Vital Signs: February 2014
Vol. 3, Issue 2
Student and Admissions Successes
Dear friends and colleagues,
I was recently informed that 100 percent of the Class of 2014 passed the NAVLE on their first attempt in December. This is a notable accomplishment and speaks to the preparation of our students and the commitment of our faculty and staff to effective instruction. Well done!
This good news comes on the heels of another successful admissions application cycle. Over 1,400 students applied for admission to the DVM Class of 2018, which places the college among those that have the largest applicant pools in North America. Considering also the success achieved last year in matriculating a class that better represents the diversity of the communities we serve, it is clear that our recruitment efforts and admissions procedures are working.
We would not be able to graduate veterinarians who are competent, confident, and practice-ready without the experiential learning opportunities provided by the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Thanks to the hard work of our clinical and diagnostic faculty and staff, and the support of referring veterinarians, our case submissions increased overall by 24 percent last year. This means that the proportional increase in caseload over the last five years far exceeds the corresponding increase in student enrollment.
These successes collectively demonstrate our commitment to maintaining and further developing a high-quality educational program that meets the aspirations of our talented students.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
- Mark your calendars for the Annual Open House, April 12
- Students deal animals in need a winning hand at Casino Night fundraiser
- A Look Back at the First Black Graduates of VA-MD Vet Med
- New antibiotic recommendations to impact food animal producers and veterinarians
- Dr. Michelle Theus investigates how the brain repairs itself after a stroke
- Students experience day of learning at the CDC
- Development news: Donors show compassion for animals in need
- Outside the box: Dr. John Herrity has success with innovative treatments at Northern Virginia practice
- A marriage made in vet school
Focus on Faculty
Around the College
- Class of 2014 achieves 100 pass rate on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination
- Fourth-year student lands externship at The Virginia Zoo
- Student Ambassadors gear up for Annual Open House
- College sends offer letters to Class of 2018
- Students brave snow to staff Veterinary Teaching Hospital
- Student club visits local farm to perform goat ultrasounds
Awards & Activities
- Lijuan Yuan’s student mentee to present work at National Conference on Undergraduate Research
- More Awards & Accolades
The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine will open its doors to the public during the Annual Open House on Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors will have opportunities to learn about veterinary medicine and the college through tours, demonstrations, and lectures.
The family-friendly event is free and does not require a registration. Attendees are encouraged to bring a donation of dog food or dog toys to benefit local shelter dogs.
The second annual Casino Night fundraiser organized by students at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine not only drew a crowd, but also raised $9,000 for the college’s Compassionate Care Fund.
The Feb. 15 event planned by student members of Alpha Psi, Omega Tau Sigma, and the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association supported the Compassionate Care Fund. The fund provides financial support when an animal’s owners are either unknown or cannot meet the financial needs of treatment and when a successful outcome and good quality of life are likely.
“The money raised last year has already gone to helping 11 clients and their animals. It has allowed one dog to walk again, it has put a pacemaker in place, and it has corrected a young puppy’s heart defect,” said Eve Waters of Silver Spring, Md., a third-year veterinary student and a Casino Night organizer. “The Compassionate Care Fund helped not only these animals, but also the students who assisted in all of these procedures and who had the opportunity to gain experience on a case that would have otherwise foregone treatment due to cost.”
Held at Blacksburg’s German Club, the fundraiser attracted 475 faculty, staff, students, and their guests. Each entry ticket, which cost $12 in advance or $15 at the door, included a bag of chips for the blackjack, roulette, poker, and craps tables where college faculty members served as “dealers.”
African-Americans have played an important role in the veterinary profession since the early 1900’s. As Black History Month draws to a close, the veterinary college takes a look back at its first black graduate and at some of the profession’s most influential black veterinarians.
Opening its doors in 1980, the college graduated its first African-American doctors of veterinary medicine six years later. Two females, Dr. Margie Lee and Dr. Lynn Hoban, hold that distinction.
Producers have used antibiotics to treat disease and enhance the growth of their livestock for years, but new recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may limit both in hopes of ensuring that antibiotics continue to protect human and animal health for years to come.
According a faculty member at the veterinary college, the recommendations have important implications for food animal veterinarians as well.
“If you get sick or your child gets sick, do you want antibiotics to work? Absolutely,” said Dr. William Swecker, professor of production management medicine and associate head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. “If your farm animal gets sick, do you want antibiotics to work? Absolutely. We have similar goals.”
The recommendations, which are open to public comment until March 12, urge pharmaceutical companies to remove animal production from the approved list of uses for antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics. If they comply, the plan would effectively make it illegal for farmers to speed the growth of their animals with antibiotics and require veterinary oversight of antibiotic use on the farm.
“Somewhere down the road, you may need a veterinarian to get any antibiotic on your farm,” Swecker said. “In many cases, major food producers already have a veterinarian on staff. Small farming operations will need to develop a working relationship with a veterinarian.”
The veterinary college has already begun not only educating students — many of whom may have to address the changing rules for antibiotic use when they enter private practice after graduation — but also informing food animal producers. During the Virginia Tech Beef Cattle Health Conference held at the veterinary college last month, Swecker and Dr. Sierra Guynn, clinical assistant professor of production management medicine, gave a presentation to area producers about possible changes under the new recommendations.
Dr. Michelle Theus, assistant professor of molecular and cellular neurobiology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, hopes that a better understanding of how the brain restores blood flow to damaged tissue following a stroke will offer clues about new treatments to a leading cause of death in the United States.
In particular, she is investigating how the brain develops “collateral” blood vessels which re-route blood flow after a vessel becomes blocked. When the brain suffers from a blockage or clot, a network of replacement vessels, known as collaterals, can restore oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissue.
The extent of the brain’s collateral network varies from individual to individual and has a significant impact on the brain’s ability to recover from stroke. “It is widely known, clinically, that patients with an extensive collateral network have greater restoration of blood flow and are better protected from tissue damage following an embolic stroke,” Theus said.
Last fall, Theus received a three-year, $483,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to begin this research.
Every two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invites veterinary students from across North America to visit their Atlanta headquarters for a one-day conference on veterinary inputs in public health. The 5th biennial “Day at CDC for Veterinary Students” was held on January 27, and 10 students from the veterinary college were selected to attend.
The students were accompanied by Dr. Kevin Pelzer, professor in production management medicine and epidemiology. The students, all of whom are following the college’s Public and Corporate track, included Kaitlyn Childs (’15), Robert Fathke (’15), Sarah Krones (’16), Lucy Lee (’15), Larisa Niehaus (’16), Keren Rozensher (’15), Orr Rozov (’16), Betsy Schroeder (’16), Debora Weiss (’15), and Charlie Alex (’15).
The college is fortunate to have many donors who support our Compassionate Care Fund. This revenue allows us to help pets when finances are the only impediment to service. With these funds we are able to provide financial assistance for a portion of the bills in our Veterinary Teaching Hospital for animals in need, such as Good Samaritan animals that have been dropped off without owners. The fund also benefits animals with a good chance of recovery, a good quality of life, and owners who are willing to sacrifice to provide that care but need some assistance to bridge a financial gap.
Some individuals have gone over and above by creating endowments that will provide support in perpetuity, or pledges for on-going support. One couple has created both an endowment and an operating account to which they make periodic gifts to supplement the income from their endowment to help even more pets.
Jim and Eleonore Stevens of Gainesville, Va., are animal lovers par excellence. Jim graduated from Virginia Tech with a business degree in 1952 and has been a significant athletic donor for many years. Eleonore is an adopted Hokie, and comes to campus on occasion, but frequently stays home to provide for the many animals under her care. Besides their pets, the couple takes care of neighbors’ pets while the owners are out of town, as well as strays.
The Stevens family has always supported various animal groups, but it was their daughter, Susan, who was the real impetus behind their involvement with the veterinary college. While a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech, she came to the college’s Annual Open House. She was so impressed that she implored her Dad to start supporting the college. That relationship has blossomed over the years into endowments for both student support and animal compassion.
Because Jim and Eleonore Stevens never want any special thanks or attention, it was with reluctance that they allowed their story to be shared. Thank you, Stevens family, for your support of our college and animals in need.
Outside the box: Dr. John Herrity has success with innovative treatments at Northern Virginia practice
Dr. John Herrity (DVM '86) never considered his graduation from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine to be the end of his education.
Herrity, a practice owner at Burke Animal Clinic located 20 miles south of Washington, D.C., has been taking care of pets in Northern Virginia for more than 25 years. In recent years, he had introduced alternative and holistic therapies — such as stem cell treatments and cold laser therapy — into his practice so that his patients have access to the latest advances in veterinary medicine.
“What gets me up at night is trying to figure out how I can help the body heal itself,” said Herrity, who describes his recent efforts with regenerative medicine as a “second career.”
In 2012, Herrity made headlines when he performed stem cell treatments on one of the last remaining 9/11 search and rescue dogs. The patient was “Red,” a 12-year-old black Labrador retriever who was sent to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., following the 9/11 attacks. Red spent 11 days searching for victims on the Pentagon site and later helped search for survivors after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
It’s not an uncommon story at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: Two classmates meet at the college and leave as engaged sweethearts. That’s exactly what happened to alumni Dr. Bart Kite and Dr. Stacie Crain Katie, who both graduated with the Class of 2007 and now work at the Banfield Hospitals in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, Va., respectively.
“Our first official date was on Valentine’s Day 2005 — we decided on this date after I attended a party she hosted where I had to leave early to assist in a calving in Large Animal Clinical Sciences,” wrote Bart Kite in a recent special feature on the college’s homepage for Valentine’s Day.
He continued, “Our relationship continued throughout the remainder of that year and the next, and as one can imagine it was long-distance at times during our senior year.”
The pair married a year after graduation and now live in Chesapeake, Va., with their son and four pets.
Focus on Faculty: Dr. Tom Cecere
Dr. Tom Cecere (DVM ’05) is an assistant professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. He completed a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Virginia Tech before pursuing his doctor of veterinary medicine degree at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary College. After completing an anatomic pathology residency at North Carolina State University, Cecere earned a doctorate in viral immunology at the veterinary college. He joined the college faculty in 2012 and holds a board certification in anatomic pathology from the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.
What are your current responsibilities at the college? If you teach, what do you teach?
As with many of our faculty, I have responsibilities in clinical service, teaching, and research. I work in the veterinary teaching hospital as a diagnostic pathologist on the surgical biopsy and necropsy services. I teach fourth-year veterinary students in the laboratory services clerkship as a part of the necropsy service, and I teach pathology in the first and second year of the DVM curriculum. I am also the anatomic pathology residency coordinator for Virginia-Maryland Vet Med and enjoy training pathology residents. When I put on my research hat I share a lab with Dr. LeRoith, in which we study viral immunology, and I serve as a collaborative researcher on several different projects.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
A Virginia Tech undergraduate student who has been working with Lijuan Yuan, associate professor of virology and immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has been named one of three students to represent Virginia Tech at the 2014 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.
Christine Tin of Woodbridge, Va., a sophomore biological sciences major, is researching ways to increase the efficacy of rotavirus vaccines through probiotics. “Rotavirus kills approximately 453,000 children each year worldwide, despite the disease being vaccine-preventable, proving current vaccines are not as effective as they could be,” Tin said. “What really strikes me is that, as only a rising sophomore, I have been able to contribute to immunological discoveries that no one else in the world is aware of.”
Yuan described Tin as “the very best undergraduate student I have mentored at Virginia Tech.”
“She is a very fast learner. Her problem-solving skills on the bench are superb. She expresses clear logic thinking in resolving obstacles when performing adjustment and standardization of laboratory procedures and parameters,” Yuan added. “During a short time, she was able to produce high quality experimental data that will be included in two major publications from my lab.”
Ashley Snider, large animal receptionist in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, was named the February 2014 Staff Member of the Month.
Lynn Young, director of alumni relations, has helped to organize many opportunities for alumni to interact at events such as national conference receptions, reunions, homecoming, and continuing education workshops in Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. Since last July, around 15 continuing education lunches and dinners have been offered to alumni with approximately 250 participating. The college will continue providing these networking opportunities. Highlights of future events include the Class of 1984’s 30th reunion (the college’s first 30-year reunion!) and homecoming at the Virginia Tech vs. William and Mary game on Aug. 30. The Holiday Inn Express is offering a block of 20 rooms for alumni at a one-night minimum of $199/night, but rooms must be booked by June 30.
Dr. Gary Vroegindewey of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine served in February on the Michigan State University Advisory Board for the Distance Learning Master of Food Safety program. Along with industry, government, education, and non-profit food safety leaders, the board evaluated the programs and provided guidance for its future activity. Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the center, said that he “has brought back in-depth understanding of distance learning programs that he has advised and taught in helping build the foundation of distance learning programs under consideration by the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine.”
- March 1 — Alumni Board Meeting
- The Hotel Roanoke — Roanoke, VA
- March 11 — Equine Medical Center Tuesday Talk:
- “Sports Medicine & Lameness: What can go wrong within your horse’s joint and how we can help”
Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center — Leesburg, VA
- March 20 — 25th Annual Research Symposium
- VA-MD Vet Med Building, Classroom 102 & VMIA 220 — Blacksburg, VA
- March 28 — DVM Program Spring Awards Luncheon
- The Inn at Virginia Tech, Latham Ballroom — Blacksburg, VA
- April 6 — Pet CPR Course
- VA-MD Vet Med Building — Blacksburg, VA
- April 8 — Equine Medical Center Tuesday Talk:
- “Advances in Holistic Equine Medicine: Ways to complement traditional medicine for your horse’s complete wellbeing”
- April 12 — VA-MD Vet Med Open House
- VA-MD Vet Med Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 19 — OTS Community Easter Egg Hunt
- VA-MD Vet Med Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 19 — Community Dog Wash
- VA-MD Vet Med Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 26 — Spring Football Game / Pre-Game Tailgate
- VA-MD Vet Med Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- May 3 — Annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K
- Virginia Tech cross country course — Blacksburg, VA
- May 16 — Commencement Ceremonies
- Blacksburg, VA
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 Editor: Michael Sutphin
- Web Editors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak
- Contributors: Charlie Alex, Alison Elward, Bart Kite, Alison Matthiessen, Frank Pearsall, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley, Lynn Young
- Photography / Videography: Winfield Danielson, Alison Elward, Bart and Stacie Kite, Michael Sutphin, Christine Tin, Sherrie Whaley, Rudy Zamora, Courtney Walski