Vital Signs
January 2007

Working Together for Progress in the Future

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As many of you know, I have been traveling extensively throughout Virginia and Maryland this past month making presentations to groups of practitioners and friends about the future of the veterinary profession and the future of our college.
During these presentations, I have outlined a number of trends that are shaping the modern profession of veterinary medicine. Some of these trends include society's growing needs and expectations from our profession, the need for our profession to generate more veterinary research, and the need for our profession to more fully address our responsibilities in public health and for alleviating the shortage of veterinarians. I have also discussed the implications that advancements in clinical practice have for Veterinary Teaching Hospitals, our need for new and expanded facilities, and our need for greater philanthropic support.
I have also invested time and effort in explaining our gradual migration into an academic culture that supports the development of translational research programs. Our goal is to create greater fusion and synergy between our basic scientists, our clinicians and our graduate students. Doing this will enable us to rapidly develop new and improved treatments, diagnostic and preventive modalities in our laboratories and move them quickly from those laboratories into the world of clinical practice.
It will also engage other scientists at Virginia Tech who are working in areas as diverse as engineering to bioinformatics on collaborative programs that will help Virginia Tech achieve its goals for achieving growth in biomedical and life sciences research.
I wish to thank all of the practitioners and others who have taken time from their busy schedules to meet with us and share their thoughts and opinions about the approach we are taking toward our future growth and development. We are at an important juncture in the history of the college and the history of the profession. It is important for all of us to work closely together on developing creative and workable solutions to address the challenges we all face in stewarding the future of this profession in a way that best serves society.

Gerhardt G. Schurig

Daniel Appointed New DSACS Head

Dr. Gregory B. Daniel The first of a series of international searches conducted by the college to recruit new leadership for the Departments of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS), Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), and the Veterinary Teaching Hospital has been concluded with the appointment of Dr. Gregory B. Daniel.
Daniel, a noted veterinary radiologist, has been appointed Head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and will join the college on May 1, 2007. Most recently, he served as Professor and Director of Radiological Services at the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville.
"We're very pleased to recruit an academic leader of Dr. Daniel's caliber to this important leadership position in our college," said Dean Gerhardt Schurig. "In addition to the vision and leadership capacity he will bring to the department, the college and the university, he will also bring additional depth to our already impressive clinical programs in diagnostic imaging."
Daniel earned an undergraduate degree in Animal Sciences from the University of Kentucky, the DVM degree from Auburn University, and a M.S. degree in Veterinary Medical Science from the University of Illinois. He is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Radiology (ACVR).
Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Tennessee, Daniel conducted an internship in small animal medicine and surgery and a residency in nuclear medicine and radiology at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. He has also served as a visiting professor of radiology at the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College.
Daniel is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including the Pfizer Award for Research Excellence, the University of Tennessee Chancellor's Award for Research Excellence, the Dean's Special Citation Award, among others.

Commonwealth Research Initiative Supports Virologists Hiring at Virginia Tech

New Virologists at the VMRCVM Thanks to the support of the Commonwealth Research Initiative, three virologists have been hired at Virginia Tech as part of the cluster hires supporting the host-pathogen-environment interaction (HPEI) research focus and a suite of modern equipment will be purchased for advanced separation and imaging of living cells.
Paul Christopher (Chris) Roberts, associate professor of virology, and Lijuan Yuan and Elankumaran Subbiah, assistant professors of virology, have joined an interdisciplinary program focused on emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. They are on the faculty in the college's Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP) and will work with the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease (CMMID) and some 35 microbiology faculty members across campus, plus the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) and the Fralin Biotechnology Center.
"The Commonwealth Research Initiatives' one-time funds were very instrumental in enabling us to hire these leading scientists, making possible the start-up resources needed to assure that they have the necessary research equipment and supplies to continue and enhance the good work they are doing. It would be very beneficial if these CRI funds continued into the future," said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger.
A new 77,000 square foot integrative life sciences facility being constructed at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center by the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Natural Resources, Science, and Veterinary Medicine will include the Advanced Separation and Imaging of Living Cells Facility, with equipment made possible by the Commonwealth Research Initiative.
"The facility will permit researchers to observe and manipulate changes that occur during host-pathogen interactions, such as in the infection process," said IBPHS director Dennis Dean. "The facility will augment Virginia Tech's virology research and complement our well-established expertise in bacteriological research and our emerging strength in vector-borne disease research."
Roberts, originally from Salisbury, N.C., received his B.S. in biology from Davidson College in North Carolina and his M.S. in microbiology and Ph.D. in microbiology and virology from Philipps-Universitat in Marburg/Lahn, Germany. He worked as a research associate in the Department of Microbiology/Immunology at Emory University, Atlanta, before joining the School of Medicine at Wayne State University in 1999. His research has been consistently supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a principal investigator (PI), and by the American Institute of Cancer Research and National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a co-PI.
Lijuan Yuan, who is from Beijing, China, earned diplomas in pharmaceutics from Beijing Health School and in biochemistry from Beijing University, an M.S. in immunology and virology from the Capital Institute of Pediatrics at the Peking Union Medical College and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and a Ph.D. in immunology and virology from the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine of The Ohio State University. She was a postdoctoral fellow in immunology and molecular virology with the epidemiology section of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. She returned to Ohio State in 2002 as an adjunct assistant professor and research scientist in the Food Animal Health Research Program.
Elankumaran Subbiah has been with the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) since 1999, based at the University of Maryland campus in College Park. He received his undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine and his master's and Ph.D. degrees in veterinary microbiology from the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Madras Veterinary College, India and worked there as an assistant professor for 10 years before joining the VMRCVM. He was certified as a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM) in 2003 and named as a research assistant professor in 2004.
The Advanced Separation and Imaging of Living Cells Facility will provide modern tools of the trade for investigation of infectious disease processes, which will include a cell sorter, often used to separate diseased cells from healthy cells; a live scan confocal microscope, which permits the researcher to observe and track changes in living cells or tissues; a laser capture micro-dissection system, which can isolate very small sections of tissue for detailed examination; and a luminex system that can tag molecules so they can be visualized, sorted, isolated, or tracked - even within cells and as they enter and exit.
In 2004, the Commonwealth of Virginia asked members of the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate a proposal to expand an evolving collaborative program for HPEI research at Virginia Tech. Following their recommendations, Virginia Tech has developed and implemented the multidisciplinary approaches that are essential for anticipating conditions under which new infectious diseases will emerge and old ones will re-emerge. Academy members rated the proposal as having a very high potential for developing nationally and internationally recognized research programs, building upon the demonstrated success of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI).
In spring 2006, an unprecedented research initiative received bi-partisan support from the Virginia General Assembly. The research initiative provides over $200 million to state universities for the 2006-08 biennium, including funds for specific research projects. For Virginia Tech, $15 million was appropriated to directly enhance the university's research programs in science and engineering with a special focus on nanotechnology and host-pathogen-environment interactions. An additional $11 million was appropriated for research equipment, and funds are also provided to support graduate students and new research buildings.
The mission of the Institute for Biomedical and Public Health Sciences is to enhance the quality and quantity of research in biomedical and public health sciences at Virginia Tech and develop innovative cross-disciplinary research efforts in areas that foster the development of new knowledge fields for the 21st Century. VMRCVM Dean Schurig is a former leader of IBPHS.

MRI Allows for Better Diagnosis of Soft Tissue Injuries in Horses

MRI at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center's Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) system offers hope in the form of proper diagnosis to owners of horses suffering from soft tissue injuries. The center, which was the first equine hospital in the eastern United States to offer MRI, houses a Hallmarq open 0.3 Tesla magnet that became operational in April 2004.
"We're seeing horses here that need that next step in diagnosis including high performance horses with subtle injuries that need further evaluation," said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.
MRI is a non-invasive imaging technique that has been used for human diagnosis since the 1980's but is a relatively new diagnostic tool in treating horses. It provides incredibly sharp and detailed pictures of soft tissues inside of the body by using a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy.
"When the foot is placed in a magnetic field the atoms making up the tissues align with that field. Radiowaves are intermittently pulsed into the magnetic field to alter the atom alignment. When energy gained from the radiowaves is released from the tissue, it is detected as a signal and transmitted to a computer. The less dense tissues emit a signal that appears in white on the final image of the foot," said White. "So with MRI, we're really looking at the chemical components of the foot rather than its structure."
In the resulting images, the dark areas represent the dense bone or tendon and the white areas represent the tissue which contains more water and fat. "When we see an increased signal (increased areas with more white than black) in a dense tendon or bone, it is abnormal and indicates an area of inflammation," said White.
MRI is especially useful in imaging problems in the foot and lower leg that do not appear in other modalities such as radiographs and ultrasound. It can detect injuries to subchondral bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, as well as attachments of ligaments to bone, infection, hoof damage and foreign bodies.
"For example, if we have a nail puncture into the horse's foot and pull the nail out, you can't always find directly where the nail went even with surgery, but with the MRI, we can see it," said White. "That's the kind of situation in which there is a huge advantage to using the MRI."
The standing MRI does not require general anesthesia which lowers risk and allows for outpatient scheduling. Once the MR scan is complete, a process that typically takes from one to two hours, a complex digital library system allows the center's staff to store images for easy access and to share those images with referring veterinarians. Typically 200-250 images are made from a complete series of MR sequences on a foot.
The addition of the MRI in 2004 strengthened the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center's extensive lineup of diagnostic capabilities that now includes digital radiology, computed radiography, ultrasonography, video endoscopy, nuclear scintigraphy and high speed video for gait analysis.
"Our MRI unit is yet another means by which we can provide access to state-of-the-art diagnostic care for horse owners," said White. "I am pleased that this technology has had such a significant impact on the health and well-being of our patients."
According to Dr. Ken Sullins, professor of equine surgery at the center, the combination of a surgery facility with MR and other imaging capabilities in one location provides significant advantages in caring for horses.
"We can diagnose and treat at one facility," said Sullins. "That is good for both the horse and its owner."

VMRCVM Professor Honored for Achievement in Poultry Research

Dr. Nathaniel Tablante Dr. Nathaniel Tablante, an associate professor, extension specialist, and Director of the Veterinary Medical Sciences Graduate Program on the VMRCVM's College Park campus, has recently been awarded the Bruce W. Calnek Applied Poultry Research Achievement Award.
This award is given by the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP) to a researcher whose outstanding professional contributions have resulted in a measurable impact on the control of important poultry diseases. Dr. Tablante was honored for the pioneering work he and his colleagues are doing in the development of an in-house composting method that is used to control the spread of infectious materials during disease outbreaks in broiler flocks. This work is especially important during an era when infectious diseases, like Avian Influenza, present such a threat to international health and well-being.
"In house composting averts potential groundwater pollution from burial, avoids high fuel costs and potential air pollution with incineration, and prevents potential disease spread associated with transportation to landfills and the high transport costs and tipping fees," said Tablante. "Because the infected carcasses are composted inside the poultry house, the risk of spreading infectious agents to people and animals is greatly reduced. The high temperatures generated by the composting process also inactivate most pathogens, including Avian Influenza virus."
This innovative method was initially utilized during an Avian Influenza outbreak that occurred on the Delmarva Peninsula in 2004. Utilizing the in-house composting method developed by Tablante and his colleagues, the outbreak was contained to only three farms. Had it been necessary to transport the birds to landfills or other mass disposal facilities, the chance of further spread of the disease would have been significantly increased, according to Tablante.
Dr. Tablante is currently collaborating with George "Bud" Malone of the University of Delaware on a "National Training Program on Mass Euthanasia and Disposal Procedures for Catastrophic Poultry Disease Events," which combines Tablante's in-house composting procedure with an innovative depopulation method that Malone has developed. The program is designed to prepare the poultry industry, government officials, and extension agents to respond quickly and efficiently in cases of catastrophic disease or disaster. All of this is made possible by a three-year, five-million dollar education and outreach grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) secured by the University of Maryland.
Since May 2005, there have been over 30 training sessions nationwide and over 1800 poultry production personnel and federal and state emergency responders have participated in the training. In addition, Dr. Tablante has recently secured another USDA grant that will enable the researchers to expand the scope of the training module.
Dr. Tablante earned his degree in veterinary medicine in 1976 from the University of the Philippines. He received his first master's degree from the University of California-Davis in 1985 and his second master's degree from the University of Guelph in 1995. He is also a Diplomate of the American College of Poultry Veterinarians and has been with VMRCVM since 1997.

Faculty and Students Attend NAVC and VBMA National Meeting

Tonya Sparks Two faculty members and a veterinary student from the college recently traveled to Orlando, Florida to make presentations and participate in the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) and affiliated professional society meetings. North American is one of the largest annual veterinary continuing education conferences in the country.
Dr. Michael S. Leib the C. R. Roberts Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS) and Dr. Otto Lanz, an associate professor in DSACS both participated in the conference.
Dr. Leib lectured in four different sessions at the conference. His lectures included: "Esophageal obstruction with 'Greenies'," "Chronic vomiting in dogs and cats: A diagnostic approach," "Helicobacter: Does it cause gastritis and vomiting in dogs and cats?" and "Case challenge series: GI Cases."
Dr. Lanz presented two lectures on small animal reconstructive surgery and led a master class session on wound management for veterinary technicians.
Tonya Sparks, a member of VMRCVM's class of 2009 and national president of the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA), a veterinary student professional society, presided over the VBMA National Meeting and also attended the NAVC.
"I love the energy of the NAVC," commented Sparks. "It's amazing to experience so many people gathered in one place for the same common goals."
The VMRCVM hosts an alumni gathering every year during the NAVC. Over fifty alumni attended this year's event. The alumni were joined by VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig.

Virginia Tech to Present Small Animal Radiography for Veterinary Technicians

Dr. Jeryl Jones Rapid advancements in non-invasive imaging technologies have led to dramatic improvements in medical diagnostics. But those same advancements require that members of the healthcare team invest time in staying current.
On April 14, 2007, Virginia Tech will present Small Animal Radiography for Veterinary Technicians led by Dr. Jeryl C. Jones, associate professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS), and Mary Ayers, B.B.A, RT(R). Jones is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Radiology (ACVR) and Ayers is a registered veterinary technician.
Designed to aid veterinary technicians in improving their skills in small animal radiography, the course is being sponsored by the VMRCVM and Virginia Tech's Department of Continuing and Professional Education.
The course will teach technicians to recognize and correct radiographic quality problems and it will help them refine their small animal positioning techniques. The workshop will be held on Virginia Tech's campus in Blacksburg at the VMRCVM building on Duck Pond Drive.
Registration is $425, which includes all lectures, clinical laboratories, morning and afternoon refreshments, lunch and a copy of the textbook, "Radiography in Veterinary Technology" by Lisa Lavin. Participants will also receive a CD of digital radiographs they create during the laboratory. Upon successful completion of the workshop, each participant will receive a CE certificate for 7 contact hours (0.7 Continuing Education Units).
Advance registration and payment is required and must be received by March 31, 2007 due to limited space availability.
Online registration is available at
For additional information on the workshop, accommodations, or registration please visit or contact Ann Cinsavich at or 540-231-5261.
For more information about upcoming continuing education programs at VMRCVM, please visit

Isolation Unit Valuable Resource at EMC

Dr. Furr and patient in Isolation Unit Whether it's Equine Herpesvirus-1, Potomac Horse Fever or Strangles, infectious diseases in horses have appeared frequently in recent news headlines. Fortunately, the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, is on the frontlines in the battle against infectious diseases within the equine population.
The center state-of-the-art Animal Biosafety Level 2 isolation unit specifically designed to quarantine horses that are diagnosed with, or suspected of having, contagious diseases. The $1 million facility was unveiled in February 2004 in thanks to a bequest from the estate of the late Paul Mellon, along with smaller private contributions and support.
The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center's isolation unit stands apart from the main building and can accommodate up to eight horses. Each stall features an individual stall entry and ventilation system in order to prevent cross-contamination as well as a video camera so the medical staff can monitor patients at all times.
In order to provide for the safety and care of hospitalized horses, the center's team follows strict protocols in isolating patients suspected of having contagious diseases.
"If we believe that a horse may be capable of spreading a contagious organism, then that horse has to be placed in isolation where they're physically separated from other horses," said Harold C. McKenzie, III, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM, assistant professor of equine medicine at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. "We very closely monitor all of the horses in our care and we're quick to act if we suspect a potential infectious disease issue."
Once horses are placed in isolation, the center's doctors, nurses and technicians follow stringent biosecurity procedures governing patient care, movement in and out of the isolation unit, and cleaning and sterilization of stalls.
"The unit protects the general hospital population, but it also protects the animal that is in isolation," said Martin O. Furr, DVM, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVIM, Adelaide C. Riggs Chair in Equine Medicine at the center. "We take extraordinary precautions to keep our patients safe."
The center's faculty members also conduct research related to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Since the center's inception in 1984, researchers have played key roles in the development of Marquis, the first FDA-approved treatment for Equine Protozoal Myelitis, and of the technique for using inhaled antibiotics to treat respiratory diseases. Private philanthropy has spearheaded the expansion of research facilities at the center, and a new collaborative research complex is currently being constructed.
"This isolation unit and the research underway at the center are vital and necessary components in our ability to offer comprehensive healthcare services to our patients," said Nathaniel A. White, II, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. "Our patients' health is always our first priority."

VMRCVM's Electronic Stallion Service Auction Benefits Equine Reproductive Research

Stallion Service Auction For the second year in a row, an equine veterinarian in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech is using an internet-based stallion service auction to benefit equine reproductive programs in the college.
The electronic auction was developed by Dr. John Dascanio, an associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), and a board certified equine reproductive specialist (theriogenologist).
The equine breeding season generally runs from the middle of February until the middle of June, Dascanio says, so the auction began accepting bids December 1, 2006 and will continue to do so until February 15, 2007. Any stallion breeding slots not purchased by the closing date will be sold at 60 percent of the full price on a first come first served basis until May 1. Horse owners who wish to donate stallion services, which will probably cost between $500 and $2000 for the horses registered on the site, simply download a registration form from the Stallion Service Auction website and submit the form to Dr. Dascanio.
Auction participants bid up the services for a particular stallion until the winning bid is announced at the end of the auction. The entire bid then goes to support the college's equine reproductive research, education and service programs.
The mares' owners agree to pay all normally related costs associated with the breeding, including the collection, storage and shipment of semen, pregnancy and ultrasound examinations and other costs. With the exception of Thoroughbreds, which are bred through natural cover per regulations established by The Jockey Club, most horses have the opportunity to be bred through artificial insemination, Dascanio said.
"Hopefully, all parties will benefit," said Dascanio. "The stallion owners will get a tax credit for the amount of the final bid, the mare owners may receive a stud fee below the stallion's normal cost, and money will be raised to support equine reproductive programs at the college."
One of the reasons Dascanio was motivated to create the program is because of the relative shortage of funds to support equine reproduction. Many organizations fund colic, lameness, laminitis and other disorders, but few specifically support equine reproductive work. Last year, the Stallion Auction raised approximately $6,000.
Dascanio and colleagues are already working on a number of promising programs. For example, pregnancy loss or abortion remains a significant problem with some mares. In one program, the researchers are looking at gene expression in the uterus of the horse to determine how an over or under-expression of some genes might contribute to the onset of post-mating endometritis, which can interfere with conception and early pregnancy. In addition, Dr. Dascanio is now working on developing a small scholarship for a senior student interested in equine reproduction and expanding the reproductive educational links on the site
For more information on the auction, to place a bid or to offer your stallion for stud services, please see the college's web site at

Dr. Gordon Allan MacInnis VMRCVM Mourns Passing of Dr. Gordon MacInnis

Dr. Gordon Allan MacInnis, a retired faculty member in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at VMRCVM, passed away December 18, 2006 at the age of 84.
Dr. MacInnis retired from the VMRCVM in 1983 following more than 20 years of service with Virginia Tech. He began his career with Tech as an Extension Veterinarian in 1962 and was one of the original faculty members of the VMRCVM. He was also a founding father and lifelong advocate for Virginia Tech's chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho, an agriculture fraternity.
He was born March 8, 1922 in Salem, Oregon and he earned his DVM in 1950 from Ohio State University. During World War II, Dr. MacInnis served in the European Theatre of Operations with the 389th Field Artillery, 97th Infantry Division. Before coming to Blacksburg, he practiced veterinary medicine in Ohio and served on the faculty of Washington State University.