Vital Signs: November 2013
Vol. 2, Issue 4
A reason to be thankful
Dear friends and colleagues,
At this time of giving thanks, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine family. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and friends make the college a vibrant and passionate place of learning, teaching, innovation, and service. I would also like to give a special thanks to those working in our hospitals over the holidays.
The college has had a great deal of forward momentum in recent years — from advances in research and clinical care, to new partnerships around the globe, to the opening of impressive new facilities. I look forward to continuing this momentum. Several times over the last few weeks, I have been asked about the status of the proposed translational medicine building.
The strategic role of this facility will be to promote transfer of discoveries made in the laboratory to clinical management of animal and human patients, consistent with a “bench-top to bedside” concept of translational research. By placing biomedical research in close proximity to clinical cases, we would advance development of cross-disciplinary and integrative research programs that employ animal models of disease.
A feasibility study, completed in September of this year, envisaged an 86,000-square -foot facility with an overall cost of $51 million. Conceptual site plans propose that the building be constructed as an extension of the teaching hospital, adjacent to the Infectious Disease Research Facility. In addition to new clinical service spaces, the building will contain research laboratory and conferencing spaces.
Three colleges, including the College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Science, and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, have been collaborating on this project, with the expectation that approximately half of the necessary funding would be provided by the commonwealth/university and the balance by the partners, though private donations and debt service.
I am pleased to confirm that all three college partners continue to prioritize this project as an excellent opportunity to develop comparative health sciences research. The College of Veterinary Medicine has already made a good start in raising private funds. Our next steps will be to review the budgetary aspects of the project and explore the possibility of broadening the partnership to include more health sciences programs. It is still too early to estimate what the timeline may be for project completion – I will keep you updated as the planning progresses.
Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving,
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
- Travis Burns combines blacksmithing skills, knowledge of anatomy
- Dr. Jennifer Barrett named Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery
- Almost 200 dogs participate in heartworm clinic
- Time well spent in Veterinarians Without Borders project
- Researchers test cutting-edge treatment for stubborn skin tumors on horses
- Horse on a treadmill becomes sensation at Maryland game
- Hospital receives new tonometer
- College finishes a successful reunion season
- Development news: Alumni enthusiasm for college rises
- In memoriam: Dr. Amy Renshaw
Welcome to the College
- Dr. Kevin Lahmers joins college as clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology
- Dr. Sunsine Lahmers joins college as clinical assistant professor of cardiology
- Dr. Lori Rios joins college as clinical assistant professor of internal medicine
Around the College
- Faculty, alumni connect at Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference
- Dean Clarke meets with new faculty in Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
- New HokieBird statue greets college visitors
- Duke Miller goes home for Turkey Day!
Awards & Activities
Travis Burns sees several patients during a typical day at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, but he doesn’t bring a stethoscope or a lab coat to work.
As a farrier, Burns combines the centuries-old tools of a blacksmith — including a forge, hot metal, and hammers — with a 21st century knowledge of equine anatomy to provide hoof care. In trimming and balancing horses’ hooves and making and fitting their shoes by hand, Burns is part artist and part scientist.
“A successful farrier not only knows how to appropriately fit and shoe a horse but also has a science-based understanding of equine anatomy and physiology,” said Burns, lecturer and chief of farrier services at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Jennifer Barrett, associate professor of equine surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, was recently named the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.
The Theodora Ayer Randolph Professorship of Equine Surgery was established by its namesake to attract and retain eminent scholars to the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center. The recipient will hold the position for a period of three years.
A member of the faculty since 2007, Barrett’s research has focused on regenerative medicine and she has quickly become a leading expert in this equine discipline.
The annual Heartworm Prevention Clinic was recently held at the college with 198 student-owned dogs participating. Sponsored by the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA), the program fulfills veterinary students’ professional requirement to establish a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
SCAVMA officer Kathy Samley, a second-year veterinary student, coordinated the appointments. Students created a basic medical record for their dog(s) and chose the appropriate product from a list of available preventatives. SCAVMA officers and volunteers organized and set up the space, retrieved paperwork from medical records, and arranged for a Merial-supplied breakfast for the volunteers.
On the day of the clinic, students provided histories, clinician volunteers performed brief physical exams, and blood was drawn for heartworm testing (snap tests were provided by Novartis). Finally, with a negative heartworm status, students wrote prescriptions for their preventatives and then received clinician approval and signature. Pharmacy supervisor Maureen Perry and pharmacy assistant Brian Hartnett checked prescriptions for accuracy and filled them.
Robert Fathke, a third-year public and corporate veterinary medicine student, wants to apply veterinary medicine in a global setting. Veterinarians Without Borders made that dream a reality by sending Fathke on a two-week stint in Liberia to assist the country’s agricultural industry and teach students.
“Although I spent only two weeks with the students, we developed a strong bond,” Fathke wrote in an account of his summer experience. “I learned a lot about Liberia and its people, and I learned a great deal about myself. The experiences reaffirmed my belief that veterinary medicine is first and foremost about people. I was sad to leave Liberia, but I left feeling my time there was well spent.”
He’s 8 years old, brown black, has a sense of humor, is very patient, tall — about 16.3 hands — and has a gorgeous tail. His name is Paco and not what you’d envision as a patient in a clinical trial using a novel, cutting-edge treatment on a tough skin tumor.
Paco is a horse, half Thoroughbred/half Percheron, and at the point of his shoulder — withers — he stands 5 feet 7 inches in human terms. Every two weeks this elegant, easygoing equine and his human pal, Ferd Powell, come to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where Paco is being treated for sarcoids. These skin tumors almost always are benign but they can be aggressive and treating them can make them worse. Fortunately they aren’t as deadly as melanomas, a cancerous skin mass, often are.
The new treatment is called H-FIRE, which stands for high-frequency irreversible electroporation. It involves a long needle that delivers a short burst of electricity into specific places in the tumor. Currently the researchers and veterinarians studying the treatment have found that H-FIRE is effective at controlling the tumor’s growth.
A horse on a treadmill is giving the HokieBird a run for its money (no pun intended) when it comes to iconic images related to Virginia Tech.
A video clip of the horse has been shown on the Jumbotron at home football games since 2010, but when the university decided to retire the clip earlier this year, fans noticed and they weren’t happy. Horse on a Treadmill Facebook and Twitter pages were established with pleas to return the video to the Jumbotron.
In response, Virginia Tech gave fans what it wanted: for the final home football game against Maryland, a special video spot was created that featured the horse on a treadmill on three separate occasions. The unsuspecting fans went wild when Lola appeared!
Since then, the horse on a treadmill phenomenon has gone viral.
Earlier this month, the Teaching Hospital’s Ophthalmology Service was the recipient of a new TonoVet tonometer donation, a specialty instrument that allows for easy measurement of animal eye pressure.
The TonoVet was presented to Dr. Phil Pickett, professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, by Sandra Cassady, Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager for Jorgensen Laboratories, Inc. Jorgensen is the exclusive distributor for the hand-held portable device.
The college’s alumni had numerous opportunities to connect with their classmates and their alma mater this year. Five classes celebrated reunions in 2013: the classes of 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, and 2008.
Once the football schedule is released each year in February, the college surveys members of each reunion class about where they would like to hold their reunion. The Class of 2008 chose to hold its fifth year reunion at the Barrel Oak Winery in The Plains in Northern Virginia. Almost 30 alumni, plus family and guests, attended the reunion over Labor Day.
Much like last year’s 25-year class reunion, the Class of 1988 chose to hold its reunion at Mountain Lake Lodge during the Bavarian Bash, previously known as Oktoberfest. Elanco sponsored the Oct. 18 event that attracted 75 alumni, faculty, staff, and students. Both the Class of 1987 and 1988 had 30 alumni in attendance, plus family and guests.
The classes of 1993, 1998, and 2003 decided to hold their reunions during the college’s homecoming on Nov. 16 in the Oak Grove outside the main veterinary college complex in Blacksburg. The Class of 1998 and Class of 2003 each had a strong showing of almost 25 classmates from each year, plus family and guests. Elanco sponsored this year’s homecoming during the Virginia Tech vs. Maryland game, which drew more than 250 alumni, faculty, staff, and students to attend. The band, Three Minute Lov’n, provided music and student ambassadors provided tours to 30 alumni and families prior to the tailgate.
Next year, the founding Class of 1984 will celebrate the college’s first 30-year class reunion. The college is waiting to learn where and when class members plan to hold their reunion.
Although not a complete measure of alumni feelings, Annual Fund participation is a tangible indicator of alumni excitement about the direction the college is going. At mid-year, the college saw a significant uptick which continued throughout the year. The number of donors, primarily alumni, was up 51 percent, the average size of gift was up 25 percent, and the total giving (dollars received) was up 90 percent!
What changed? For one thing, we reached out, we asked your opinion, and we listened.
- We expanded our hospital outreach to veterinarians, both alumni and non-alumni, with 31 continuing education (CE) events across Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia with continued favorable reviews. Faculty members present these free events in partnership with corporate sponsors and local VMAs, coordinated by Dr. Doug Graham, hospital relations.
- Our alumni director, Lynn Young, visited 50 practices and 71 alumni, bringing them up-to-date on what is happening at the college and gathering feedback on what we can do better. Additionally, our alumni receptions at major CE events and class reunions have seen increased participation and very positive feedback.
- In response to requests by alumni, we directed our annual fund efforts not only to unrestricted funds, which remain important, but also to an effort that provides alumni with a chance to give to a “project of their own.” The Alumni Challenge gives classes an opportunity to name the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s exam rooms. Funds raised are to refurbish the hospital exam rooms and hospital public spaces. Since April, in gifts and pledges, classes have committed $115,320 toward an ultimate goal of $600,000, and momentum is building.
We are excited to see your response. Please keep your suggestions coming on what we can do better. Together, we can do anything.
Dr. Amy Baker Keith Renshaw of North East, Pa., who graduated from the veterinary college with a doctor of veterinary medicine degree in 2005, died on Saturday June 1, 2013 at home. She was 37 years old.
Renshaw was born on Dec. 9, 1975 in Erie, Pa. to Michael and Janet Kalinowski Baker of North East. She was a graduate of St. Gregory's Parish School, North East High School, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. A lover of animals, Renshaw owned and operated Hometown Veterinary Hospital in North East for the past five years.
The family has asked for memorials to be made to the Northstar Equine Foundation.
Welcome to the College
Dr. Kevin Lahmers of Pullman, Wash., has joined the college as a clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. He comes to the college from Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where he was an assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Global Animal Health.
In his new role, Lahmers will support the college’s teaching, research, and clinical efforts. He is board-certified in anatomic pathology by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.
Dr. Sunshine Lahmers of Pullman, Wash., has joined the college as a clinical assistant professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. She comes to the college from the faculty at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
In her new role, Lahmers will support the department’s instructional and clinical efforts at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and pursue her research interests in heritable cardiovascular diseases and pharmacogenomics. She is board-certified in cardiology by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Dr. Lori Rios of Manakin-Sabot, Va., has joined the college as a clinical assistant professor of internal medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. She comes to the college from a veterinary referral center in the greater Richmond area and has held a small animal residency at the University of Georgia and a small animal rotating internship at a veterinary clinic in West Hartford, Conn.
In her new role, Rios will support the college’s clinical efforts at a new referral center in Roanoke, Va. She is board-certified in small animal internal medicine with the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Dr. Jennifer McQuiston (DVM ’97, MS ’98) has never been one to limit her options.
Raised in a family of educators, she appreciated both English and science in high school but decided to focus on the latter in college. Today, McQuiston works as an epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). She is also a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of two romance novels — with a third set for publication next year.
“In retrospect, I was always more of an English student than a science student in high school, even though I studied and enjoyed both,” said McQuiston, who earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the veterinary college in 1997 and received the college’s Outstanding Recent Alumna Award in 2008.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology and former dean of the college, will deliver Virginia Tech’s university commencement ceremony on Friday, Dec. 20.
Schurig, who stepped down as dean of the veterinary college this fall after having served almost 10 years in that role, will speak to the undergraduate students at the University Ceremony which begins at 11 a.m. Both the University and Graduate School Commencement Ceremonies will be held at Cassell Coliseum. Approximately 2,500 students will be honored for completing their academic degrees at the end of the summer and fall terms at the two events.
Heather Beauchemin, podiatry intern, recently attended the Eastern Farrier Conference and Contest in Reidsville, N.C. hosted by the North Carolina Horseshoers Association and the Danny Ward Horseshoeing School with second, third, fifth, and sixth place finishes in the Division II events. She also swept the Division I contest at the Virginia Horseshoers Association Blacksmithing and Horseshoeing Competition at the Augusta County Fair held in Staunton, Va. in August.
Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, was invited to join the board of directors for the newly formed Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative, and also serves on the student subcommittee.
Jennifer Rudd, quality control manager at Virginia Tech Animal Laboratory Services, was named the November 2013 Staff Member of the Month.
Dr. Nammalwar Sriranganathan, professor of bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was recently named Virginia Tech's Scholar of the Week.
The Mongolian Ministry of Education has approved a memorandum of understanding for a joint program between Mongolian State University and Virginia Tech. The program aims to broaden the training for those veterinary students who are proficient in English relative to Western approaches to veterinary medicine with a collective interest in enhancing patient care and population health in Mongolia. The program includes a distance master’s degree in veterinary medical sciences with teaching support from Dr. Bess Pierce, Dr. Bill Pierson, and Dr. Phil Sponenberg. Other U.S. partners include Middle Tennessee State University, Mississippi State University, North Dakota State University, and Oklahoma State University.
Dr. Valerie Ragan was an invited speaker at the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association’s BIG Ideas Forum in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The topic for discussion was the future of veterinary medicine and addressing the supply-side issue of the profession.
Dr. Valerie Ragan was invited to the annual American Veterinary Medical Association’s President’s Roundtable luncheon in Washington, D.C. Approximately 30 veterinarians from a broad range of agencies and organizations are invited to have lunch with the AVMA’s leadership to discuss issues affecting the veterinary profession, as well as possible solutions.
- December 1 — Pet Portraits with Santa Claus
- VA-MD Vet Med Building, Classroom 125 — Blacksburg, VA
- December 7-11 — AAEP Convention
- Nashville, TN
- December 9 — VA-MD Vet Med Alumni Reception, AAEP Convention
- Nashville, TN
- December 12 — Pet Therapy Study Break with VT Helping PAWS
- Virginia Tech Newman Library — Blacksburg, VA
- December 21 — End of Fall Semester
- Virginia Tech & University of Maryland
- January 10 — 3rd Annual Equine Conference for Veterinarians
- VA-MD Vet Med — Blacksburg, VA
- January 18-22, 2014 — NAVC Conference
- Orlando, FL
- January 20, 2014 — VA-MD Vet Med Alumni Reception, NAVC Conference
- Orlando, FL
For More Upcoming Events…
Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Dean: Dr. Cyril R. Clarke
- Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
- Director: Sherrie Whaley
- Content Editors: Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley, Alison Elward
- Web Editors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak
- Contributors: Mark Owczarski, Frank Pearsall, Sue Steeves, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley, Lynn Young
- Photography / Videography: Gabrielle Minnich, Alison Elward, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley