A new initiative to tackle student debt
Dear friends and colleagues,
After they graduate from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, DVM students enter a field with positive career prospects and employment rates above the national average, but many of them still face challenges because of the high cost of veterinary education and the resultant debt burden. The college has been consistently taking steps to address this issue for years, including incorporating business and financial management into the curriculum, limiting tuition rate increases, offering scholarships, and engaging in the broader student debt conversation facilitated by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. However, we are not satisfied with the progress made and are now taking these efforts to a new level.
Last month, the college’s Executive Board approved a new initiative to develop a coordinated plan to address student educational debt. We are appointing a task force charged with drafting an action plan for addressing this problem and establishing metrics for measuring our progress. This task force will include representation from our DVM students, recent graduates, veterinary practitioners, faculty, college administration, and outside consultants. I will co-chair the task force together with Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, associate dean for professional programs.
Among the issues to be addressed are DVM tuition rates, DVM enrollment, scholarship support, cost-efficient delivery of the diagnostic and clinical curriculum, use of tuition income across the college’s mission areas, personal financial literacy of students, accelerated pathways to DVM completion, incorporation of innovation and entrepreneurship in the curriculum, and the compelling need to advance diversity.
The college continues to be aware of and responsive to the issue of student educational debt and, through this initiative, we hope to make a positive impact on this challenging problem. I am confident that our work will not only improve the situation for current and future students, but also contribute to the national conversation concerning this issue.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
Puppy University charter class destined for lives of service
Virginia Tech’s spring commencement might be a few months away, but the celebrations came early for a few nontraditional graduates. The first cohort of puppies in the college’s Puppy University program graduated on Thursday, Dec. 8 in Blacksburg.
The college teamed up with Saint Francis Service Dogs, a Roanoke-based nonprofit, to raise three puppies for service dog training. Over the past year, the charter class of puppies — Koda, Esme, and Tucker — spent their weekdays at the veterinary college in a structured program of care where they learned foundational skills, such as walking on a leash or traveling on a bus.
The program not only supports puppies on their path to become professionally trained service dogs, but also offers veterinary students important lessons on the human-animal bond. Veterinary student participants in the puppy raiser program have the option of earning course credit during their fourth year by completing a presentation about their work. In addition, six undergraduate work-study students have been engaged in the care and training of the puppies.
X.J. Meng earns SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award
X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, has received the 2017 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Award.
The award, sponsored by the Dominion Foundation, is the commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty in Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities, recognizing their commitment to excellence in teaching, research, knowledge integration, and public service.
Meng, who is a virologist in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, is one of 12 faculty members given the 2017 award, selected from 97 nominees. He will be recognized at an award ceremony on Feb. 16 at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia.
Researchers help the body protect itself against inflammation and colon cancer
Could inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer be prevented by changing the shape of a single protein?
There is an intimate link between uncontrolled inflammation in the gut associated with inflammatory bowel disease and the eventual development of colon cancer. This uncontrolled inflammation is associated with changes in bacteria populations in the gut, which can invade the mucosal tissue after damage to the protective cellular barrier lining the tissue.
But Virginia Tech researchers found that modifying the shape of IRAK-M, a protein that controls inflammation, can significantly reduce the clinical progression of both diseases in pre-clinical animal models. The altered protein causes the immune system to become supercharged, clearing out the bacteria before they can do any damage.
The research team included Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Daniel Rothschild, a combined Ph.D./DVM student at the college. Their findings were recently published in eBioMedicine.
A day in the life of a veterinary student
Although life can be hectic for fourth-year students at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, it can also be rewarding.
Michael Nappier, assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, highlights the ups and downs of students on their clinical rotation with the college’s Small Animal Community Practice in an article for dvm360.com.
“Do you feel nostalgic about the good ol’ days of vet school? Missing the simpler times before you had to go out into the ‘real world’ of veterinary practice?” wrote Nappier, who followed students from their early-morning arrival at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital until the end of their shift.
Fellowship helps grad student study how swine virus suppresses the immune system
A graduate student at the veterinary college is investigating how a virus responsible for significant economic losses in the swine industry causes disease and suppresses the immune system.
Nicholas Catanzaro, of Lewiston, New York, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, hopes that his research on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) will eventually help scientists develop safer, better vaccines. He was recently awarded a two-year, $95,000 fellowship from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture for his research.
“This is one of the most economically devastating global swine pathogens and causes more than $600 million in economic losses in the United States alone each year,” Catanzaro said. “My fellowship looks at how the virus causes disease in pigs. That’s important because scientists are trying to make safer, more-effective vaccines for pigs against the virus.”
College to host reception at North American Veterinary Community Conference
The college is hosting a reception for alumni and friends at the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) Conference in Orlando, Florida, in early February 2017.
The reception will be held at the Hilton Orlando on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m.
Presented by the veterinary college and the Alumni Society, the event will allow alumni and friends to reconnect with classmates and faculty and learn about exciting new programs within the college.
The NAVC Conference will take place at the Orange County Convention Center from Feb. 4-8 and typically includes more than 16,000 attendees from 70-plus countries. On Feb. 6, the college will also have an exhibit booth for visitors and alumni to learn more about the college and its programs.
Amber Roudette broadens her horizons with Maui clerkship
Amber Roudette of Richmond, Virginia, is a fourth-year veterinary student pursuing the mixed species track at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She is the past president of Veterinary Students as One In Culture and Ethnicity (VOICE) and previously wrote about her reflections on the Iverson Bell Symposium and her 2015 summer exchange in India.
As I planned my fourth year clinical rotations, I decided to seek an opportunity that would allow me to explore someplace new. I made a list of the cities where I had friends who could host me, and out of Nashville, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Seattle, and Maui, the obvious winner was Maui. I did a quick Google search and called eight small animal clinics within an hour radius of my friend Christopher, who had moved to the island in 2015. One clinic called me back to offer an externship. I was ecstatic.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
Ruth Meade named January Staff Member of the Month
Since joining the veterinary college 18 years ago, Ruth Meade, administrative assistant in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, has demonstrated consistent excellence at the veterinary college. One nominator described how Meade “is always willing to come in at a minute’s notice to help with whatever problem or project we may have. She demonstrates the true meaning of the word team player.” Another nominator described how Meade also “goes above and beyond not only for her department but helping others.”
When the Department of Population Health Sciences hired several new staff members, Meade worked well beyond her normal hours and workload to assist with training and share her knowledge. A third nominator described how Meade “was extremely patient, always smiled, and was very effective in helping” the new hires. The nominator continued, “her help is appreciated by all of us in Population Health Sciences” and that she “exceeds all expectations.”
Nicole Kandzior named December Staff Member of the Month
Nicole Kandzior joined the veterinary college in 2014 from a veterinary clinic in Dublin, Virginia and has been an indispensable part of the veterinary teaching college ever since. Her nominator described how Kandzior, who is a small animal specialty medicine technician, deserves recognition for her hard work while on the neurology service recently when she seamlessly handled more responsibility than typically required.
“She has been working on procedures that are challenging and has successfully navigated through them,” explained her nominator. Despite the added responsibility, “she has still managed to find time to lend support to other services as well.” In addition, Kandzior always “has a smile on her face every morning.” Kandzior’s work ethic and supportive attitude has a positive effect on all she encounters at the veterinary teaching hospital.
More Awards & Activities
McDaniel, D., Jo, A., Ringel, V., Coutermarsh-Ott, S., Powell, M., Long, T., Oestreich, K., Davis, R., and Allen, I.C. (2017). PEO-PDLLA Core-Shell Nanoparticles have Similar Cellular Uptake Dynamics and Biodistribution in Th1 and Th2 Microenvironments. “Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine.” (In Press). IF: 5.671.
Clay Caswell, assistant professor of bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was named a Virginia Tech Scholar of the Week by the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, traveled to various locations in Uruguay to work with veterinarians with a large multi-site dairy operation on the development of brucellosis control and elimination plans for the dairies.
Valerie Ragan also traveled to Yerevan, Armenia to conduct a kick-off workshop to initiate a “One Health Surveillance for Brucellosis in Armenia” project. Ragan partnered with an epidemiologist from a Swiss company in conducting the workshop. This new project is funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), part of the Department of Defense and is focused on strengthening coordination and communication between the human and animal sectors during epidemiological and outbreak investigations of brucellosis and to increase the understanding of the disease burden in Armenia. The workshop was attended by physicians from the Armenian Ministry of Health and veterinarians from the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture.
Nammalwar Sriranganathan, professor of veterinary microbiology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was instrumental in organizing “Brucellosis 2016: International Research Conference” on Nov., 17-19, 2016, in New Delhi, India. The conference also served as the 69th Annual Brucellosis Research Meeting of the International Brucellosis Society. As chair of the society, Sriranganathan worked with Ramesh Vemulapalli, Texas A&M University; H. Rahman, deputy director general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research; and S. R. Rao and P. Singh from Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, in organizing this event. The three-day conference was attended by over 350 delegates representing 23 different countries. At the conference, in addition to keynote addresses and scientific presentations, a $30 million prize competition for developing the best next generation vaccine for sheep and goats against brucellosis was launched by an international consortium. The conference website has more details.
Lijuan Yuan, associate professor of virology and immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received the Virginia Tech Graduate School’s Outstanding Mentor Award for the College of Veterinary Medicine. In December, she also received a one-year, $273,900 grant from Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical (Zhifei), China, on “Evaluation of P-VP8* vaccine in gnotobiotic pig model of human rotavirus infection and diarrhea.”
- February 7, 2017 —Alumni Reception, North American Veterinary Community Conference
- Orlando, FL
- February 7, 2017 —Continuing Education: “Routine and referral diagnostics and procedures in minipigs” by Sherrie Clark and “Evaluation and Management of Equine Liver Disease” by Harold McKenzie
- Lynchburg, VA
- February 7, 2017 —Continuing Education: “Canine Atopic Dermatitis: What We Know (And Don’t Know) So Far & Update on Treatment and Management” with Ben Tham
- Roanoke, VA
- February 16-18, 2017 —2017 Virginia Veterinary Conference
- Roanoke, VA
- February 23, 2017 —Continuing Education: “Common Health Problems in Small Ruminants Pre and Post Weaning” by Hollie Schramm and “Evaluation and Management of Equine Liver Disease” by Harold McKenzie
- Beckley, WV
- March 2, 2017 —Continuing Education: “A Review of Seizures and Current Treatment Options For Cases” with Avril Arendse
- Abingdon, VA
- March 8-12, 2017 —2017 AAVMC Annual Conference & Iverson Bell Symposium
- Washington, D.C.
- March 25, 2017 —VA-MD Vet Med Annual Open House
- Blacksburg, VA
For More Upcoming Events…
Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Dean: Cyril R. Clarke
- Assistant Dean for Advancement: Alison Wainwright Davitt
- Managing Editor: Michael Sutphin
- Web Editor: Alison Elward
- Assistant Editor: Kelsey Foster
- Contributors: Lynn Blevins, Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Lindsay Key, Michael Nappier, Amber Roudette, Michael Sutphin
- Photography/Videography: Alison Elward, Bill Huckle, Michael Nappier, Megan Quesenberry, Amber Roudette, Michael Sutphin