Vital Signs: July 2016 Vol. 5, Issue 7

A message from Dean Cyril Clarke

Consortium of Northeastern Colleges of Veterinary Medicine

Dear friends and colleagues,

Over the past year, I have been working with colleagues at several peer institutions to establish the Consortium of Northeastern Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, which will allow us to pool together our resources to address the future of veterinary medical education. The consortium — which includes Cornell University, North Carolina State University, Tufts University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine — has already begun its work to establish a regional academy of veterinary experiential learning.

These efforts follow the successful establishment of the Consortium of West Region Colleges of Veterinary Medicine. During my time as dean of Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, I was involved with the founding of this western consortium, which developed a regional Teaching Academy as its first initiative. Using this model, the deans of the northeastern colleges of veterinary medicine began a series of face-to-face meetings and teleconferences last summer about the potential for a similar partnership. This culminated in the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, thereby formally establishing the consortium in May.

Our early conversations about the consortium identified a number of areas where we could offer support and resources. After careful review of these alternatives, the deans selected experiential and active learning as an initiating project to get the consortium started. Last month, we invited two faculty representatives from each college to participate in a workshop at the Airlie Conference Center in Northern Virginia. They were asked to draft a plan to improve student experiential learning that incorporates technical and non-technical learning, wellness, and an appreciation of diversity and the ability to deal with a diverse social environment.

During a productive workshop, faculty members developed a vision, objectives, and an implementation plan for a project that will vertically integrate all four years of the veterinary curriculum through active and experiential learning. Representatives from our college included Dr. Kemba Clapp, clinical assistant professor of radiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, and Dr. Megan Shepherd, clinical assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. We look forward to engaging additional faculty from our college in the near future.

The next step will be for the five deans to meet in conjunction with the AVMA Annual Convention in San Antonio on Aug. 8 to consider the faculty working group’s proposal. Although these efforts are just now getting off the ground, I am truly excited about their potential to enhance veterinary medical education at the college and beyond.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean


Featured Stories

S. Ansar Ahmed

S. Ansar Ahmed named associate dean for research and graduate studies

S. Ansar Ahmed, of Blacksburg, Virginia, has been named associate dean for research and graduate studies at the veterinary college. He currently serves as head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

In his new position, Ahmed will be responsible for developing and administering the veterinary college's research and graduate education missions. He will partner with university-wide offices to integrate college research into university focus areas with particular emphasis on fostering interdisciplinary and translational research, expanding intramural and extramurally funded research, and developing the research infrastructure and expertise necessary to compete successfully for federal research project funding.

Ahmed will also oversee the college's biomedical and veterinary sciences M.S. and Ph.D. programs, as well as collaborative programs involving other colleges on campus and other universities. The new position becomes effective July 25.

Read more about Ahmed’s recent appointment.

Greg Daniel (left), professor and head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, and Tina Conway (right), veterinary internal medicine specialist at VCA Veterinary Referral Associates, hope their research on hyperthyroidism will help cats like Trixie.

Clinical research partnership aims to help hyperthyroid cats

A common form of treatment for cats with overactive thyroids may not be working for some patients and may be causing secondary problems for others. Veterinarians at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech and the VCA Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg, Maryland, are hoping their clinical research will address these gaps in treatment.

“Traditionally, most places across the country who treat hyperthyroid cats with radioiodine give a fixed dose,” said Greg Daniel, professor of radiology and head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. “While a fixed dose is effective in eliminating the hyperthyroidism, there is a concern that we are overtreating the cats. The ‘one dose fits all’ approach results in an unacceptable number of treated cats — around 30 percent — becoming hypothyroid. By using the fixed dose, we tend to give more radioiodine than needed for a large proportion of cats, yet for a small number of cats that remain hyperthyroid, we are giving less than we should.”

Read more about the college’s clinical research to improve treatment for hyperthyroid cats.

Regenerative medicine researchers Linda Dahlgren (right) and Bruno Menarim (left) are studying the potential of stem cells to repair equine injuries.

Regenerative medicine research offers hope for injured horses

When an equine athlete has a joint, tendon, or ligament injury, the results can be career-ending. Veterinary researchers are investigating how to use regenerative medicine to stimulate the natural repair mechanisms in horses with joint injuries or inflammation. One area of focus is on the use of adult stem cells for the treatment of soft tissue injuries in horses.

“Stem cells can be used for any type of tissue repair, but my work specifically deals with tendons and ligaments because these are a common source of tissue damage in horses,” said Linda Dahlgren, associate professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

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 health fat tissue or bone marrow and inject them directly into the damaged tissue. Recently, Dahlgren and her colleagues have turned their attention to how these stem cells interact with neighboring cells once injected back into the horse.

Read more about Dahlgren’s stem cell research and a profile on regenerative medicine graduate student Bruno Menarim in the latest issue of TRACKS magazine.

The new small animal surgery and medicine interns pictured are (left to right) Jacqueline Cavalcanti, Brooke Robertson, Kayla Waler, and Matthew Ford.
The new large animal interns are (left to right) Stephanie Mayard and Hannah Hinson.

Veterinary Teaching Hospital welcomes new interns

The college welcomed seven new interns at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital:

  • Jacqueline Cavalcanti has joined the college as an intern in small animal medicine and surgery. She comes to the college from Michigan State University where she completed a small animal oncology internship. She received her DVM from Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro in 2007, completed a two-year surgical training program, and worked for six years as a practitioner and surgeon in Brazil.
  • Matthew Ford has joined the college as an intern in small animal medicine and surgery. He received his DVM from Michigan State University and his bachelor’s degree in biology from Illinois State University.
  • Hannah Hinson has joined the college as an equine field service intern. She received her DVM and bachelor’s degree in animal science from North Carolina State University.
  • Stephanie Mayard has joined the college as an intern in production management medicine. She received her DVM from Purdue University and her bachelor’s degree in animal biology from the University of Florida.
  • Brittanie Partridge has joined the college as an intern in small animal oncology. She comes to the college from North Houston Veterinary Specialists where she completed a small animal medicine and surgery internship. She received her DVM from Kansas State University and her bachelor’s degree from Elmira College. 
  • Brooke Robertson has joined the college as an intern in small animal medicine and surgery. She received her DVM from Mississippi State University and bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
  • Kayla Waler has joined the college as an intern in small animal medicine and surgery. She received her DVM from Auburn University and her bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from the University of Florida.

Alumni Corner

Lisa Carter (DVM ’87) sings and plays guitar with her band Kiz Carter & Juke Jackson.

Alumni Society president Lisa Carter (DVM ’87) is committed to service

Lisa Glasscock Carter graduated with her doctor of veterinary medicine degree in 1987 with the fourth graduating class from the veterinary college, quickly becoming an integral member of the Virginia veterinary community. Throughout her career, she has served as president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA), the Virginia Delegate to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and received the Virginia Distinguished Veterinarian of the Year Award in 2008.

In February 2016, Carter was elected president of the Alumni Society Board, which oversees all alumni events, activities, charitable giving, and communication for the veterinary school’s alumni community. Carter has been a member of the board since 2008 and also served previously on the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2009-2015.

Read more about Carter’s service to the veterinary profession and musical talents.

Alumnae Carmen Ledesma-Feliciano (left) and Sue VandeWoude (right) reconnect with X.J. Meng (center), University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, at the American Society for Virology annual meeting in Blacksburg.

Carmen Ledesma-Feliciano (DVM ’12) returns to alma mater for virology meeting

Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Ledesma-Feliciano began her undergraduate career at the University of Puerto Rico before transferring to the University of Maryland at College Park, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in pre-professional animal sciences in 2006. After graduating, Ledesma-Feliciano worked with research animal care company Priority One Services at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland before applying to the veterinary college. While at the college as a public/corporate tracker, she completed fourth-year rotations with the Department of Homeland Security, where she ran qualitative risk assessments for wildlife trade, and Johns Hopkins University, where she did both lab animal and pathology rotations. She also worked with both the Virginia Tech Fish and Wildlife Conservation Department and the USDA. After graduating with her DVM in 2012, Ledesma-Feliciano began a combined lab animal residency and Ph.D. program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she works in alumna Sue VandeWoude's (DVM ’86) Feline Retrovirus Laboratory.

Ledesma-Feliciano was recently at Virginia Tech for the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society for Virology, which attracted over 1,200 scientists to the Blacksburg campus from June 18-22.

You’re here for the American Society for Virology (ASV) meeting?

Yes, they do their annual meeting in different places. They had it at Colorado State a couple years ago, and so they’re doing it this year here, and I was presenting a talk on Feline Foamy Virus, which is what I’m doing my Ph.D.  work on now… It’s called that because the cells in vitro look foamy when they are infected. It’s a common contaminant of cell cultures actually, so a lot of people hate it. But it’s my virus, so I like it. I started doing my work with [Sue VandeWoude] halfway through my residency, and now that I’ve finished my residency last year, I’m a full Ph.D. student in her lab. I just finished prelims… so now I’m just strictly doing research and writing grants.

Read the full Q&A with Carmen Ledesma-Feliciano.

Around the College

College hosts visiting scholars from India

Visiting scholars from India gained valuable clinical experiences at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital during their recent four-week stay in Blacksburg. The students were here as part of a collaborative student and faculty exchange program with Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Chennai, India. Pictured, from left to right: Noah Pavlisko, assistant professor of veterinary anesthesiology; Abinaya Kaliappan; Jayakrishnan Appukuttan Nair; Cyril Clarke, dean of the veterinary college; Krishna Padmakumar; Kavin Thangavel; and Hollie Schramm, clinical assistant professor of production management medicine.

Governor’s School for Agriculture offers a glimpse into veterinary medicine

The veterinary college welcomed guests from the Governor’s School for Agriculture to its Blacksburg campus this month. These rising high school juniors and seniors from across the commonwealth spent some time at the college to learn about human and animal health, common diseases of cats and dogs, pet first aid, large animal medicine, life as a veterinary student, and more.

AVMA launches new database for veterinary clinical trials

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has debuted a new veterinary clinical trials database, which will serve as a resource for veterinarians and animal owners exploring options for treatment and for researchers seeking animals to participate in clinical studies. Clinical research opportunities at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine are available on the database. Learn more about this new initiative.

College offers thanks at Staff Appreciation Picnic

This month, the college honored staff employees and their service at an annual Staff Appreciation Picnic at the Vet Med Grove. The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has approximately 340 staff members at its Blacksburg campus who make invaluable contributions to the college’s day-to-day operations and its teaching, research, and service missions.

Awards & Activities

Rosie Barwick with a patient at the Equine Medical Center

Rosie Barwick named July Staff Member of the Month

As a veterinary service technician at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Rosie Barwick has to be skilled in many areas. Her nominator describes how “She… has amazing multitasking skills and can keep simultaneous cases with multiple doctors running smoothly. Rosie is also an excellent communicator and keeps everyone updated with plans for patient care, appointment scheduling, and details about the cases.” She is also extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of equine medicine.

In addition, Barwick inspires others through her own actions to treat everyone kindly and with respect. Her nominator explains that “This attribute in particular facilitates service teamwork, which results in the best patient and client care.” Because of her expertise and dedication to all aspects of her job, “Rosie is the ‘glue’ that holds the Surgery Two service together, and the EMC is lucky to have her on the team.”

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

More Awards & Activities

Jennifer Barrett, the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, gave an invited lecture on stem cell treatment and platelet rich plasma therapy at the 38th Bain Fallon Memorial Lectures at the Pullman and Mercure Melbourne in Albert Park, Victoria, Australia, on July 17-21. In addition, Lauren Groom, surgery resident, presented a clinical paper on “Accuracy of open MRI for guiding injection of the equine deep digital flexor tendon within the hoof.” The event is a continuing education opportunity for veterinarians and attracts over 200 veterinary professionals each year.

Jennifer Hodgson, associate dean for professional programs, and Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services, participated in a webinar hosted by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges on “Diversity and Inclusion on Air: Conversations about Diversity, Inclusion, and Veterinary Medicine,” on July 7. They shared information about changes and outcomes in the college’s DVM program admissions process.

Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, gave several presentations at the first Women's Veterinary Summit, hosted by the Western veterinary conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.


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Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

  • Dean: Cyril R. Clarke
  • Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
  • Managing Editor: Michael Sutphin
  • Web Editor: Alison Elward
  • Assistant Editor: Kelsey Foster
  • Contributors: Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Michael Sutphin
  • Photography: Lisa Carter, Tina Conway, Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Carmen Ledesma-Feliciano, Sharon Peart, Megan Quesenberry, Jim Stroup, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace
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