyrell praised Schurig for his efforts to support the alumni society and make them a more meaningful and relevant part of the college. Incoming president Graham said the group needs to focus on becoming more active with college affairs and said the society could play a more substantial role in fund-raising, recruitment and program review.
Director of Alumni Relations and Student Affairs Lynn Young briefed the board on recent alumni programming. About 45 people attended the reception held in conjunction with the American Association of Equine Practitioners in Seattle in December, about 75 attended the reception at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando in January, and about 50 attended an event preceding the Virginia Tech/University of Maryland basketball game in January.
Details about upcoming alumni activities can be found on the Alumni Society's home page on the college web site.
In a letter Graham subsequently sent to more than 1800 VMRCVM alumni, he detailed the great progress that had been made by the society over the past six years, and sought greater engagement by inviting members to step up and assume leadership positions on the society's Executive Board and Council.

Aquaculture Researchers Looking at Cobia

Cobia Mention the word aquaculture - or fish-farming - and people commonly think of catfish, salmon, and tilapia.
But researchers working in Virginia Tech's Aquaculture Center (VTAC) are now looking at ways to raise cobia, a sleek saltwater fish that averages about 30 pounds at maturity in aquacultural systems.
Dr. Steven Craig, an associate professor of fish nutrition in the VMRCVM who holds a cross-appointment in the College of Natural Resources (CNR), has been collaborating with CNR Fisheries and Wildlife Professor and VTAC director Dr. Ewen McLean on work that seeks to develop economically feasible methods for producing cobia in domestic systems.
The pair began their work with cobia as a result of the first annual marine finfish larviculture research and training workshop which was held at Tech's Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center (VSAREC) in Hampton, Virginia.
Sponsored by VTAC, VSAREC and the International Initiative for Sustainable and Biosecure Aquafarming, the two month residential workshop attracted international scientists on a project which sought to explore the latest technology in larval cobia feed production.
The researchers each spent a month working with about 2,000 cobia at VSAREC, then transported the fish to Blacksburg, where they spent another several months studying the fish in the controlled recirculating systems of the VTAC Center.
Since feed costs are typically one of the greatest expenses associated with production aquaculture, one of the researcher's primary goals was to examine alternative protein sources. Aquaculturally raised cobia are usually fed fish meal, but Craig and McLean are looking at soy and yeast based compounds which are more affordable and sustainable than feeding fish meal.
The VTAC Center is ideally suited to support such research because the controlled environment of the recirculating aquacultural systems enables the scientists to study the immunological and other implications of nutritional variations.
"This is a totally integrated program, which from a marine perspective, very few universities take such a holistic approach," said Craig.
Craig and McLean are also collaborating with scientists in the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute to examine genetic changes associated with the nutritional research.
By using the unique capabilities of the VTAC to conduct the nutritional studies, the researchers hope to perfect recommendations that might one day lead to adding cobia to the list of fish that are successfully being raised in production aquaculture.
Cobia can be found around the world in tropical, subtropical and warm-temperate waters, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Two New Development Staffers Join VMRCVM

Wallace Allen and Amanda HallTwo new development professionals have been hired to assist the college with its private fund-raising operations.
Wallace Allen will be working in the area of corporate and foundation relations and Amanda Hall will serve as assistant director of development.
"We're very excited to welcome these two new professionals and build capacity in our fund-raising program," said Dean Schurig. "Private support will play a pivotal role in the college's future development."
Allen, who has been working with Virginia Tech as the Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, officially joined the College on February 1. In his former capacity at Virginia Tech Allen has worked with a number of foundations and Fortune 500 companies, including IBM, Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, Northrup Grumman, Ford Motor Company, Toyota USA Foundation and General Electric Company and GE Foundation.
Allen will work closely with the college's Office of Research and Graduate Studies in developing corporate and foundation support to drive the college's rapidly developing research program. Among other honors, Allen has been recognized as the "Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year" by the Roanoke Chapter of the American Association of Fundraising Executives.
Amanda Hall is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, where she studied public relations and fundraising. Hall has experience as the top student fund-raiser in the University of Tennessee - Knoxville's "Telefund Program" and raising funds for other university affiliated organizations. She grew up on a farm in Rockbridge county with a family that claims numerous Virginia Tech graduates.

Graduate School Recruitment Task Force Named

The recruitment of high quality graduate students is a keystone part of the college's growing research program and Virginia Tech's rapidly developing programs in the life sciences.
Graduate students will play an integral role in providing the communication and operational linkages between basic and clinical researchers, a collaboration that is a fundamental part of the college's emerging program in translational research.
To advance that objective, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies Dr. Roger Avery has appointed a task force to examine ways the college can recruit high quality graduate students for our M.S. and Ph.D. programs in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences.
The task force will develop short-term and long-term strategies for the recruitment program following consultations with administrators, faculty, staff and students.
Chaired by Dr. Peter Eyre, professor and former dean, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP), the task force includes Dr. Tom Caruso, research initiatives director, Office of Research and Graduate Studies; Dr. Francois Elvinger, associate professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS); Dr. Bill Huckle, associate professor, DBSP, Dr. X. J. Meng, assistant professor, DBSP; and Shivakumara Siddaramappa, graduate student.

Horse Suffering from LaminitisPublic Lecture on Equine Laminitis Scheduled

Dr. R. Scott Pleasant, associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and director of Equine Extension in the college, will present a public lecture on "Pasture Associated Laminitis (Founder)" on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m. in the VMRCVM's Heritage Room.
Laminitis is a serious problem that involves the inflammation of a horse's hoof. In severe cases, it can cause the sloughing of the hooves and major health problems.
Sponsored by the college and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, the lecture is part of the "Tuesday Evening Equine Talks" lecture series. It is free and open to the public.
Pleasant is a member of the VMRCVM's charter class of 1984 and he is a Diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). Prior to joining the VMRCVM faculty, he worked in equine private practice in eastern Virginia.
Pleasant has served as chief of large animal surgery in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and assumed the college's leadership position in equine extension in 2004.
He maintains research interests in equine lameness and podiatry, and he has authored or co-authored more than 75 manuscripts, abstracts and book chapters, and provided more than 100 professional presentations in front of national and international audiences.
For more information about the lecture, contact Dr. Pleasant at 540-231-9042 or email

VVMA Recognizes Two College Employees

Terry Lawrence and Dr. Marie Suthers-McCabeTwo VMRCVM employees were recently honored by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) during their annual meeting in Roanoke.
Dr. Marie Suthers-McCabe, associate professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and director of the college's Center for Animal Human Interaction (CENTAUR), was presented the "Distinguished Virginia Veterinarian" in recognition of her internationally regarded work in the area of the human/animal bond.
Dr. Suthers-McCabe is a past-president of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians and was awarded the 2005 Bustad Award, which is the nation's highest recognition for a veterinarian working in the area of the human/animal bond.
Suthers-McCabe is a former member of the American Veterinary Medical Association's VMAT team and was deployed for two weeks on site at the September 11 World Trade Center disaster in New York City.
Lawrence is a medical illustrator/graphic artist who has worked in the college's Biomedical Media Unit for about 20 years and has helped numerous faculty members with their scientific presentations and publications.
He was recognized for his general good service in helping to advance the college and the profession, and for his work on the college's 25th anniversary statue and history book.
Lawrence also annually coordinates the college's "Adopt-a-Family" program, which raises funds to assist a needy family at Christmas.

White Tapped for AAEP Honor

Dr. Nathaniel White, DVM Dr. Nathaniel White, the Jean Ellen duPont Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) has been invited to present the "Frank J. Mile State of the Art Lecture" at the 52nd annual meeting of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) in San Antonio in December.
White, an internationally recognized expert in equine colic and musculoskeletal disorders, will present clinical and research information on equine colic, the vexing equine gastrointestinal disorder that is the leading cause of equine mortality, during the lecture.
Created in 1997 to annually recognize an equine veterinarian with a distinguished career in equine research and discovery, the lecture is designed to both honor the achievements of the individual and provide a meaningful continuing education experience for those in attendance.
White will receive an edition of a specifically commissioned bronze that is on permanent display in the national headquarters of the AAEP in Lexington, Kentucky as part of the honor.
White was appointed to lead the Equine Medical Center in 2003, after serving since 1985 as the center's assistant director. He was appointed the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery in 1987.
White earned his DVM degree from Cornell University in 1971 and completed an internship and residency program in equine surgery at the University of California at Davis. He also earned a MS. degree in pathology from Kansas State University.
He is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgery (ACVS) and he has served as Chairman of the Board of Regents of the ACVS, president of the ACVS Research and Education Foundation, and as a member of the national board of directors of the AAEP.

Urinalysis and Hematology CE Course Scheduled March 4

A short course entitled "Urinalysis and Hematology for the Small Animal Practice" will be presented on March 4 on the VMRCVM's Virginia Tech campus.
Combining lecture and laboratory experiences, the course is designed to provide excellent in-service training for laboratory personnel of any level of expertise.
The day-long course will provide "bench-level" review of routinely performed laboratory procedures for urinalysis and hematology of dogs and cats. It will also include a detailed review of urine-testing and micoscopic analysis of urine sediment including crystals and casts.
Topics will include complete blood counts (CBC), and tests to assess hematocrit, plasma protein, red blood cell morphology, white blood cells, platelets, and others.
Registrants will receive a book and CD copy of copy of "Laboratory Urinalysis and Hematology for the Small Animal Practitioner."
Registration, which includes all educational experiences, reference materials, breaks lunch and CE certificates for six contact hours, is $475 for professionals and $400 for students.
For more information, contact or call 540-231-5261 or visit