Vital Signs

February 2013


The Next Steps

Dr. Gerhardt G. SchurigDear friends and colleagues,

Many of you may have heard that I will be stepping down as dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine this year. After serving as the college's dean since 2004, I simply decided that the time had come.

I've always felt that 10 years should be enough to accomplish important goals as an administrator. When I realized that self-imposed time limit was fast approaching, I decided to move ahead with my plans.

As the lyrics to a popular Kenny Rogers song notes, you've got to "know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em." I think that's an excellent piece of advice. The college needs new ideas, approaches, and energy to continue on its path of growth and success.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine has been my home since I first joined its faculty in 1978. I was here at the very beginning. My heart and soul are part of these walls. I've been privileged to be at the helm of this fine organization during a period of unprecedented growth and achievement.

I've so enjoyed strengthening our relationships with groups such as the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, and the West Virginia Medical Association, as well as with donors and friends of the college. I also want to thank all faculty, staff, and fellow administrators for helping me advance the goals of the college.

But, I'm not really going away. I'll return to a faculty position in my former home, the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, where I'll teach immunology and conduct research, as well as work on some special projects for the university.

Virginia Tech Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee has announced a 14-member search committee to find my replacement. You can read about the composition of the committee below. The university has also engaged the executive search firm of Isaacson, Miller to assist with the international search.

I expect the search process to be completed by June, with the new dean on board before the end of year. I have agreed to serve until a new dean arrives.

In closing, the next steps both for me and for the college will be exciting ones full of promise and hope. The future is bright for this college as it continues its rise in the rankings, becomes a preferred destination of both students and faculty, and strengthens its reputation in research, clinical, and teaching areas. Thank you again for all you've done to make these things possible.

Best regards,

Gerhardt G. Schurig, DVM, Ph.D.
Dean
 

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In This Issue

 

 

Featured Stories


Virginia Tech announces search committee for dean

Virginia Tech has announced the search committee for a new dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee will chair the search committee. Members of the search committee are:

The search committee welcomes nominations for the position. Virginia Tech has engaged Isaacson, Miller to assist with this search. For confidential inquiries, or to nominate an individual for this position, please email Phillip Jaeger, vice president at Isaacson, Miller, or call 202-216-2276. You may also send nominations via email to Mark McNamee, or via campus mail, 210 Burruss Hall (0132).

The position description and application process will be announced later this month and will be available through the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost website.

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Prospective students jockey for positions in record numbers

DVM Program admissions interviews

Before entering interview rooms, candidates for the veterinary college's Class of 2017 review one of eight scenarios that will test their non-cognitive abilities.

After rising to the top of a highly competitive application pool and braving last month's snowstorm to make their best impression in a selective interview process, prospective students find out in early March whether they'll have the opportunity to spend the next four years at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

A record-breaking 1,220 prospective students submitted applications to the college last fall, representing the fourth largest applicant pool in North America, according to figures from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

For several years in a row, the college has seen gains in application numbers for its DVM program, up 11 percent this year alone.

Read more about the college's competitive admissions process.

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Snow leopard Bali makes big impression

Bali the snow leopard

Dr. Karen Brantman, ophthalmology resident, examines Bali, a nine-month-old male snow leopard from Mill Mountain Zoo. View more photos.

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital was abuzz recently when a young snow leopard from Roanoke's Mill Mountain Zoo arrived as a patient.

Bali, a nine-month-old male, was having a problem with his right eye and came to Blacksburg for diagnosis and possible surgery.

Bali was examined by Dr. Ian Herring, associate professor of ophthalmology, and Dr. Karen Brantman, a third-year ophthalmology resident. They determined that Bali's right upper eyelid had previously suffered a laceration. Although the wound was completely healed, the eyelid margin remained significantly disrupted, reducing protection to the eye and allowing hair to contact the cornea.

Read more about Bali's visit to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

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Meng awarded nearly $2 million to study chronic hepatitis E

Dr. X.J. Meng

Dr. Danielle Yugo (left), a Ph.D. candidate and veterinarian in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Dr. X.J. Meng (right), will be conducting research on hepatitis E virus under a National Institutes of Health grant.

For individuals with compromised immune systems, chronic infections can be deadly. Thanks to a nearly $2 million grant, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology will be working to better understand chronic hepatitis E virus infections.

Dr. X.J. Meng, professor of virology, received the five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. He directs a lab in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease that is considered one of the world's leading hepatitis E virus research centers.

Meng and his colleagues have spent years studying the hepatitis E virus and are now turning their attention to chronic cases of the virus which causes more than 20 million liver infections every year. The project seeks to develop a chronic hepatitis E model to study how and why the disease progresses into chronicity and its possible medical prevention and treatment.

Read more about Meng's research on chronic hepatitis E.

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Veterinary students, clinicians offer care for horses through Equine Field Service

Equine Field Service farm visit

Dr. Rebecca Funk, at left, does a chiropractic evaluation on a horse at Virginia Tech's Campbell Arena.

After finishing their first three years of professional training, fourth-year students in the veterinary college face their biggest challenge yet. They must demonstrate the knowledge and skills they learned in the classroom during 12 months of clinical rotations. While students who graduate from the college gain experience in all aspects of veterinary medicine, including equine, many of them also get a chance to take their knowledge off campus through the Equine Field Service.

"We have four to six students on each three-week block of clinical rotations. They go on all of our calls," said Dr. Rebecca Funk, clinical assistant professor of equine field service in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. "The goal is to get the students to take the patient history and do the preliminary physical exam. While a senior clinician will oversee the treatment in a complex case, the students will do this for simple cases and routine examinations. We rarely take a call without a student with us."

Read more about the Equine Field Service in a recent Virginia Tech spotlight on impact and a "How Tech Ticks" feature in the Virginia Tech Magazine.

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College launches new oncology program

Dr. Shawna Klahn and Dr. Nick

Dr. Shawna Klahn (left) and Dr. Nick (right) have begun a new oncology program at the college.

The fight against animal cancer has received a powerful boost at the veterinary college with the launch of a new oncology program.

Under way at the college's flagship facility at Virginia Tech, the program provides a full range of care for four-legged patients with and without a cancer diagnosis, including biopsy, imaging, treatment, and surgery.

The inaugural oncology program was launched this fall with the arrival of two new assistant professors. Dr. Nick Dervisis and Dr. Shawna Klahn, who both gained medical oncology experience from Michigan State University, will oversee the program in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Services. The two are also offering phone and written consultations with referring veterinarians.

"This is the first time that we have had faculty dedicated to medical oncology services," said Dr. Greg Daniel, head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. "With their arrival, Dr. Dervisis and Dr. Klahn have not only greatly enhanced the quality of care that we offer patients at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, but also prepared the way for new research endeavors in the fight against cancer."

Read more about the college's new oncology program.

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Researchers study why flu more common in the winter

Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah and graduate students

Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah (right) and graduate students conduct influenza research.

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, has distinct transmission patterns around the world. In temperate regions, influenza's occurrence peaks during the winter season, while in some tropical regions, the disease's occurrence tends to correspond with the rainy season.

A team of Virginia Tech researchers, including Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, measured the influenza A virus survival rate at various levels of humidity. They found that the virus was the most viable when the relative humidity was either close to 100 percent or below 50 percent, which may help explain influenza's seasonality in different regions.

Read more about research on influenza and the winter season.

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Klein produces seminal textbook on veterinary physiology

Bradley G. Klein

Bradley G. Klein, associate professor of neurobiology, served as editor-in-chief of "Cunningham's Textbook of Veterinary Physiology."

A faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology has led the production of the world's most widely published textbook in veterinary physiology.

Dr. Bradley G. Klein, associate professor of neurobiology, served as editor-in-chief of "Cunningham's Textbook of Veterinary Physiology," 5th edition, published by Elsevier-Saunders. Several other faculty members at the college contributed to the work.

The book, which has been published in four languages, is considered a seminal textbook in academic veterinary medicine and a useful reference text for veterinary practices.

Read more about the veterinary physiology textbook.

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Welcome to the College


Dr. Nick Dervisis

Dr. Nick Dervisis, assistant professor of oncology

Dr. Nick Dervisis joins college as assistant professor of oncology

Dr. Nick Dervisis of East Lansing, Mich., has joined VMRCVM as an assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. He comes to the college from Michigan State University, where he held positions as assistant professor, researcher, and medical oncology resident.

Last October, Dervisis and his colleague Dr. Shawna Klahn launched a new oncology program at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He will see oncology cases and help build an investigative research program linked to the new oncology program.


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Dr. Robin Fontenot

Dr. Robin Fontenot, clinical instructor of large animal surgery

Dr. Robin Fontenot hired as clinical instructor of large animal surgery

Dr. Robin Fontenot of Christiansburg, Va., has joined VMRCVM as a clinical instructor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. She was previously a large animal surgery resident at the college.

In her new role with the college, Fontenot will train and supervise residents, interns, and veterinary students in large animal surgery through lectures and student teaching laboratories. She will also manage after-hours surgical emergencies at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.


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Dr. Shawna Klahn

Dr. Shawna Klahn, assistant professor of oncology

Dr. Shawna Klahn joins college as assistant professor of oncology

Dr. Shawna Klahn of Greenville, S.C., has joined VMRCVM as an assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. She comes to the college from Upstate Veterinary Specialists of Greenville, S.C., where she was a veterinary medical oncology clinician.

Klahn gained experience in medical oncology from Michigan State University and helped to launch the college's new oncology program last fall. She will help oversee the new service's clinical and research program.


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Dr. Megan Shepherd

Dr. Megan Shepherd, clinical assistant professor of nutrition

Dr. Megan Shepherd hired as clinical assistant professor of nutrition

Dr. Megan Shepherd of Blacksburg, Va., has joined VMRCVM as a clinical assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. She was previously a resident in clinical nutrition at the college.

Shepherd has experience in clinical nutrition consultation and in teaching veterinary students. In her new role, she will contribute to the college's instructional, clinical, and research activities in the area of clinical and applied nutrition.


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Spotlights


Equine Conference for Veterinarians returns to VMRCVM

equine conference

VMRCVM and the Virginia Association of Equine Practitioners sponsored the second annual Equine Conference for Veterinarians at the college's Blacksburg campus on Jan. 11. The conference attracted approximately 100 veterinarians and veterinary students who learned about a wide range of equine topics. Participants received six contact hours of continuing education through the veterinary college's partnerships with state veterinary medical associations.

View the conference photo gallery.

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Casino Night benefits Compassionate Care Fund

casino night

A Casino Night fundraiser on Jan. 26 raised over $3,000 for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital's Compassionate Care Fund. The event was planned and hosted by student members of Alpha Psi, Omega Tau Sigma, and the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association. More than 420 faculty, staff, students, and their guests were in attendance at the fundraiser held on the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine campus. Veterinary college faculty served as "dealers" at the game tables. Each entry ticket included a bag of chips to get started at the blackjack, roulette, poker, and craps tables. Gold sponsors included Elanco, Purina Mills, Midwest Veterinary Supply, Merial, Dechra Veterinary Products, and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. Local businesses generously sponsored the four-hour event with donations of food and door prizes.

View a photo gallery of the night's festivities.

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Awards & Activities


Awards & Accolades

Dana Calicott, laboratory specialist, was chosen as VMRCVM's Staff Member of the Month for February.

Dr. Larry Freeman, associate professor of anatomy, has been invited to serve a three year term on the Editorial Board of Anatomia Histologia Embryologia, the international journal of the World Association of Veterinary Anatomists. He also serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Veterinary Anatomy, the publication of the African Association of Veterinary Anatomists.

Dr. Mark Freeman, assistant professor of community practice, has been certified as a Diplomate by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) specializing in Canine and Feline Practice.

Megan Lighty, a fourth-year dual DVM/Ph.D. student, received an American Association of Avian Pathologists scholarship.

Dr. Pablo Piñeyro, pathology resident and Ph.D. candidate, was recognized by the Charles Louis Davis, D.V.M. Foundation for the Advancement of Veterinary and Comparative Pathology as the recipient of their 2012 Student Scholarship Award in Veterinary Pathology.

Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, was notified that the paper titled "International Standards for Brucellosis Prevention and Management" has been accepted for publication in the April 2013 special issue the OIE's Scientific and Technical Review. Co-authors include Dr. Gary Vroegindewey and Dr. Sarah Babcock.

Dr. Julie Settlage, clinical assistant professor of large animal surgery, Dr. Maria Killos, assistant professor of anesthesiology, Dr. David Grant, associate professor of small animal internal medicine, and Dr. Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services, completed a post-graduate certificate in veterinary education from the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. The one-year certificate program aims to develop education skills in veterinarians who teach and focuses on key educational principles, such as student learning, teaching methods, curriculum development, and assessment. Participants must complete online modules, journal clubs, teaching assessments, and written reflections of practice.

Regina Sparks, housekeeping worker, was chosen as VMRCVM's Staff Member of the Month for January.

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Maryland Activities

The Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine (CPCVM), based in College Park, Md., selected and administered travel awards to 12 veterinary students from nine veterinary schools for travel to the annual U.S. Animal Health Association/American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians meeting (USAHA/AAVLD) in Greensboro, N.C. Funding was provided by USAHA/AAVLD, the Northeast USAHA, and the Western States Livestock Health Association. Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the center, escorted the 23 students in attendance. The center was recognized at the president's banquet for having more than doubled veterinary student participation in the organization in two years.

Dr. Tracy McCracken, assistant director of education and training at the CPCVM, conducted sessions for a One Health for Africa Curriculum Development Workshop hosted by the African Union in Naivasha, Kenya, and met with deans of African veterinary schools in Kenya on the potential for developing training partnerships and exchange programs in Uganda, Senegal, and South Africa.

Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the CPCVM, was an invited participant to the USDA Republic of Georgia Animal Health Trade Capacity Building Program lessons-learned discussion in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Gary Vroegindewey delivered a plenary presentation on "Social Media in Animal Disasters" at the National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programs Annual Meeting, Leesburg, Va. He also gave a presentation for the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) 3rd Global Conference on Animal Welfare in Malaysia on "Animal Welfare in Disasters" in November 2012. He was the only U.S. invited speaker. In addition, Vroegindewey served as reviewer of military-civilian and veterinary program abstracts for the World Congress for Disaster and Emergency Medicine to be held in England in May 2013.

Dr. Valerie Ragan was an invited speaker at the Caribbean Veterinary Medical Association annual conference in Trinidad in November 2012. She also traveled to southern Trinidad at the request of United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Trinidad animal health officials to visit a high genetic government-owned water buffalo herd affected with brucellosis and to meet with the farm manager and government veterinarians to discuss eliminating the disease from the herd.

Dr. Valerie Ragan conducted a workshop in Armenia on animal health program development, quality assessment, quality control, and oversight. She also represented USDA at the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture's Donor Coordination meeting in Yerevan, Armenia.

The Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine has developed a new corporate clerkship opportunity with the support of Bayer Animal Health. This program allows students to spend time and interface with Bayer veterinarians to understand the process of new drug and vaccine development, marketing, and technical support.

 


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Credits

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

Dean: Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig
Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
Director: Sherrie Whaley
Content Editor: Michael Sutphin
Web Editor: Alison Elward
Contributors: Alison Elward, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley
Contributing Photographers: Alison Elward, Terry Lawrence, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace, Sherrie Whaley

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