Vital Signs: August 2013
Vol. 2, Issue 1
A Fresh Start
Dear friends and colleagues,
When I last wrote to you, the college was celebrating its 30th annual commencement ceremony for our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students. Our Master of Public Health program had just received good news about its accreditation. It is hard to believe that another summer has passed and we have once again started a new academic year.
Students returned to campus following a busy summer for us! If you are in Blacksburg, you may already have noticed the new hardwood floors, decorative displays of radiograph images, upholstered chairs, dining-style booths, new refrigerators, and microwaves when you enter our commons area. Construction crews finished renovations just in time for the arrival of the new class, and students and faculty alike are already enjoying the new look. Next summer, we will complete the remainder of the library-commons renovations and have a truly attractive space for the entire college community to learn, collaborate, and relax.
When the Class of 2017 joined the college this month, its members brought with them a wealth of life experiences and skills. They include a pilot, an opera singer, an actress, several musicians, artists, skilled equestrians, and so on. We were pleased to continue our tradition of welcoming this talented group to the college with a week of orientation activities and a matriculation ceremony. Hundreds of family, friends, faculty, staff, and others joined our first-year students as we formally welcomed them to the profession as students. Now that they have received their white coats and stethoscopes, they will begin their four-year journeys to become veterinarians.
The new class joins our second-, third-, and fourth-year students at an exciting time for the college. As previously announced, I am stepping down from my position after 10 years as both interim dean and dean. Dr. Cyril Clarke, who is currently dean of Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, will become the college’s fourth dean effective Oct. 1. As a leader in veterinary medical education, Dr. Clarke has a strong vision for the college’s future. I, like you, am looking forward to seeing his vision come to fruition in the coming years.
Gerhardt G. Schurig, DVM, Ph.D.
- Dr. Cyril R. Clarke appointed dean
- College welcomes Class of 2017 with orientation, white coat ceremony
- Physical rehabilitation helps dogs at Veterinary Teaching Hospital
- Public Health Program earns accreditation, celebrates its progress
- Dr. Bess Pierce ranked among top U.S. military veterinarians in Europe
- New grant investigates how hepatitis E virus infects across species barrier
Around the College
- Welcome to our new MPH and BMVS graduate students!
- Governor’s School for Agriculture visits the college
- Let’s Talk Public Health
Awards & Achievements
Dr. Cyril R. Clarke, of Corvallis, Ore., has been named dean of the veterinary college effective Oct. 1. Clarke currently serves as professor and dean of Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. He will succeed Gerhardt G. Schurig, who announced his plans to return to the faculty after 10 years as both interim dean and dean of the veterinary college.
A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, Clarke will serve as the fourth dean of the college.
He said of his new position, “The college has established a distinguished record of accomplishment in veterinary education, delivery of clinical and diagnostic services across a wide range of clinical specialties, and biomedical research in comparative health sciences. It is particularly well positioned to advance translational medicine and the concept of One Health, which recognizes the close linkage between animal and public health. The partnership involving two land-grant universities provides an excellent opportunity for further development of innovative and collaborative programs that meet the veterinary educational and animal health needs of Virginia and Maryland. I am excited to be given the opportunity to lead the college in its next phase of development.”
A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology, Clarke was a faculty member at Oklahoma State University from 1987 to 2007, where he also served as a department head and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2007, he assumed the position of Lois Bates Acheson Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University. He also serves as a professor of pharmacology in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.
The lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian is one step closer to reality for 125 new students at the veterinary college. First-year students participated in the traditional white coat ceremony on Aug. 22. The white coat is a meaningful symbol of clinical service and animal care.
New students each received a white laboratory coat and a stethoscope in front of more than 300 family, friends, faculty and staff members, and guests. Earlier in the week, the Class of 2017 went through four days of orientation activities designed to prepare them for the next four years of professional training.
“The orientation gave us a good transition into the veterinary profession and helped us get to know other students who are new like us,” said first-year student Tracy Perdew of Vienna, Va.
Maddy, a yellow Labrador retriever, came to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in early 2013 with a herniated disk in her neck. After surgery, Maddy was unable to walk and had to ride a hospital gurney from her owner’s car into the hospital. Today, she is able to walk again thanks to the efforts of Flori Sforza, a veterinary technician and certified canine rehabilitation practitioner at the college.
Sforza works with equipment you might expect in a physical therapy center for people: mats, yoga balls, exercise equipment, balance boards, and a dry treadmill. She also takes her four-legged patients downstairs to an underwater treadmill, where they can re-learn to walk in an environment that puts less stress on their joints.
Although post-surgery physical therapy is common for people, it is a fairly new development for pets. Less than half of U.S. veterinary teaching hospitals offer the service. With more veterinarians seeing the long-term benefits of canine rehabilitation, it promises to become more mainstream.
Virginia Tech’s Public Health Program is celebrating a series of successes. It was awarded full accreditation in June from The Council on Education for Public Health. A month later, a history-making class of 13 Master of Public Health students graduated — the first since receiving the important quality assurance endorsement that comes with accreditation.
Housed in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, the program also has the distinction of being the first to be accredited at a veterinary college in the United States.
Established in 2010, the two-year professional degree program is the only one of its kind in southwest Virginia. It seeks to increase the number of public health professionals in southwest and southside Virginia, the Appalachian region, and beyond. The fledgling program is attracting both full-time students who recently completed an undergraduate degree and part-time, mid-career professionals. Some students also pursue simultaneous degrees in medicine, veterinary medicine, business, and other fields.
When Dr. Bess Pierce isn’t in a white lab coat at the veterinary college, she’s in a military uniform in Europe.
Pierce, who is an associate professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, doubles as one of the highest-ranking veterinarians stationed in Europe with the U.S. Army Reserve Corps. Every quarter, she dons her uniform and hops on a plane to cross the Atlantic and fulfill her duties as Colonel Bess Pierce.
As a faculty member, Pierce oversees and mentors residents, interns, and students in the Small Animal Community Practice Clinic of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Since January 2013, Pierce has held the title of senior veterinarian for the Public Health Command Region-Europe in the U.S. Army Reserve Veterinary Corps. Her position parallels that of the active-duty deputy commander and senior veterinarian.
Dr. X.J. Meng, a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech and a professor of virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has received a four-year, nearly $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to better understand the genetic elements that allow hepatitis E virus to transfer from animals to people.
Meng is the principal investigator in the new NIH award to identify the virus gene or genes that enable the animal hepatitis E virus strains in pigs and rabbits to infect humans. His laboratory in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease is one of the leading international research centers on hepatitis E virus, which causes an estimated 20 million liver infections each year.
“We are trying to pinpoint the genetic elements in the virus genome responsible for cross-species infection,” Meng said. “If we can understand what viral gene or genes allow the virus to transfer from one animal species to another, then we can design better strategies to fight cross-species virus infection.”
While it’s commonly accepted that you should focus your talents and interests on one specific career path, who says you can’t choose two? A 2002 alumnus of the college has found the perfect way to blend his passion for animals with his passion for music.
Born and raised in Roanoke, Va., Dr. Joshua Louis Lachowicz grew up in the country, where his love for animals and a desire to care for them began at a young age. Around the same time, he learned to play the piano and started singing and writing his own songs.
“I always kind of knew I wanted to be a veterinarian,” said Lachowicz. “I just loved animals, and l loved the science behind things.”
Lachowicz is the youngest of five in a family of Hokies. His father and each of his four siblings attended Virginia Tech. When it was his turn to apply to colleges, there was no question about where he wanted to go: Virginia Tech.
As a freshman studying biology, Lachowicz volunteered at the veterinary college. On one occasion, he witnessed the birth of a calf. That experience opened his eyes and helped him choose his career as a veterinarian.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
Dr. S. Ansar Ahmed, professor of immunology and head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was named a Virginia Tech Scholar of the Week in July.
Dr. Julie Cecere, clinical assistant professor of theriogenology in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, recently achieved Diplomate status with the American College of Theriogenologists.
Carissa Doody, master of public health student, received the highest honor earned by Junior Holstein members — the Distinguished Junior Member finalist award — and was one of two college students to win the 2013 National Dairy Shrine Kildee Scholarship.
Dr. Marion Ehrich, professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was named a Virginia Tech Scholar of the Week in August.
Lynn Heffron, a laboratory technician at the Integrated Life Sciences Building, was chosen as the college’s Staff Member of the Month in August.
Dr. Michael Hickey (DVM ’09) of Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates passed boards and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine with a specialty in cardiology.
Dr. Jennifer Mulz (DVM ’07) of Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialists passed boards and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine with the specialty in cardiology.
Valerie Vaught, radiology technician at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, was chosen as the college’s Staff Member of the Month in July.
Danielle Jaszewski, licensed veterinary technician in Small Animal Community Practice, received the Director's Annual Staff Performance Award.
Dr. S. Ansar Ahmed, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was invited to give a talk at a high-profile national meeting on the state of the field and participate in a panel discussion on “Inflammation: The Biology of Stress.” Other presenters in Ahmed’s session were from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Yale. The conference, titled “What a difference an X makes: the state of women’s health research,” was held at the Pew Charitable Trusts conference center in Washington, D.C. from July 18-19.
Dr. Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received a three-year, $625,000 career development award from the National Institutes of Health. Allen will be studying how inflammation acts as a causative agent in tumor development by acting as a tumor promoter. He hopes to better understand the role of specific host immune system mediators on the development of inflammation-driven cancers, such as colitis-associated colon cancers. Allen is evaluating the contribution of a novel group of nod-like receptor proteins and attempting to understand their effect on colitis-associated colon cancer in mice.
Dr. Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services, and Dr. Gary Vroegindewey of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, presented to about 45 prospective students, parents, alumni, and veterinarians at an event at the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Md. on Aug. 11. Dr. Allison Wack (DVM ’05) led tours of the zoo following the speakers.
Dr. Larry Freeman, associate professor of anatomy in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, made two poster presentations at the American Association of Anatomists Experimental Biology Convention in Boston in April. He also made a poster presentation and a report to the history committee at the Biennial Conference of the American Association of Veterinary Anatomists at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, Ga.
The Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine presented a half-day lecture on veterinary career transition at the 2013 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Convention in Chicago.
Dr. Gary Vroegindewey, director of global health initiatives at the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, moderated the Global Health Summit at the 2013 AVMA Convention with Dr. Valerie Ragan, center director, presenting on future global health opportunities for veterinarians. Vroegindewey also led a session on “Veterinary Collaboration for Global Education” at the convention.
Veterinary students are spanning the globe to learn about international public health and veterinary medicine and contribute to improved animal and human health programs. This spring and summer, students worked with the United National Food and Agriculture Organization in Italy, the U.S. Food and Agriculture Service in Armenia and Trinidad, Veterinarians Without Borders in Liberia, Wildlife Services in Ghana, and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in the Dominican Republic.
Dr. Valerie Ragan and Dr. Gary Vroegindewey, along with Dr. Sarah Babcock of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, were published in the World Animal Health Organization’s April 2013 “Scientific and Technical Review on International Standards for Brucellosis Prevention and Management.” Ragan emphasized the importance of continuing to contribute to the scientific understanding of zoonotic disease as a professional contribution to One Health.
- September 1 — Class of ’08 Five Year Reunion
- Barrel Oak Winery, Delaplane, VA
- September 13 — DVM Program Admissions Counseling Session (Maryland)
- Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center, University of Maryland campus
- September 17 — Continuing Education: “Managing Pet Obesity and Pros and Cons of Alternative Pet Diets”
- Winchester, VA
- September 18 — Continuing Education: “Managing Pet Obesity and Pros and Cons of Alternative Pet Diets”
- Frederick, MD
- September 18 — Continuing Education: “Canine Orthopedic Exam”
- Blacksburg, VA
- September 24 — Continuing Education:
“Forelimb Orthopedic Disease: Localization, Diagnosis & Common Treatments” &
“Treatment of Feline Diabetes Mellitus: Current Concepts in Dietary and Insulin Management”
- Roanoke, VA
- September 28 — Community Dog Wash
- Blacksburg, VA
- October 11 — DVM Program Admissions Counseling Session (Maryland)
- Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center, University of Maryland campus
- October 18 — Class of ’88 25th Reunion
- Mountain Lake Lodge, Pembroke, VA
- October 18 — VVMA / MVMA Mentor Workshop
- Blacksburg, VA
- November 8 – 10 — Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference
- The Greenbrier Resort — White Sulphur Springs, WV
- November 16 — VA-MD Vet Med Homecoming Tailgate
- VA-MD Vet Med Oak Grove — Blacksburg, VA
For More Upcoming Events…
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 Editors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak
- Copy Editor: Carla Craft
- Contributors: Carla Craft, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley
- Photographers: Alison Elward, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace, Sherrie Whaley