Our Diversity and Inclusion Commitment
Dear friends and colleagues,
Earlier this fall, Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands launched InclusiveVT, a new approach to advancing diversity and inclusion. Central to this initiative is the expectation that responsibility for promoting diversity be devolved to university deans and other senior leaders, and that emphasis be placed on creating an inclusive environment.
To get started, each college selected three initiatives upon which to focus attention. Initiatives selected by the College of Veterinary Medicine will: (1) build on our recent successes in recruiting a more diverse student body; (2) encourage hiring of a more diverse staff and faculty through inclusion of trained advocates on search committees; and (3) explore strategies to ensure that underrepresented minority students receive the personal support necessary to feel at home in our community.
These efforts will build on programs offered by Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland, as well as the commitment made by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) to promote diversity, including its DiVersity Matters program and biennial Iverson Bell Symposium to promote diversity and inclusion in academic veterinary medicine.
It is vitally important that we succeed in this effort. Diversity of faculty, staff, and students enriches the educational experience of all students. It also facilitates provision of animal and public health care to all members of the communities we serve. In recognition of the importance of diversity, the faculty recently approved a revision to the college mission that now emphasizes the value of educating "a diverse population of professional and post-graduate students." We look forward to moving ahead with the development and implementation of our InclusiveVT initiatives.
Warmest wishes for a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday,
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
- Why do we go to work when we're sick? Researchers examine public health issues
- Modeling cancer: Researchers prove mathematical models can predict cellular processes
- Large animal surgeon studies best way to heal equine injuries using regenerative medicine
- College offers pet portraits with Santa on Dec. 6
- Dr. Frank Pearsall, director of development, retires after 24 years of service
- New technology shows promise for delivery of therapeutics to the brain
- Veterinary researcher assists with development of vaccine for nicotine addiction
- In memoriam: Dr. Herbert “Jack” Howard, long-time friend of the Equine Medical Center
Welcome to the College
Around the College
- Bald eagle visits the Veterinary Teaching Hospital
- Duke fights like a champion in MRI study
- Students present posters at pathology meeting in Atlanta
- Anti-stress presentation prepares students for finals
- Virginia Tech Pre-Vet Club visits the college
- Future veterinarians learn about college at National FFA Convention
- Class of 2011 alum returns to college to speak about pet insurance
Awards & Activities
- Katie Reuss named November Staff Member of the Month
- Equine Medical Center presents Distinguished Service Award to Firestones
- More Awards & Activities
Research is underway at Virginia Tech to identify why employees go to work sick and other related behavior in order to design better infectious disease prevention and control strategies.
Kaja Abbas, assistant professor of infectious diseases in the Department of Population Health Sciences, is sharing principal investigator duties with Achla Marathe, professor of agriculture and applied economics with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, on a $1.75 million, five-year research grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.
The grant incorporates social behavior into mathematical models of infectious disease transmission dynamics, with a focus on influenza-type illnesses. Marathe’s experience in modeling and simulation of social behavior will complement Abbas’s expertise in evaluating public health interventions.
The researchers will conduct surveys to identify specific behaviors affecting infection rates and intervention effectiveness. They will take into account factors such as the likelihood of whether a person will receive a flu shot and whether the vaccine was administered during the peak of flu season.
How does a normal cellular process derail and become unhealthy?
A multi-institutional, international team led by Virginia Tech researchers studied cells found in breast and other types of connective tissue and discovered new information about cell transitions that take place during wound healing and cancer.
The results were published in a September issue of the journal Science Signaling.
During development, cells change form and regroup from tight packs of epithelial cells to more mobile, loose arrays of mesenchymal cells.
The cell changes, known as an epithelial to mesenchymal transition, or EMT, are normal and helpful during wound healing, but problematic when cancer cells spread from the primary tumor site to other sites in the body.
To investigate, researchers developed mathematical models to predict the dynamics of cell transitions, and compared their results with actual measurements of activity in cell populations. As a result, they gained new understanding of how a substance known as transforming growth factor triggers cell transformations.
Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah, associate professor of virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, participated in the study.
When a horse has a tendon or ligament injury, the results can be career-ending. A researcher at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is searching for the best way to use stem cells derived from fat to stimulate the natural repair mechanisms in horses with these types of injuries.
“Stem cells can be used for any type of tissue repair, but my work specifically deals with tendons and ligaments,” explained Dr. Linda Dahlgren, associate professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. “We use stem cells from adipose, or fat, tissue because it is readily available in any species, it is easy to harvest, and, when cultured, it expands faster than cells derived from bone marrow.”
Stem cells, unspecialized cells that are part of the body’s repair system, are capable of reforming damaged tissues. Regenerative medicine researchers like Dahlgren can harvest stem cells from a horse’s healthy cells and inject them directly into damaged tissues, and they have more than one way of doing this.
“When we use adult stem cells from fat, they can either be ‘fresh’ — so we just isolate them, put them in a syringe, and inject them into the damaged tissue — or they can be cultured in a lab and then injected into the tissue,” said Dahlgren, who is board certified with the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Dahlgren’s current research looks at the differences in gene expression between these fresh and cultured adult stem cells derived from fat.
“By knowing the differences in gene expressions, we might someday know if one set of cells is better-suited to repair certain types of damaged tissue,” she said.
Funded through the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Tech’s Institute for
Critical Technology and Applied Science, the research project lays the groundwork for new regenerative medicine techniques to help Virginia’s horse industry address some of the most common types of equine injuries.
The veterinary college will host its annual opportunity for pets to meet and be photographed with Santa Claus on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 1-5 p.m. at the college’s Blacksburg campus.
Cats, dogs, and exotics (no reptiles) are welcome. All pets must be contained or on a leash.
Photographs will be taken at the veterinary college, located at 245 Duck Pond Drive. Signs will direct visitors to the event and ample parking will be available. Three package options will be available. Option 1: $10 for the best three photos delivered digitally via Dropbox; Option 2: $15 for three 5x7 prints and digital delivery via Dropbox; and Option 3: $20 for three 5x7 prints and a CD with the photos on them. Pickup for options 2 and 3 will be at the veterinary college on Dec. 15 and 16.
The Santa pet photo program is being presented by the college’s Omega Tau Sigma (OTS) service fraternity, a veterinary student organization that provides a variety of community services. Proceeds from the event will benefit local animal shelters.
For more information, please contact OTS president Jessica Walters.
As the chief fundraiser for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. E. Frank Pearsall II has left a lasting legacy on the college. He is retiring in December after 24 years of service.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Pearsall was a member of the college’s founding Class of 1984. After graduation, he worked as a veterinarian, a private practice manager, and a lobbyist with the Florida Veterinary Medical Association. He returned to the college in 1990 as its second director of development.
Under Pearsall’s tenure, the college has raised more than $52.58 million and established a number of student scholarships and endowed professorships. He has also forged important relationships with donors and key stakeholders throughout Virginia, Maryland, and beyond.
“Dr. Pearsall has committed many years of service to advancing the college and I am grateful for all that he has accomplished,” said Dr. Cyril Clarke, dean. “His legacy will continue well beyond his retirement because of the relationships that he has built with donors and the gifts that he has secured in the form of estates that will be realized over an extended period of time.”
Upon retirement, Pearsall plans to start a low-level, non-surgical laser therapy practice in the area. He will work with veterinarians in the region to expand their offerings to include laser therapy to accelerate wound healing in companion animals.
Pearsall earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton University. He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia, with his wife, Donna, and has two adult children.
A new technology that may assist in the treatment of brain cancer and other neurological diseases is the subject of an article in a recent issue of the journal Technology, published by World Scientific Publishing Company.
According to the authors, the current medical use of chemotherapy to treat brain cancer can be inefficient because of the blood-brain-barrier that impedes the delivery of drugs out of blood vessels and into the tumor.
The researchers from the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences described in their article that they have created “a tool for blood-barrier-brain disruption that uses bursts of sub-microsecond bipolar pulses to enhance the transfer of large molecules to the brain.”
The members of the biomedical school are Rafael Davalos, associate professor of biomedical engineering; Dr. John H. Rossmeisl, Jr., associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences; Dr. Thomas Rogers-Cotrone, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology; Ph.D. students Christopher Arena, Paulo A. Garcia, and Michael B. Sano of the Bioelectrical Systems Laboratory; and John D. Olson, coordinator for the MRI facility at the Center for Biomolecular Imaging at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
A Virginia Tech professor is working on a vaccine that could help smokers conquer their nicotine addiction, making many smoking-related diseases and deaths relics of the 21st century.
Mike Zhang, a professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was recently awarded $2.4 million by the National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine and test it in the laboratory.
Zhang said the nicotine vaccine could ultimately be developed as a patch or nasal spray. Within several days of inoculation, patients would cease to experience the physiological pleasure that nicotine elicits in the brain. He is performing the research in conjunction with Dr. Marion Ehrich, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Paul Pentel, a professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Herbert Howard Jr., of Leesburg, Virginia, passed away Nov. 5, 2014. He was known by most people as “Jack” and was a long-time friend and supporter of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.
Howard played an important role in the development of the Equine Medical Center, from loaning equipment and medications that the center lacked in its early days, to accompanying first-time clients upon their referral to the center and staying with them throughout the night as they waited for their horses to recover.
He was born Sept. 13, 1920 to the late Dr. Herbert Howard Sr. and Lillian Howard. He lived in Loudoun County from the age of four. Jack later followed in his father’s footsteps and became a veterinarian after graduating from Auburn University. Instrumental in introducing many members of the community to the center, Howard was recognized in 2006 for his years of distinguished service as "a longtime friend, counselor, and advocate for the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.”
Howard enlisted in the Army during World War II and, after two quick stateside assignments, he was tasked with setting up a veterinary hospital in Italy to treat over 5,000 horses and mules captured from the Germans. During this assignment, General Patton sought Howard’s permission to ride an Olympic Champion horse in his care.
Howard also fondly remembered meeting President John F. and Mrs. Kennedy while treating their horses and ponies at their Middleburg Estate. He often said he treated everything from a rattlesnake to an elephant, but his love and specialty was equine medicine. His favorite hobby was fly fishing and Alaska was a favored place for fishing adventures with family and friends. Howard was a Waltonian and founding member of the Isaac Walton League in Loudoun. He established the Leesburg Veterinary Hospital and was a proud member and former president of the Rotary Club.
Welcome to the College
Nena Bauman of Columbus, Ohio, has joined the veterinary college as the senior director of development. Bauman comes to the college from The Ohio State University, where she was director of development for the College of Arts and Sciences.
She has a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from The Ohio State University, a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a master’s of divinity degree from Methodist Theological School in Ohio.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
After an Equine Field Service technician had to go on leave due to an injury, Katie Reuss, large animal veterinary technician at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, stepped in and did an excellent job of providing technical coverage to the group. A member of the college since 2005, she normally works in large animal surgery.
“Katie has taken great care in stocking the trucks and always has the equipment clean and ready to use. She has been teaching the part-time staff to do this job as well,” her nominator wrote. “She has done all of this while keeping up with her regular technical duties. Katie has been stretched thin and still has been a pleasure to work with!”
Bertram and Diana Firestone of Upperville, Virginia, were recently honored with a Distinguished Service Award from the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg, Virginia. They were recognized for their leadership, support, and dedication to the center and were honored at an October ceremony there.
The Firestones, who own the 400-acre Newstead Farm, are founding members of the EMC Advisory Council, and major owners and breeders of Thoroughbred horses. “Their support of the center’s numerous programs helped establish a level of excellence in equine medicine recognized around the world,” said Peggy Steinman, who serves as Advisory Council chair.
“State-of-the-art programs in imaging, surgery, emergency care, and diagnostic expertise would not have been possible without their support,” noted Steinman. “Bert and Diana have graciously introduced patrons in the horse industry to the center and utilized the center’s specialty services for their horses since the center opened 30 years ago. We are indebted to their vision of having the center as the best for providing equine medical care.”
The college’s continuing education program is winding down for the year and will kick off 2015 with the Fourth Annual Equine and Food Animal Conference on Jan. 9. In 2014, the program hosted 30 continuing education events with more than 1,500 DVM attendees, including 400 alumni. The college plans on having more than 30 events in 2015 and will continue to increase veterinarian participation.
Dr. Marion Ehrich, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, is a member of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Study Section that is reviewing support for the National Toxicology Program and will meet on Dec. 11. She is also chair of the National Research Council (National Academies of Science) that will publish “Review of California’s Risk Assessment Process for Pesticides” in early 2015. She is also a candidate for the Society of Toxicology’s Nominations Committee.
Dr. Ludeman Eng, associate professor of cell biology and anatomy, received the 2014 Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Faculty Teaching Award from the Class of 2016.
Dr. Tom Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology, co-chaired the first American Society of Microbiology Conference on Polymicrobial Infections in the medical, dental/periodontal, and veterinary fields on Nov. 13-16 in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Sandra James-Yi, clinical assistant professor of toxicology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, is now board certified after passing the American Board of Toxicology exam on her first attempt.
Dr. David Lindsay, professor of parasitology, has been elected president of the American Association of Parasitologists. Under his leadership, the association recently released a statement urging support for Ebola health workers and calling for an end to unfounded travel bans.
Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, attended the United States Animal Health Association (USAHA) and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) joint annual meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, and hosted 15 veterinary students from a number of North American veterinary colleges. The center has a memorandum of understanding with USAHA and AAVLD which provides for funding for student travel to the meeting. Ragan also serves on the USAHA Brucellosis Committee and the USAHA Brucellosis Scientific Advisory Committee.
Dr. Valerie Ragan traveled to South Africa and was the keynote speaker for a “brucellosis roadshow” throughout South Africa, at the invitation of MSD Animal Health. Ragan traveled to several locations throughout South Africa, conducted seminars for government employed and private veterinarians throughout the country, and discussed brucellosis surveillance, diagnostics, and infected herd management.
Dr. Sherrie Whaley, director of communications, and the Office of Public Relations and Communications hosted a bi-monthly meeting of Virginia Tech Communicators at the college on November 19. The group heard from Dr. Valerie Ragan who discussed the evolution of the veterinary profession and the workings of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, which she serves as director of.
Dr. Sherrie Whaley, director of communications, and Michael Sutphin, public relations coordinator, provided a day-long media training to Masters of Public Health students in Sophie Wenzel's PHS 5934: MPH Professional Workshop course. Wenzel is assistant director of the Center for Public Health Practice and Research.
Several faculty members received professional honors at a recent American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) meeting. Dr. Kurt Zimmerman, associate professor of pathology/informatics, completed his term as chair of the ACVP exam committee and gave closing statements related to the 2014 certification exam. Dr. Tom Cecere, assistant professor of anatomic pathology, was chair of the Education Focused Scientific Session.Also at the ACVP meeting, Dr. Katie Boes, assistant professor of clinical pathology, began her appointment as proctor for the ACVP exam committee. She and Dr. Nicole Weinstein, assistant professor of clinical pathology, gave a talk on “The Flipped Classroom in Veterinary Clinical Pathology.” Boes also gave a poster presentation on “Prophylactic and therapeutic effects of a lipophilic nanoparticle or a fat emulsion in mice administered T-2 mycotoxin” and an oral presentation on “Esophageal perforation in a cat.”
Williams, T.M., Leeth, R.A., Rothschild, D.E., McDaniel,D.K., Coutermarsh-Ott, S.L., Simmons, A.E., Kable, K.H., Heid, B., Allen, I.C. “Caspase-11 Attenuates Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Experimental Colitis Pathogenesis.” The American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. (In Press).
- December 6 — Ultrasound Short Course for Veterinary Practitioners
- Blacksburg, VA
- December 6 — Pet Portraits with Santa Claus
- VA-MD Vet Med, Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition Lobby — Blacksburg, VA
- December 6-10 — AAEP Annual Convention
- Salt Lake City, UT
- December 8 — Alumni Reception at AAEP Annual Convention
- 6:00 p.m. at Michelangelo's on Main, Salt Lake City, UT
- December 8-18 — VA-MD Vet Med Fall Exams
- Blacksburg, VA
- December 11-12 — Intermediate Gastrointestinal Endoscopy for Internal Medicine Residents
- Blacksburg, VA
- December 21 — Winter Break Begins
- Blacksburg, VA
- January 9, 2015 — 4th Annual Equine & Food Animal Conference for Veterinarians
- Blacksburg, VA
- January 17-21 — North American Veterinary Conference
- Orlando, FL
- January 18 — Alumni Reception at North American Veterinary Conference
- 7:00 p.m. at Hawk's Landing Steakhouse and Grille, Orlando, FL
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 Editors: Alison Elward, Michael Sutphin
- Web Editors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak
- Contributors: Alison Elward, Lindsay Key, Maureen Lawrence-Kuether, Amy Loeffler, Lynn Nystrom, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley
- Photography/Videography: Alison Elward, Jim Stroup, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace, Sherrie Whaley