Vital Signs: September 2014
Vol. 3, Issue 9
Making progress on the college’s priorities
Dear friends and colleagues,
On October 1, I will celebrate the completion of one year of service as your dean. Soon after my appointment began, I shared with you several goals that I believed were worthy of our immediate attention. I am now pleased to update you on progress made in addressing these priority areas:
Further developing the partnership involving Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland – Efforts to enhance the partnership focused primarily on the necessity of reorganizing the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. Administration of the center was transferred from College Park to Blacksburg, thus decreasing the need for faculty to travel frequently between the two campuses. To ensure that the center maintains its proximity to Washington, D.C. and the many federal and other agencies that are necessary for its success, three faculty positions were maintained at the University of Maryland campus in College Park.
Supporting faculty in their efforts to design a revised curriculum – In July of 2014, faculty approved a basic framework for revision of the DVM curriculum. The next step is to follow implementation guidelines developed by the faculty curriculum working group.
Expanding clinical education opportunities for veterinary students – Teaching Hospital caseload increased by approximately 23 percent, due largely to improved client relations and a recovering economy. A satellite small animal referral clinic that was opened in Roanoke in 2013 is developing as projected. In addition, good progress is being made in developing a partnership with the Washington D.C. Humane Society to provide clinical education in shelter medicine and surgery.
Advancing research and scholarship in translational medicine/comparative health sciences – In addition to the successful recruitment of several faculty with significant research assignments and acquisition of multi-user research equipment, we are well positioned to present a strong argument in favor of the translational medicine construction project when the university reviews its Capital Outlay Plan later this fall.
Ensuring that the Equine Medical Center has a sustainable budgetary model to support further development of its missions – In early 2014, a consultant with experience in equine practice was hired to conduct a business model analysis and to develop recommendations for financial sustainability. The consultant’s report is now being reviewed and an operational plan is being developed with input from the EMC Advisory Council.
In addition to these accomplishments, over the last year the college has:
- approved bylaws that expand the role of faculty in college governance, streamlined the committee structure, and formalized committee charges and membership criteria;
- developed a mentorship program for all academic faculty;
- completed renovation of the library and integrated this space with the commons and cafeteria to create a new multi-use area for eating, study, and community interaction;
- initiated the next phase of a project to provide updated and private offices for faculty;
- renovated areas of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and conducted a comprehensive self-study in preparation for our October accreditation review.
These achievements are being built on the strong foundation established previously by Dr. Gerhardt Schurig and his leadership team and would not have been possible without your support. I am indeed privileged to work with such an outstanding community of learners, teachers, scientists, scholars, clinicians, and support staff.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
- New lab offers students a place to practice their clinical skills
- Maryland campus Open House set for Sept. 27
- Dr. Carling Sitterley studies One Health in the "Land of Smiles" for public health practicum
- Scientists reveal cell secret that may be useful for vaccines
- A horse of a not so different color: Dan Youngstrom looks back on Fulbright in Latvia
- Dirty dogs beware: Community Dog Wash on Sept. 28
Around the College
- Class reunions mark college homecoming weekend
- Master of Public Health students and faculty accept the ice bucket challenge
- Ice buckets also make their way to Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program
- College finishes library renovations
- Graduate programs welcome new students for orientation
Awards & Activities
- Sarah Krones elected to international board
- Caroline Shea wins national poster presentation
- Karen Whitt named September Staff Member of the Month
- More Awards & Accolades
Students at the veterinary college now have access to a new teaching and learning space where they can perfect their clinical skills before performing them on live animals. Even though it only opened last spring, the clinical skills lab has already given veterinary students valuable, hand-on experiences.
Stocked with models and mannequins that resemble live animals, the lab allows first-, second-, and third-year veterinary students to practice clinical skills such as bandaging, catheterization, intubation, and suturing before they begin their fourth-year clinical rotations.
Anna Katogiritis of Karpathos, Greece, a second-year veterinary student, explained that practicing on models made her feel more confident about clinical techniques that she had not fully grasped in the past.
“The models have vein-like tubes in their legs that really allow you to perform techniques as if you were practicing on a real animal,” she said. “At the same time, knowing that I was not putting a live animal at risk or distress eliminates the stress factor and allowed me to focus on the techniques themselves.”
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine will open the doors to its College Park, Maryland, campus for an open house on Saturday, Sept. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m. Visitors will have a chance to learn more about the college and its Maryland campus through presentations and tours.
The open house will take place at the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center, located at 8075 Greenmead Drive, and will include food and tours, introductory remarks from the college’s dean Dr. Cyril Clarke, a panel discussion, and an admissions presentation for prospective students.
The veterinary college’s Maryland campus is known for its strengths in research, particularly molecular and cellular immunology, and its nationally recognized focus on public and corporate veterinary medicine.
Dr. Carling Sitterley graduated in May of this year with her doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in religious studies from the College of William and Mary. She is currently finishing up coursework for a master of public health (MPH) degree, as part of a dual DVM/MPH degree program. After graduation from the MPH program in December, she hopes to work in clinical practice for a couple of years before moving on to work in international veterinary medicine and/or public health.
Traveling over 15,000 miles and visiting both Europe and Asia for the first time, I was both excited and nervous about my five-week journey to Italy and Thailand as part of my Master of Public Health practicum experience. I was excited to see amazing things, taste delicious food, and meet remarkable people. I was nervous about traveling so far by myself to new locations where the predominant language was not my own. Ultimately, this trip would become one of the most enriching, impactful, and humbling experiences of my life.
The first thing that struck me during my international travels was just how privileged I am that English is my first language. From Rome to Bangkok, all of the signs in each airport were in the native language, as well as in English. Not only that, but most of the airport personnel I encountered spoke some level of English. Even in Bangkok, where there was only a limited number of Thais who could speak English, I never felt judged for not knowing the language. I was able to pick up a few key phases, such as “Sawasdee Ka” (“Hello”) and “Khob khun ka” (“Thank you”), and I could usually get by with some combination of humorous hand gestures, a smile on my face, and these key phrases.
The best defense is a good offense, especially when it comes to the immune system. The troops that respond to an infection are split into two squadrons, and, until recently, it seemed that the two were independent, without much interaction.
Now, in a paper published this week in Nature Immunology, a team of scientists from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and the University of Alabama at Birmingham say that the immunology boot camp is more communication-intensive than initially thought — a discovery that could help efforts to produce more effective vaccines.
“We have two populations of T cells,” said Kenneth Oestreich, an assistant professor in both the veterinary college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, referring to the immune system squadrons. “Before this study, we didn’t know if the types of cells were entirely separate, or if they could transition into one another. Now, this study suggests that memory cells may arise directly from the effector cell population.”
In this case, memory cells are not the ones in the brain helping people recall facts. These cells work in the body’s immune system and retain information about threats from invaders, allowing the body’s natural defenders to mount a quick, more powerful response if the same threat is encountered again.
Daniel Youngstrom, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical and veterinary sciences, attests that although the culture is very different in Latvia, “once you step foot in the lab, things are surprisingly the same.”
It was through this common language of science – paired with the fact that he has familial roots in Latvia and is familiar with the native tongue – that Youngstrom’s research on human stem cells was able to flourish at the Cell Transplantation Center in Riga.
Speaking of flourish, that is exactly what the stem cells that Youngstrom studied happened to do. One focus of regenerative medicine is to transplant adult stem cells into the site of a degenerative injury to improve tissue healing. Although he studies horse stem cells at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, the human cells he characterized in Latvia can be manipulated in similar ways.
Veterinary students will hold their biannual Community Dog Wash on Sunday, Sept. 28, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg.
The dog wash will be held at the rear of the veterinary college complex on 245 Duck Pond Drive, on the side closest to Southgate Drive. Signs on Southgate Drive and Duck Pond Drive will guide participants to the event, and ample parking will be provided.
Presented semi-annually by Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students enrolled in the college, the dog wash is always a popular community event. The cost of the dog wash is $10, and for an additional $5, customers can have their dogs’ nails trimmed and ears cleaned.
While other little girls were focused on dolls and dresses, Amanda Weakley was focused on animals.
What was once a childhood interest is now a vocation as Dr. Weakley has recently joined Virginia Herd Health Management as a large animal veterinarian. Even before her fifth birthday, Weakley, who was born and raised on a farm in Brightwood, had decided she wanted to be a veterinarian. A trip to the vet with her dog Smooch had influenced that, along with an inherent love of animals. By the age of 10, Weakley was heavily involved in 4-H, filling her time with the Livestock Club and showing hogs, before later showing steers. The daughter of Jeff and Jenny Weakley, she stayed active in 4-H in high school, serving on the cattle working, livestock judging and stockman’s teams. She also added Future Farmers of America to her list of activities, competing in state and national speaking competitions as well as serving as the Virginia Central Area Vice President. It was through these things that her passion switched from small animals to large ones and her love of Virginia Tech was born.
“Through 4-H, we went to the Block and Bridle competition which is held at Virginia Tech,” she said. “I liked the campus and became a Hokie.”
Weakley enrolled in animal and poultry sciences and dairy sciences at the Blacksburg university, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in both majors along with a minor in agriculture and applied economics. She was also active in Block and Bridle, Animal Science Ambassadors, and Sigma Alpha.
Following graduation, Weakley was accepted into four veterinary schools, including the VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
A student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine was elected to the board of the International Veterinary Students’ Association (IVSA) during a recent meeting in Indonesia. Sarah Krones of Frederick County, Maryland, a third-year dual degree student in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public Health programs, was elected the chairperson of the IVSA’s Standing Committee on One Health.
IVSA serves as the voice of veterinary students, representing more than 30,000 students from more than 50 countries across the world. Krones joins veterinary students Jennifer Holle from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and Merel Rodenburg from the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine on the board. Although U.S. veterinary students have served on the board in years past, it is uncommon for the board to have more than one U.S. representative.
IVSA began in the late 1950s in Europe. As a non-political entity, its mission is to benefit the animals and people of the world by promoting the international application of veterinary skills and education. IVSA hosts two events per year where delegates from each member country join together for lectures, meetings, and social and cultural events. In addition, IVSA representatives are present at World Organization for Animal Health and World Health Organization meetings, organize exchanges and scholarships for international veterinary students, publish a quarterly newsletter, and raise funds to support veterinary schools in under-resourced areas.
This year, Krones attended the IVSA Symposium in Turkey and the IVSA Congress in Indonesia. She was also the inaugural recipient of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association’s IVSA travel scholarship in 2013.
According to Krones, being on the board is a unique opportunity for U.S. veterinary students to be engaged on the international stage and contribute their dedication to international collaboration and learning. “Serving in this position will enable the Virginia Tech One Health Club to connect to both national and global activities and initiatives,” she said.
Caroline Shea of Fairfax County, Virginia, was awarded the 2014 James C. Bradford Memorial Student Award for her poster presentation at the 54th Annual Teratology Society Meeting: Pushing the Boundaries of Birth Defects Research, held in Bellevue, Washington, earlier this year.
Shea is a master’s student in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. She is conducting research on the developmental and reproductive toxicity of quaternary ammonium compounds.
Shea was awarded the top award in the predoctoral category for her poster, “Male and Female Exposures Both Contribute to Teratogenicity of QAC Disinfectants.” Harvard University Ph.D. student Jessica LaRocca took top honors in the postdoctoral category with her poster “First Trimester Phthalate and Phenol Exposure is Associated with miRNA Alterations in the Placenta.”
The award was jointly sponsored by the Middle Atlantic Reproduction and Teratology Association and Sanofi-Aventis. Judging was based on the poster subject and impact, clarity of presentation and appearance, and on the presenter’s understanding and knowledge (evaluated by answers to judges’ questions).
Shea is working alongside Dr. Terry Hrubec as a research assistant in her lab. Hrubec is a research assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at the veterinary college and an associate professor of anatomy at Blacksburg, Virginia’s Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The Teaching Hospital’s nutrition service got a shot in the arm when Karen Whitt took on the role of nutrition technician last summer. A real advocate for the service, she assists with client communication and student education.
“Karen is great to work with due to her friendly and flexible demeanor,” her nominator wrote. “Her help with nutrition consults definitely helps to streamline case flow. At the same time, she has increased our presence in the hospital by conducting daily rounds through the ICU.”
Travis Burns, college farrier, serves on the board of the Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners and is chairman of its Annual Symposium Podiatry Program, which will be held Sept. 25-27 in Norfolk, Virginia.
Dr. Sheryl Coutermarsh-Ott (DVM ‘11), Ph.D. student, recently passed the ACVP anatomic pathology board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.
Dr. Sarah Hammond (DVM ‘05), clinical pathology resident and Ph.D. student, recently passed the ACVP clinical pathology board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.
Dr. Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bateriology, is a co-organizer of the first ASM Conference on Polymicrobial Infections in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13-16. He is also on the organizing committee for the Third Prato Conference on “The Pathogenesis of Bacterial Diseases of Animals,” held in Prato, Italy, Oct. 7-10. Inzana is also an invited guest speaker at the e-COST (European Conferences on Science and Technology) meeting on microbial cell surface determinants of virulence, antibiotic resistance, and inflammation in different pathologies at the University of Naples Frederico II in Naples, Italy.
Dr. Tanya LeRoith, associate professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has been selected as a Virginia Tech Scholar of the Week by the Office of the Vice President for Research. Read more about LeRoith’s research on the immune system to help people and animals fight diseases.
Dr. Geraldine Magnin-Bissel, a research scientist and analytic chemist, and Dr. Tanya LeRoith, clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology, received a five-year, $486,000 grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand the capabilities of the college’s Toxicology Laboratory. The laboratory analyzes biological samples for toxic compounds and is part of Virginia Tech Animal Laboratory Services, which coordinates facilities, equipment, and professional expertise of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the U.S. and Canada to respond to high priority chemical and microbial feed/drug contamination incidents. The funds will be used to focus on a few compounds that the laboratory routinely analyzes and expand their analysis in multiple ways. The project will be beneficial for the program’s future accreditation by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.
Dr. Jacque Pelzer, director of admission and student services, attended the International Association of Medical Education meeting in Milan, Italy, in late August.
Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, gave a presentation on careers in public and corporate veterinary medicine to the inaugural class at Lincoln Memorial University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee.
Dr. Phil Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, gave two presentations during a trip to Iceland in early September. He spoke on “Color and Breeds of Sheep” at the Fourth North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference in Blönduós, Iceland, on Sept. 5-8, and on “Rare Breed Conservation” at the Farmer’s Association of Iceland meeting at the Norra Hus, Agricultural University of Iceland, in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Sept. 9.
Dr. Nathaniel Tablante, associate professor and Extension poultry veterinarian at the college’s University of Maryland campus, recently joined Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine as associate director and will be responsible for center programs on the College Park campus. His recent experience as an AVMA Congressional Fellow will prove useful as he works with various federal agencies and Congress in promoting public and corporate veterinary medicine. Dr. Tablante will work closely with Associate Dean Siba Samal and Director Valerie Ragan to advance the center, offer pre-veterinary student advisement, career transition training for practicing veterinarians, and foster collaborative research and Extension efforts with the poultry industry.
Dr. Deena Tiches (DVM ’93) has co-founded NeuroWebVet, an online veterinary neurology service providing consultation to general veterinarians with difficult neurology cases. She was in private practice in Maryland and Virginia for 16 years before forming NeuroWebVet.
Dr. Miranda Vieson, anatomic pathology resident and Ph.D. student, recently passed the ACVP anatomic pathology board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.
Dan Youngstrom, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was accepted to present an abstract as an oral presentation at this year’s Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 15. He will give the presentation on “Cultivation of Functional Tendon Graft Material in a Novel Bioreactor” at the Biofabrication and Bioreactors session. Other authors include Dr. Jennifer Barrett and Ibtesam Rajpar at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center and David Kaplan at the Tissue Engineering Resource Center at Tufts University.
Yanjun Ma, S. Elankumaran, L. C. Marr, E. P. Vejerano and A. Pruden. 2014. “Toxicity of Engineered Nanomaterials and their Transformation Products following Wastewater Treatment on A549 Human Lung Epithelial Cells.” Reproductive Toxicology. Accepted August 30, 2014, In Press.
Uthrakumar, A, K. Vijayarani, K. Kumanan, S. Bhuvenswari, S.V. Kuchipudi, and S. Elankumaran. 2014. “Complete genome sequence of a velogenic Newcastle disease virus isolated from an apparently healthy village chicken in South India.” Genome Announcements. Jun 19; 2 (3). pii: e00597-14.
Kumar, S. R. P., M. Biswas, and S. Elankumaran. 2014. “Pandemic H1N1 influenza A virus induces a potent innate immune response in human chorionic cells.” Viral Immunology. 27: 129-137.
Ken Oestreich, Kaitlin Read, and Paul McDonald. “Bcl-6 directly represses the gene program of the glycolysis pathway.” Nature Immunology. September 2014.
- September 27 — VA-MD Vet Med College Park Open House
- College Park, MD
- September 28 — Community Dog Wash
- Blacksburg, VA
- September 30 — Continuing Education: GI Surgery Tips and Tricks: From the Stomach to the Colon and Laparoscopic-assisted GI Surgery
- Winchester, VA
- October 1 — Continuing Education: GI Surgery Tips and Tricks: From the Stomach to the Colon and Laparoscopic-assisted GI Surgery
- Frederick, MD
- October 10 – 11 — Class Reunions: Classes of 1989 & 1994
- Blacksburg, VA
- October 11 — Leadership Development Workshop hosted by the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA)
- Blacksburg, VA
- October 17 — Mentor Workshop
- Blacksburg, VA
- October 17 — Installation of Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands
- Blacksburg, VA
- October 22 — Continuing Education: Current Therapy of Canine Heart Failure and Congenital Heart Disease: A Brief Review
- Lynchburg, VA
- October 29 — Continuing Education: Oncologic Cytology
- Beckley, WV
- November 7 – 9 — Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference
- Baltimore, MD
- November 15 — Human-Animal Bond Symposium
- Blacksburg, VA
For More Upcoming Events…
Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland 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: Emily Alberts, Paula Byron, Alison Elward, Megan Quesenberry, Carling Sitterley, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley
- Photography / Videography: Alison Elward, Carling Sitterley, Michael Sutphin, Amanda Weakley, Sherrie Whaley, Dan Youngstrom