January 2008

Capitalizing on our Strengths

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As we cross the threshold into 2008, the current state of our college is strong, thanks to the talent and determination of our faculty, students and staff. There are many signs of excellence in our midst, as you will read in the newsletter below.

We enjoy the consent and approval of our stakeholders and the generosity of many friends, whose compassion, concern and vision inspires their investment in the future of veterinary medicine. This is essential for we all know that public and private support is a necessary component for our future success.

That said, there are challenges looming on the horizon. While funding is in place to finance the construction of our $11 million infectious diseases/clinical space addition adjacent to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, we must identify funding for our $12 million instructional facility and our $70 million translational medicine facility, which includes space for hospital expansion.

Positive things are happening in Washington on this approach, thanks to the diligent efforts of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). On January 23rd, United States Congressman Frank J. Pallone, Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Sub-Committee on Health, convened a hearing on HR 1232, the Veterinary Public Health Workforce Expansion Act. This act, if passed, will provide veterinary colleges with the opportunity to obtain funds needed to upgrade general infrastructure and expand educational programs.

AVMA Executive Vice President Dr. Ron DeHaven, AAVMC Executive Director Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, former University of Pennsylvania Dean Dr. Alan M. Kelly, and University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Dr. Sheila Allen all testified on behalf of the bill.

Over on the Senate side, we are hopeful that the favorable language in the Senate version of the "Farm Bill" that authorizes federal resources for veterinary education will successfully emerge from conference committee.

We have no way of knowing how well these initiatives will fair as they make their way through the corridors of Washington, or whether funding will be available when it is time for appropriations. But historic progress is being made for veterinary medicine and veterinary education as we make our case on the importance of veterinarians in society in Washington.

With respect to Richmond, things remain unclear on the status of the state's budget. We cannot expect state support for our pressing capital projects from Richmond this year, and we are managing our resources with prudence as we await the news of our economic circumstances, which are likely to include budget cuts.

What remains crystal clear, however, is that our college must ramp up its private fund-raising activities by several orders of magnitude. "The Campaign for Virginia Tech" has been launched. Frank Pearsall and Amanda Dymacek in our office of development are working with me and our Alumni Society on strategies to engage our many constituencies on this critical, enterprise-wide effort and you will be hearing more about this soon.

Meanwhile, in the newsletter below, you will read about the achievements in learning, discovery and engagement that are the hallmark of our college. We should remember that we are doing many good things and take pride in our college as we remain focused on providing excellence in veterinary medicine for all, and a bold and progressive vision for the future.


Gerhardt G. Schurig

Meng Honored for Scholarship

Dr. X.J. Meng

Dr. X. J. Meng, a noted virologist, physician, and researcher in the VMRCVM, has been identified as being in the top one percent of highly-cited scientists in the fields of microbiology and clinical medicine by Thompson Scientific.

A noted virologist and physician/researcher in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine has been honored as one of the most frequently cited scientists working in the field of microbiology by academic publishing giant Thompson Scientific.

Dr. X. J. Meng, professor of virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP), has entered the top one percent of highly-cited scientists in the field of microbiology, according to Thompson’s “Essential Science Indicators.” The 31 original articles and review papers that Meng has authored in the field of microbiology over the past 10 years were cited a total of 896 times in other scholarly works over the past decade.

Meng has also been identified as being in the top one percent of highly-cited scientists in the field of clinical medicine, according to Thompson. From the ten-year period beginning in January 1997 and ending in August 2007, Meng authored a total of 68 scientific papers that have been cited 1,842 times to date.

“We’re very pleased to see Dr. Meng’s scholarship recognized in this way,” said VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig. “Dr. Meng is a prolific and highly collaborative researcher whose international reputation speaks clearly about the quality of science and scholarship at Virginia Tech. His laboratory operates at the fulcrum of a number of promising strategic initiatives here in the college and at the university.”

Meng is currently serving on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Scientific Review Team for the Drug Discovery and Mechanisms of Antimicrobial Resistance Study Section.

In an on-line interview published by Thompson, Dr. Meng reflected on his approach to his work and what he hopes to achieve.

“I have a keen interest in comparative and translational medicine, and my main research focus has been in the field of comparative viral pathogenesis with emphasis on emerging, re-emerging, and zoonotic viral diseases that are important to both human and veterinary public health,” he said. “The ultimate goals for most of my research projects are to develop vaccines and other preventive and control measures against important viral diseases of man and other animals.”

Meng is an excellent example of the intersection between human and animal health, said Schurig, who noted that the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates passed a resolution in June 2007 that formally recognized the concept of “one medicine” and called for greater collaboration between human and veterinary medicine.

Meng believes that his training in both human and veterinary sciences provides him with an opportunity to make a unique contribution in human and animal health and biomedical sciences.

“I have been trained in both medical and veterinary sciences; therefore I feel that, by conducting biomedical research in the field of comparative viral pathogenesis, I can contribute in a meaningful way to both human and veterinary medicine,” he stated in the Thompson article. “Historically, comparative medicine and animal models have been instrumental in understanding the pathogenesis and mechanism of many human diseases.”

Recently, Meng and colleagues working in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease (CMMID) at Virginia Tech developed a vaccine to protect against Post-weaning Multi-systemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS) in pigs, a major threat to the global swine industry. The vaccine has been patented by Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. (VTIP) and is licensed and being marketed by Wyeth, Inc. and Fort Dodge Animal Health Inc.

Meng operates one of the world’s top laboratories in the investigation of Hepatitis E viruses. In addition to the extensive funding he has received from Fort Dodge Animal Health Inc., the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and several other funding agencies to support the PMWS work and his research on several other viruses of veterinary and public health concern, he has been awarded approximately $2 million from the National Institutes of Health to study the Hepatitis E Virus, which is a major threat to people and animals.

His research interests include studying the molecular mechanisms of viral replication and pathogenesis, developing vaccines against viral diseases, the study of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic viral diseases, human, swine and avian Hepatitis E viruses, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and porcine circovirus.

In the late 1980’s Meng conducted research that investigated the connections between human papilloma virus and herpes simplex virus and the development of cervical carcinoma. Following that he moved to Iowa State University where he began studying porcine viruses and completed his Ph.D.

Prior to joining the VMRCVM in 1999, Meng served as Senior Staff Fellow of the Molecular Hepatitis Section of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Dr. Meng earned an M.D. from Binzhou Medical College in Binzhou, Shandong, People’s Republic of China; a M.S. in Microbiology and Immunology from the Virus Research Institute, Wuhan University College of Medicine, Wuhan, Hubei, Peoples Republic of China; and a Ph.D. in Immunobiology from the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Preventive Medicine at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

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Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine Partners with FDA and Others to Offer Seminar Series

Dr. Bettye Walters

The college’s Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine has partnered with the Food and Drug Administration to enhance their career-development oriented seminar series this semester. Funding for this project was procured by Dr. Bettye Walters (above), director of the center and Dave Waterman of Virginia Tech’s Continuing and Professional Education.

The Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine (CPCVM) on the college’s Maryland Campus has partnered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enhance their career-development oriented graduate seminar series this semester.

The funding was made possible through the efforts of Dr. Bettye Walters, director of the CPCVM, and Dave Waterman, assistant director of program development for Virginia Tech’s Continuing and Professional Education.

“This is a collaborative effort with our center, the University of Maryland-College Park, Virginia Tech, and the Food and Drug Administration and we will all benefit from it,” said Walters.

The funding will help sponsor presentations by “high-profile” speakers who discuss current topics and new methodologies in veterinary science. As part of the program, speakers will first make presentations to students on the College Park campus and then travel to FDA headquarters in Rockville, MD to talk to the FDA veterinarians. They will also spend time with post-doctoral students. This will provide students with an opportunity to network and seek practical career advice from some highly successful future colleagues, explained Walters.

The first seminar of the series was held on January 24. Dr. David Mosser, a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics in the University of Maryland, presented “The Many Mysteries of the Activated Macrophage.”

The schedule of speakers through March 25 is as follows:

February 12-Dr. Linda Detwiler, assistant director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine.

March 12-Dr. Robert Lamb, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a well-known researcher in the field of influenza and paramyxovirus.

March 25-Dr. Brian Kelsall, head of the Mucosal Immunobiology Section of the National Institutes of Health, president of the Society of Mucosal Immunology, and editor-in-chief of the journal of Mucosal Immunology.

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Researchers Awarded NIH Grant to Expand Study of Poultry Virus as Human Cancer Treatment

Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah

Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah (right), assistant professor, DBSP, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue innovative work that seeks to develop a treatment for cancer from avian Newcastle disease virus.

Researchers on the Blacksburg and College Park, Maryland campuses of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine have been awarded a major new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support innovative work that seeks to develop a treatment for cancer from a common avian virus.

This is the second major grant awarded to Drs. Elankumaran Subbiah, assistant professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP), and Siba Samal, associate dean of the college’s University of Maryland’s campus, for the work which seeks to create a cancer therapy from genetically altered Newcastle disease virus.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), cancer accounts for nearly one-quarter of all deaths in the United States, exceeded only by heart diseases. It is estimated that 1.4 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2007 alone.

The $430,000 NIH R21 grant will allow Subbiah and Samal to build upon existing work that is focused on the use of reverse genetics to alter NDV to treat prostate cancer.

Reverse genetics (RG) is the process of generating a recombinant virus from cloned complimentary DNA (cDNA) copy, explains Subbiah. Through the RG system, recombinant viruses can be designed to have specific properties that make them attractive as biotechnological tools, live vaccines, and cancer therapies. This is achieved through the introduction of the desired changes in the cDNA, which are then transferred faithfully to the recombinant virus.

“This differs from the previous work in that the recombinant NDV will be targeted against different types of proteases,” said Subbiah. “Different types of cancer cells secrete different types of proteases. We are tailoring the virus to match the type of protease secreted by the cancer cells.”

Normal, healthy cells have an interferon antiviral system that activates upon infection with NDV, thereby preventing replication of the virus, explains Dr. Subbiah. Cancer cells, however, have defective interferon antiviral systems, he said. NDV utilizes these defects to replicate specifically in the diseased cells. The replication of NDV generates apoptosis - also known as programmed cell death or cell suicide- in the diseased cell.

According to Subbiah, the use of poultry viruses as cancer therapy poses no threat to humans and several other oncolytic viruses are currently being explored to treat cancer. However, Subbiah’s work is the first to alter Newcastle disease virus through a reverse genetic system for selective protease targeting.

Oncolytic virus therapy has gained much attention recently as a result of the progress in understanding virus-host interactions and because currently available chemotherapy is not entirely satisfactory for several reasons, including the possibility of an individual’s development of resistance to drugs.

“We are excited about the endless possibilities that Newcastle disease virus offers to treat cancer,” said Subbiah.

Subbiah received his B.V.Sc. in 1984, M.V.Sc. in 1989, and Ph.D. in Veterinary Microbiology in 1996 from the Madras Veterinary College in Madras, India, and was boarded in virology from the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists in 2003. He was a research assistant professor at the VMRCVM’s University of Maryland-College Park campus prior to joining Virginia Tech in 2006.

Samal received his B.V.Sc. from Orissa Veterinary College in 1976, his M.V.Sc. from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Texas A&M University. He joined the faculty at the University of Maryland in 1988, and is currently the associate dean of the VMRCVM and Chair of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Deans' Forum on Infectious Diseases Taking Shape

Deans' Forum on Infectious Diseases

Faculty members from the VMRCVM are partnering with colleagues from around the university to develop the Deans’ Forum on Infectious Diseases, part of an occasional series of university-wide academic symposia. A strategic planning event for the forum will take place Monday, March 10.

The Deans’ Forum on Infectious Diseases, part of an occasional series of university-wide academic symposia that focus on pressing issues such as the environment and energy, will be held in fall 2008, according to Dr. Stephen Boyle, professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP).

Boyle and Dr. Steve Melville, associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Sciences, are co-chairing a ten-person steering committee that includes faculty members from the VMRCVM, the College of Sciences, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.

As part of the planning process, a university-wide strategic planning event for all faculty members and graduate students that are working in the area of infectious disease research will be held on Monday, March 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Inn at Virginia Tech, according to Boyle.

The goal is to assemble the estimated 100 to 150 researchers that are engaged in some aspect of infectious disease research, present an information exchange designed to increase collaboration, and gain consensus on the structure and focus of the fall 2008 event, according to Boyle.

The March 10 event will include welcoming and introductory remarks from Deans Gerhardt Schurig of the VMRCVM and Lay Nam Chang of the College of Sciences and an overview of the background, goals and agenda for the fall event.

Following that, according to Boyle, individual presentations will be made that will provide an overview of the work that is currently being done in four over-arching areas: Molecular Pathogenesis, Infectious Disease Ecology and Epidemiology, Host-Pathogen Interaction, and Prevention/Control.

Presentations are also expected to include a review of existing graduate programs related to infectious diseases in the areas of microbiology, cell and developmental biology, and immunology.

Presentations will also be made on the work that the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, the Institute for Biomedical and Public Health Sciences (IBPHS), and the Institute for Critical Technologies and Sciences (ICTAS) are doing in the area of infectious diseases research.

Boyle said the strategic planning event will focus on increasing collaborations among the researchers working in laboratories across Virginia Tech and consider proposals for campus wide research initiatives.

Planners expect to launch a Web site concerning the infectious diseases strategic planning event and the fall symposium on February 10. For more information, contact Dr. Stephen Boyle at 1-4641 or smboyle@vt.edu or Dr. Steve Melville at 1-1441 or Melville@vt.edu

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Pharmacy Supervisor Earns Diplomate Status

Maureen Perry

Maureen Perry, VTH pharmacy supervisor, has earned diplomate status in the International College of Veterinary Pharmacy. This places her in the elite company of only 18 other pharmacists throughout the world.

Ms. Maureen Perry, pharmacy supervisor in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, has earned diplomate status in the International College of Veterinary Pharmacy (ICVP). This places her in the elite company of only 18 other pharmacists throughout the world who have achieved the distinction.

“Ms. Perry becoming a diplomate elevates the level of expertise and credibility of what the VTH pharmacy has to offer our clients, researchers and anyone seeking the most advanced veterinary pharmaceutical knowledge recognized by a set of criteria based on a world-wide scale, said VTH Administrator Rick Hiller. “Her efforts should be acknowledged and applauded, as they benefit all she comes in contact with.”

Perry oversees a pharmacy that contains an inventory of over 1,000 different items including intravenous fluids, oral and injectable drugs and dispenses roughly 35,000 prescriptions each year for both hospitalized animals and outpatients.

The pharmacy also creates custom preparations of special products such as chemotherapy and anesthesia, which provides hospital clinicians with access to precisely developed formulations that may not be commercially available.

They also stock and maintain controlled drug dispensation modules that provide clinicians with after-hours and emergency access to pharmaceuticals. These machines look and operate much like an ATM and allow quick access to a greater variety of medications when the pharmacy is closed.

The medication dispensed by Perry and her staff is used in the treatment of disease and pain in companion animals, research animals, and production animals. This is a responsibility Perry takes seriously and fully understands.

“By checking doses, teaching students how to correctly calculate medication and making sure that the correct medicine is properly prepared and dispensed, I impact the outcomes in our hospital,” said Perry. “Maintaining the health of our animals directly impacts public health in our community.”

Perry and her staff face a unique challenge since they are working with patients that cannot speak for themselves. Veterinary pharmacists and technicians must rely on the expertise of veterinarians and students who have been taught to carefully observe an animal and document their findings to “speak” for the patient. In addition, while human and veterinary pharmacists receive the same core training, veterinary pharmacists must learn to calibrate medicine for a variety of species while human pharmacists need only worry about one.

However, she is quick to point out the job comes with its rewards: being involved in the clinical practice of veterinary medicine, teaching students about the correct use of pharmaceuticals, and assisting researchers in planning new and exciting projects.

“Our central location in the hospital is not an accident but a necessity, since our services are essential for many parts of the organization,” said Perry.

Perry graduated from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston in 1983. Prior to joining the college in 1999, she worked in human medicine.

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Hodgson Delivers Historical Address

Dr. Jennifer Hodgson

Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, associate professor, DBSP, recently became the first woman in the 98-year history of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science to deliver the commencement address during December graduation ceremonies in Sydney, Australia.

Veterinary medicine is like a cow.

While this comparison may seem strange to some, it is precisely the image Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, associate professor, DBSP, encouraged her audience to envision when she became the first woman in the 98-year history of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science to deliver the commencement address during December graduation ceremonies in Sydney, Australia.

The college’s Dean and Faculty Executive - the equivalent of a college’s administrative board in the United States - selects candidates for the honor she said. Hodgson was chosen prior to her departure for her new job with the VMRCVM in July.

“I was honored to have been chosen to address my colleagues and so many of my former students,” said Hodgson. “It allowed me to close a very important circle.”

Hodgson was introduced to the crowd of over 600 by Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, chancellor of the University of Sydney and Governor of the State of New South Wales.

During her address, Hodgson related three short stories from her past experiences and gave the graduates three pieces of advice based on these anecdotes. First, she told of the moment she decided on a career in academia rather than general practice, after she dove into a river to catch an escaped patient. She told the students to recognize these important turning points in their careers and to seize the opportunities offered.

Second, she recalled the specific pieces of advice she had given students during her lectures on veterinary microbiology. She asked the students to reflect on their entire time in veterinary school including the good friends they had made, the gifted professors they had studied under, and the world class institution from which they had graduated.

Finally, she impressed upon them the important role they will play in the future and sustainability of veterinary medicine. She did this by asking the new DVMs to view their chosen career as being similar to a cow. Each generation of veterinary students acts as new nourishment for their profession much like a meal of grass is for a cow. She likened the University to the rumen, where the grass is fermented into useable metabolites, which are then absorbed by the cow and provide the nutrients to make the cow flourish. Without the continuing energy derived from these young veterinarians to uphold the integrity and well-being of the profession the cow will cease to thrive.

In addition, she asked the graduates to recognize the entire cow required sustenance, in much the same way as the entire profession must be maintained by graduates entering a variety of fields such as veterinary practice, public health, government service as well as academia. She stressed that if the graduates provided this energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to the entire profession then it will prosper and provide key services for the whole of society. It is a well-suited metaphor for the vital cycle of the veterinary profession.

Hodgson received her B.V.Sc. from the University of Sydney and her Ph.D. from Washington State University. She is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Microbiology and a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Prior to joining the VMRCVM in 2006, she was the associate dean of learning and teaching in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

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Lameness Surgeon Joins Equine Medical Center Faculty

Dr. M. Norris Adams

Dr. M. Norris Adams has joined the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center as a clinical assistant professor in equine lameness and surgery. In this role, Adams will focus on elective orthopedic procedures and will assist with the expansion of the center’s outpatient services program.

Dr. M. Norris Adams has joined Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center as a clinical assistant professor in equine lameness and surgery. In this role, Adams will focus on elective orthopedic procedures and will assist with the expansion of the center’s outpatient services program.

“Dr. Adams is a valuable addition to our team,” said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. “His strong interpersonal skills and expertise in lameness will be very beneficial to our clientele.”

Adams comes to the center with a diverse background in private practice. He worked as an associate veterinarian and surgeon in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut before moving to Virginia to serve as a clinical assistant instructor in large animal surgery at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg. For the past eight years, Adams has practiced in Northern Virginia at both the Piedmont Equine Practice in The Plains and the Middleburg Equine Clinic in Middleburg.

“I was drawn back to academic practice because of the ability to delve deeper into lameness cases and to focus more on surgery,” said Adams. “The diagnostic capabilities available at the Equine Medical Center are state-of-the-art — specifically the MRI and other imaging technologies — and this position will allow me to utilize those tools.”

Adams earned a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Mississippi State University in 1992 at which time he was honored with the university’s Large Animal Medicine and Surgery Award. He then completed an internship in Los Olivos, Calif., followed by a residency in large animal surgery at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 1998. A member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, Adams achieved Diplomate status in the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) in 1999.

“I am interested in orthopedics and sports-related injuries,” said Adams. “The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is surrounded by a large and diverse population of equine athletes, and thus sees a large caseload of these interesting and challenging cases.”

Adams added that he finds performing surgery rewarding because it can improve the outcome of a case dramatically, and noted that the contact with owners and trainers is also very satisfying.

“I enjoy the personal interaction with clients and look forward to maintaining a presence at the center that they can rely on,” said Adams. “The location of the hospital will allow me to continue serving many of my former clients.”

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Virginia Pony Club Members Attend Event at Equine Medical Center

Dr. Furr at Horse Health Half-Day

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center recently hosted 41 Virginia Pony Club Members for a “Horse Health Half-Day.” Participants learned about a variety of equine healthcare topics including biosafety, respiratory disease, gait analysis, equine emergencies and foal care.

According to a USDA equine survey, there were an estimated 215,000 horses in Virginia in 2006. It comes as no surprise that in a state so heavily populated with horses, many children are fascinated with learning to care for these beautiful animals. One organization that is helping students to achieve that goal is the Virginia Pony Club which has more than 350 constituents from across the state.

As part of its learning-intensive educational programming, 41 Virginia Pony Club members aged 12 through 18 attended a “Horse Health Half-Day” at Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center on Saturday, Jan. 12. Ten of the commonwealth’s clubs were represented at the three-hour event including Blue Ridge Hunt, Cape Henry, Casanova-Warrenton, Difficult Run, Dominion Valley, Loudoun Hunt, Middleburg-Orange, North Mountain, River Bend and Rocky Run.

“As veterinarians and educators, we are committed to encouraging students to pursue careers in veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. “Pony Club is a very learning-centric organization and it was a pleasure to share our knowledge with these bright and enthusiastic participants.”

The program began when White welcomed the group and asked how many attendees would like to be veterinarians. He advised the interested candidates to study hard and to excel in math and science in order to increase their odds of success.

“Veterinary school has become extremely competitive with only 1 in 10 applicants gaining admission,” White told the crowd. “But for those of you who love animals, especially horses, you should know that veterinary medicine is a rewarding and fulfilling career.”

Following White’s introduction, presentations were given by five the center’s faculty — White, Dr. Martin Furr, Dr. Jennifer Brown, Dr. Sarah Dukti, and Dr. Anne Desrochers — on a variety of equine healthcare topics including biosafety, respiratory disease, gait analysis, equine emergencies and foal care.

According to Carol Noggle, regional supervisor of the Virginia Region Pony Clubs, the lectures provided a wealth of information for attendees.

“I would say that this was a great mini-vet. school,” said Noggle. “It was a comprehensive and valuable addition to our members’ knowledge base and we are very appreciative of the doctors’ time.”

The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. (USPC) is one of the leading junior equestrian organizations in the world. The USPC has over 600 individual clubs spread throughout 48 states and the Virgin Islands, with more than 12,000 members. Pony Club provides opportunities for instruction and competition in English riding, horse sports and horse management for children and young adults up to 25 years of age. Additional information concerning Virginia Region Pony Clubs is available online at http://virginia.ponyclub.org.

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Schurig Announces Administrative Searches

VMRCVM's Blacksburg & UMCP Campuses

VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig has announced the initiation of three major administrative searches for the college and significant progress in the recruitment of the new director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary. The new searches will seek to identify permanent leadership for the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Academic Affairs.

VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig has announced the initiation of three major administrative searches and significant progress is being made in the recruitment of the new director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine on the Maryland Campus.

The new searches will seek to identify permanent leadership for Head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP); Director of Veterinary Teaching Hospital; and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

The new searches will conclude a comprehensive “cluster-hire” search conducted in 2006-2007 that sought to identify new leadership for the Departments of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS), Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), and the Veterinary Teaching Hospital; identify a successor to retiring Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Grant Turnwald, and identify a permanent successor for Dr. Lud Eng, who stepped down as head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology in early 2007.

Dr. David Hodgson was recruited from the University of Sydney in Australia to lead the DLACS and Dr. Greg Daniel was recruited from the University of Tennessee to lead the DSACS. Both reported for duty in mid-2007. Dr. Bill Pierson, associate professor, DLACS, was named interim director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Following Eng’s transition, Dr. Ansar Ahmed, professor and director of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease (CMMID), was named interim head of the DBSP.

The searches for the DBSP department head and the VTH directorship will be internal to the college and the associate dean for academic affairs search will be open to internal and external candidates, Schurig said, because impending budget constraints will make it impossible to recruit nationally for all of the positions.

Search committees will include faculty and staff representation, and the search committee for the associate dean for academic affairs will also include student representation. Schurig has requested that the academic departments conduct confidential elections to fill some of the positions on the search committees.

The DBSP department head search committee will include an appointed chair that will be an associate or assistant dean, two elected faculty members from the department, two faculty members from the department appointed by the dean, and a staff member appointed by the dean.

The VTH director position search committee will be led by an appointed associate or assistant dean, the heads of the Departments of SACS and LACS, elected faculty members from the departments of SACS, LACS, and BSP, and a VTH staff member appointed by the dean.

The associate dean for academic affairs search committee will be led by an appointed associate or assistant dean, two faculty members appointed by the dean, an elected faculty member from each of the three academic departments, an MDL staff member appointed by the dean and the president of the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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Police Dog “Axl” Passes Away

Police Dog Axl & Officer John Hoover

Axl, the beloved K-9 dog who served alongside Roanoke Police Officer John Hoover for ten years, passed away on January 4 as a result of complications from cancer. Those wishing to honor Axl can do so by making a contribution to the college’s Virginia Police K-9 Memorial Fund.

Axl, the beloved K-9 dog who served alongside Roanoke City Police Officer John Hoover for ten years, died on January 4 as a result of complications from cancer at the age of 12.

A Rottweiler, Axl had officially retired from active duty on December 18, 2007 and was living with Hoover and his family. Axl was cared for throughout most of his life by Dr. Steve Karras of Cave Spring Veterinary Hospital in Roanoke.

Hoover, a certified master trainer with the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) and a master trainer with the Virginia Police Work Dog Association (VPWDA), has been spear-heading efforts to raise $50,000 to create a memorial to honor police dogs killed in the line of duty.

“It’s tough to find the words that describe the incredible role these dogs play in law enforcement and public safety,” said Hoover, who frequently conducts training sessions for police handlers throughout the mid-Atlantic region. “They put their lives on the line every day, just like our officers. They are partners and they are heroes.”

The proposed memorial statue will be installed on the veterinary college’s Virginia Tech campus.

The VPWDA and the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) are participating in the project.

There are an estimated 250-300 working police dogs in Virginia, according to Hoover.

Hoover said that about a half-dozen animals have been killed in the line of duty since they began playing an active role in Virginia law enforcement about 35 years ago.

Axl had attended almost every K-9 Memorial Committee meeting with Hoover, often waiting patiently in Hoover’s squad car, but occasionally coming inside.

Those wishing to make a memorial contribution in honor of Axl can forward contributions to the Virginia Police K-9 Memorial Fund, Office of Development and Public Relations, VMRCVM, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24061.

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Humans not only Creatures Suffering from Obesity

Animal Obesity

Pets, just like their owners, can suffer from obesity and its many related health complications. Veterinarians can work with clients to design a safe and effective weight reduction program that is specific to the individual pet’s needs.

It’s no secret that obesity is a problem in humans. Reality television makes millions of dollars chronicling the efforts of Americans attempting to shed excess weight. And every day, new medical research highlights the serious implications obesity has for heart disease, diabetes and other maladies.

Now, more and more attention is being paid to the problem in our pets. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the prevalence of obesity in dogs is between 22 and 40 percent. The reasons and the remedies for the problem seem to mirror each other across species.

These include decreased physical activity, age, and an increased caloric intake, according to Dr. Craig Thatcher, a professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), noted veterinary nutritionist, and charter diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

Genetics can also increase a pet’s risk of being overweight, Thatcher said. Labrador retrievers, beagles, and cocker spaniels are all breeds that are more like to carry some extra pounds. There are also endocrine diseases that are associated with obesity that must also be considered and ruled out, before the pet undergoes weight reduction, explains Thatcher.

Like humans, there are also many health problems associated with being obese. Dogs and cats that are overweight may be predisposed to develop diabetes mellitus. They may also suffer from decreased heat tolerance and stamina, increased dermatological conditions, decreased immune function, and multiple musculoskeletal and orthopedic problems. If an owner suspects his or her pet is overweight, the first step is to contact their veterinarian.

“Veterinarians are the best resource to assist clients in designing a safe and effective weight reduction program,” said Thatcher.

Veterinarians will work with the client to design a weight reduction program that is specific to the individual pet’s needs. A balanced restricted-calorie diet should be implemented with the owner carefully monitoring intake and not allowing for free-choice consumption by the pet. An exercise regiment should also be initiated. This should be a plan the owner is willing to comply with and one the animal can comfortably perform, explains Thatcher.

As an animal progresses through a weight loss program, owners must monitor their pet’s progress by weighing and by assessing body condition. This should initially be done every two weeks to ensure the animal is successfully losing weight.

“Avoiding obesity is an important part of the overall wellness of an animal,” said Thatcher. “Pets and their owners alike will enjoy a much higher quality of life when the pet maintains a healthy weight.”

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine established one of the nation’s first clinical nutrition training programs more than 20 years ago, thanks to Thatcher’s leadership. Today, the college’s programs in this area enjoy wide respect from throughout the profession.

Thatcher earned his DVM and his M.S. and Ph.D. in nutritional physiology from Iowa State University. Prior to joining the faculty of VMRCVM in 1983 as an assistant professor, he practiced mixed animal medicine in Pennsylvania. He was one of the first veterinarians to be board certified as a diplomate by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

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Clinical Research Update

Dr. Panciera

Drs. David Panciera (above), professor, DSACS, and Alexander Gallagher, resident, DSACS, are testing new treatment methods for hyperthyroidism in cats. It is estimated that 1 out of every 50 cats will develop this disease.

Editor’s note: Excellence in clinical care is a result of progress in clinical research. Funded with resources developed through the Veterinary Memorial Fund, clinical researchers in the college are probing scientific frontiers that will help create better methods for managing disease and trauma.

Iopanoic Acid For Treatment Of Experimentally-Induced Hyperthyroidism In Cats.

AE Gallagher, DL Panciera. Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.

Overall Goal of Study

Evaluate a new treatment options for hyperthyroid cats

Importance to our Patients

Hyperthyroidism is the most common endocrine disease of cats. It is estimated that 1 out of every 50 cats will develop hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroid cats will show a variety of abnormalities including weight loss, poor hair coat, increased appetite, irritability and/or restlessness. Many cats may also have intermittent vomiting and diarrhea as well as increased water consumption and urination. If left untreated, the cats can develop a variety of more serious health disorders, such as heart disease. There are three treatment options for hyperthyroid cats, 1) Surgery, 2) Medical Therapy 3) Administration of radioactive iodine. All three treatment option are available at the VMRCVM and each treatment options has advantages and disadvantages. Veterinarians in the VMRCVM will recommend the best option based on the individual needs of the patient and owner. Because no current treatment is consider ideal for all animal, we are searching for new and better treatment options for our patients.

Reason for performing this research

Iopanoic acid is a contrast agent that was commonly given to people undergoing x-ray exams of the liver and gall bladder. Iopanoic acid has been shown to be effective in controlling hyperthyroidism in some people. The effectiveness of this treatment has not been evaluated in cats. Iopanic acid controls the side effects of hyperthyroidism by blocking the formation of active thyroid hormone (T3) in the body tissues. Before a new treatment option is prescribed for our patients we wanted to evaluate this drug in a number of normal cats.

Research Methods

Thirteen healthy adult cats were temporarily made hyperthyroid by administering thyroid hormone supplements (levothyroxine). After 1 month of thyroid hormone supplementation the cats were effectively hyperthyroid. One group of cats was given a high dose of iopanoic acid, another group was given a low dose of iopanoic acid and the remaining cats served as the control group and were given a placebo. The cats in all three groups were carefully observed for 2 weeks and blood samples obtained at critical time points to measure the effectiveness of the iopanic acid.

Research Findings

All the cats were considered hyperthyroid based on their thyroid hormone (T4 and T3) concentrations and rapid heart rates. The active thyroid hormone concentration (T3) was lower in the cats given iopanoic acid compared to those cats given the placebo. The high and low doses of iopanoic acid gave similar results. The beneficial clinical response was a lower heart rate 1 week after starting the iopanoic acid. The iopanoic acid did not have any adverse effects on the health of the cats or results of blood tests (CBC and serum chemistries).


Iopanoic acid was effective in decreasing the active thyroid hormone (T3) concentrations, but its short term effects on clinical signs of hyperthyroidism was less apparent.

Future Plans

Because we observed no deleterious side effects, we have started using iopanic acid in some of our hyperthyroid feline patients. These studies are currently ongoing and we will report our findings at the conclusion of the study.

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