Raising the Bar
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
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
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
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
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
EMC Research Institute Task Force
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
"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
Bird flu..small-pox.. plague.. These dangerous diseases conjure apocalyptic
images in the minds of many - and with good reason.
Zoonotic Infectious Disease Conference Planned
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
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
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
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
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 www.conted.vt.edu/erid
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).
Enhancing Lifestyles for the Elderly and their Pets
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.
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.
Alumni Board Meeting and Officers
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.
Mention the word aquaculture - or fish-farming - and people commonly think of
catfish, salmon, and tilapia.
Aquaculture Researchers Looking at Cobia
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
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
"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
Cobia can be found around the world in tropical, subtropical and warm-temperate
waters, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
new development professionals have been hired to assist the college with its
private fund-raising operations.
Two New Development Staffers Join VMRCVM
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.
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 School Recruitment Task Force Named
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
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
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.
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.
Lecture on Equine Laminitis Scheduled
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
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
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
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
For more information about the lecture, contact Dr. Pleasant at 540-231-9042 or
VMRCVM employees were recently honored by the Virginia Veterinary Medical
Association (VVMA) during their annual
meeting in Roanoke.
VVMA Recognizes Two College Employees
Dr. Marie Suthers-McCabe, associate professor, Department of Small
Animal Clinical Sciences and director of the college's Center for Animal Human
was presented the "Distingushed 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
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.
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 Tapped for AAEP Honor
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
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.
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.
Urinalysis and Hematology CE Course Scheduled March 4
Combining lecture and laboratory experiences, the course is designed to provide
excellent in-service training for laboratory personnel of any level of
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 email@example.com
or call 540-231-5261 or visit