Vital Signs: July 2017 Vol. 6, Issue 7

A message from Dean Cyril Clarke

Our Commitment to One Health

Dear friends and colleagues,

In order to solve the health challenges facing an increasingly complex and connected world, veterinarians, physicians, public health professionals, and scientists must work together using an interdisciplinary One Health approach. The American Veterinary Medical Association defines One Health as “the integrative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment.” By training professionals in comparative medicine, veterinary colleges such as ours are leaders in One Health.

While most veterinary schools emphasize One Health, this develops in distinctive ways at each institution. Our Master of Public Health (MPH) program, for example, is grounded in a One Health approach and offers concentrations in public health education and infectious disease. Not only is it the first accredited MPH program at a veterinary college in the U.S., but we are working to build on this success through the launch of a public health bachelor’s degree program, which is now moving through the university’s governance system.

Our public health program is delivered in partnership with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) in Roanoke. Veterinary college faculty also provide instruction in the VTCSOM curriculum, further strengthening the bonds between the two colleges under the One Health banner. Similarly, we recently expanded our collaboration with the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) with the opening of the Center for One Health Research at one of the veterinary college’s original buildings in Blacksburg. The building was renovated to include five multi-investigator laboratory spaces for VCOM and veterinary college faculty to conduct joint research.

The college is also preparing veterinary students to make important contributions to One Health. While all of our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students gain an understanding of the connections between animal, public, and environmental health, graduates from our public and corporate veterinary medicine track are particularly well prepared to advance One Health through careers in government, industry, academia, nonprofits, and international organizations. Our DVM students can also travel to India and South America as part of student exchange programs designed to build on the strengths of the college and our partner institutions abroad and emphasize the role of One Health in solving global healthcare challenges.

Our faculty researchers are also conducting clinical trials in areas of cardiology, oncology, and medicine where advances in veterinary medicine may translate into new treatments and diagnostic tools in human medicine. Likewise, members of our Collaborative Research Network, which was established to enable specialty practices in Virginia and Maryland to partner with college researchers, are participating in cutting-edge clinical research and using naturally-occurring diseases in animals as models of human disease. We are also substantive participants in the Global Systems Science destination area, which was recently selected as a university-wide area of emphasis that is “focused on critical problems that cross the nexus of natural and human systems.”

By providing novel approaches to understanding and solving complex health challenges, our One Health strategy has played a critical role in the veterinary college’s development over the years and will continue to influence our forward progress. As dean, I am proud of our formal partnerships with the public health and human medicine communities because these collaborations serve as bridges between veterinary medicine and the broader domain of population health. I look forward to seeing where our students, faculty members, and alumni who are committed to One Health take the veterinary and public health professions in the years to come.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean


Featured Stories

students Qinghui Mu and Veronica Ringel-Scaia
Ph.D. students Qinghui Mu and Veronica Ringel-Scaia conduct research at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Graduate students awarded prestigious immunology fellowships

Two graduate students conducting research at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have received prestigious 2017 American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Careers in Immunology Fellowships.

Qinghui Mu of Shandong Province, China, is a Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Xin Luo, assistant professor of immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. Veronica Ringel-Scaia of Columbus, Ohio, is a Translational Biology Medicine and Health (TBMH) doctoral student in Virginia Tech’s Graduate School, and works with Irving Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

The fellowship is designed to support the career development of young scientists by providing one year of salary support and is awarded based on proposed project merit, candidate potential, and training environment quality. Only 45 fellowships are awarded nationally each year.

Read more about the immunology fellowships.

Valerie Ragan receives AVMA public service award
Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, was congratulated by René Carlson, AVMA past president, at the AVMA Convention in Indianapolis.

Valerie Ragan honored with AVMA’s 2017 Public Service Award

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) presented Valerie Ragan, director of the veterinary college’s Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, with its 2017 Public Service Award this month. The AVMA Public Service Award recognizes an AVMA member for outstanding public service while an employee of a government agency or for education of veterinarians in public service activities.

Ragan, who is an associate professor of practice in the Department of Population Health Sciences, focuses on veterinary public practice, including providing opportunities for student engagement in national and international veterinary and animal health organizations. She offers counseling and training for veterinarians wishing to make career changes. Ragan also works around the world on the control and eradication of brucellosis and on projects related to building veterinary capacity.

After completed her doctor of veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia in 1983, Ragan started out as a small animal practitioner before transitioning to veterinary services with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. She rose to assistant deputy administrator of veterinary services, serving as the national coordinator of animal health surveillance and establishing the National Surveillance Unit at the USDA Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health. Ragan then led a veterinary consulting company engaged in resolving animal health issues and building international veterinary capacity before joining the veterinary college faculty in 2009.

Dean Cyril Clarke releases statement on Sports Hall of Fame

Cyril Clarke, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, recently released the following statement:

“The recent decision to induct Michael Vick into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame has generated a tremendous response from both the veterinary community and those who share our commitment to animal welfare and promoting the humane treatment of animals. The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine was not part of the nomination process nor the decision, which was made by a committee of past athletes. The college unequivocally opposes honoring an individual whose past actions contradict our values and the cornerstone of our mission. Over the course of several days, I have communicated with President Sands and other campus administrators to express our disappointment and opposition to this decision. I continue to be in conversations with the president regarding this issue.

“The College of Veterinary Medicine will continue to stand behind our mission and advocate for an alternative outcome. Our mission has not changed and we will continue to work tirelessly to advance programs that promote the welfare of animals and be a strong voice that reflects our unified commitment to compassionate care and our dedication and respect for the animal lives that benefit from the education and care we deliver.”

Lauren Dodd posing with a group of Mission Rabies volunteers
Lauren Dodd (front row, left) poses with other members of the Brief Media volunteer team. Learn more about their work in Malawi on the team's Mission Rabies blog.

Nutrition resident Lauren Dodd volunteers with Mission Rabies in Malawi

Saving human lives isn’t always in a veterinarian’s job description, but Lauren Dodd of Sugar Land, Texas, resident of clinical nutrition in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and master’s candidate in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences Graduate Program and Public Health Program, has been doing just that through her work with Mission Rabies in Blantyre, Malawi.

Based out of the United Kingdom, Mission Rabies is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving both human and animal lives by eliminating rabies by 2030. “Every year people die from rabies. In some locations, healthy dogs are inhumanely killed to try and alleviate the problem, however, the disease still persists. Most human cases are due to infected dog bites. If the canine population is vaccinated this has been shown to alleviate the problem, thereby saving human and canine lives,” explained Dodd, who first became interested in international work when she joined the International Veterinary Students' Association (IVSA) in veterinary college. “I went to the IVSA symposium in South Africa, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of veterinary medicine.”

Mission Rabies launched its first campaign in India in 2013 and has since conducted clinics in Sri Lanka, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi. Blantyre, Malawi was selected because “it is a hotspot for rabies,” said Dodd. “At one point, the highest number of child rabies cases in Africa was reported from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre.”

Read more about Dodd’s volunteer work with Mission Rabies.

demonstrators advocate for increased international vaccine distribution
Demonstrators cheer for government officials to ramp up international vaccine distribution efforts. Photo by Russell Watkins / Department for International Development.

New study maps out core concepts in the vaccination debate

The recent measles outbreak in Minnesota — by June, new cases of the disease in that state surpassed nationwide totals for all of 2016 — has been a sobering reminder of how highly concentrated populations of vaccination skeptics can elevate an entire community’s risk of infection.

Around the edges of every headline-grabbing outbreak, there’s a vast range of opinions being circulated about the risks and benefits of early childhood immunization. The vaccination debate maintains a constant presence on social media platforms like Twitter, where people on both sides frequently share articles and blog posts to support their stance on the issue.

These varied viewpoints caught the attention of scientists at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech who are conducting a three-year study on the ways online interactions influence our beliefs. Their latest research, published in the journal Vaccine, attempts to break down the ideas that are most closely associated with a pro- or anti-immunization stance. The group’s findings suggest that the debate around vaccination may hinge more on different understandings of risk, responsibility, and credibility than any particular set of scientific data.

“When we mapped out how these arguments are structured, we found that anti-vaccination content tended to focus on children and their need to be protected,” said Gloria Kang, a Ph.D. candidate at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “Pro-vaccination content, on the other hand, centered on parents and their obligation to keep kids’ immunizations up-to-date — so the basic notion of whose interests are at stake in this debate are completely flipped.”

Read more about the collaborative vaccine research.

Welcome to the College

Kiri DeBose
Kiri DeBose

Kiri DeBose named head of veterinary medicine library

Kiri DeBose has been named the head of the veterinary medicine library at Virginia Tech. DeBose completed a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Maryland at College Park.

DeBose also worked as a veterinary technician for VCA Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg, Maryland and has experience as a horse trainer. In 2005, she started as Virginia Tech as the librarian for the College of Natural Resources and Environment before expanding her responsibilities in the areas of animal and poultry sciences, dairy science, and veterinary medicine.

Maureen Kelleher
Maureen Kelleher

Maureen Kelleher joins college as equine sports medicine specialist

Maureen Kelleher has joined the veterinary college as an equine sports medicine specialist for the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg. A board-certified equine surgeon, Kelleher completed a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of California at Davis, an internship at Pioneer Equine Hospital, and a surgical residency at the University of California at Davis. She has years of experience in large equine private practice in California with a focus on equine sports medicine and lameness, advanced diagnostic imaging, and acupuncture.

In her new role, Kelleher will specialize in the assessment and orthopedic surgical treatment of performance-limiting problems in sports horses. She will work closely with the center’s therapeutic farrier team and its medicine and surgical clinical teams, utilizing diagnostic imaging capabilities at the center to provide equine patients with advanced diagnostic capability.

Around the College

Veterinary college librarian Vicki Kok retires after 45 years of service

Faculty, staff, and friends of the college gathered in July to celebrate the career and retirement of Vicki Kok, head of the veterinary medicine library. Kok, whose career at the veterinary medicine librarian predates the formal establishment of the veterinary college, was recognized for 45 years of service to the university. In addition to her managerial, reference, and collection development duties at the veterinary college’s Blacksburg campus and the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Kok taught a graduate course on biomedical literature and moderated VETLIB-L, a discussion and resource-sharing forum for animal health information specialists.

Alumni connect with college at AVMA Convention in Indianapolis

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine had a strong showing at the American Veterinary Medical Association Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana in July. Pictured here, the college hosted a reception for 40 alumni and friends at Primanti Bros. in Indianapolis.

Summer campers from Science Museum of Western Virginia visit college

Participants in a summer camp at the Science Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke visited the veterinary college this month. The campers toured the surgery suite and the anatomy preparation area in the Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition, where they also had beetle demonstrations and a skeleton repair exercise. They also visited the clinical skills laboratory and the multi-disciplinary laboratory, where they learned about the skills needed to become a veterinarian.

Governor’s School for Agriculture offers a peek 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 time at the college to learn about animal and human health, veterinary medicine, and life as a veterinary student.

Awards & Activities

X.J. Meng
X.J. Meng

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights X.J. Meng’s work

Trained in both human medical and veterinary sciences, Xiang-Jin Meng has made numerous contributions to the field of comparative viral pathogenesis. His achievements concerning emerging, reemerging, and zoonotic viral diseases include the discovery of swine and avian hepatitis E viruses (HEV) and the invention of a commercial vaccine against porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2), a common pathogen reported in pigs.

For these and other accomplishments, Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016. Meng’s inaugural article reports the establishment of an animal model for chronic HEV, a virus that causes more than 20 million liver infections in humans each year. The chronic hepatitis E model will help test promising antiviral drugs against this infectious agent, which in its zoonotic genotypes can infect several animal species.

Read the full profile on Meng in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Susan Egerton and EMC Director Mike Erskine

Susan Egerton named July Staff Member of the Month

In her position as the client care and patient services coordinator at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Susan Egerton serves as a leader and role model for all of her colleagues. During a recent renovation project, Egerton was a team player, flexible, and eager to learn new skills. Egerton “has exhibited all of these qualities and more as she has lead us through a challenging time,” her nominator explained.

These qualities are especially significant because Egerton was physically isolated from the rest of her coworkers while the construction was ongoing. Despite this challenge, Egerton still remained a positive leader for the admissions team. “Her grace and positive communication skills have been greatly appreciated by her coworkers,” said her nominator.

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

More Awards & Activities

Several faculty and staff members at the veterinary college completed certificate programs through University Organizational and Professional Development:

  • Jennifer Averill, safety and emergency coordinator, Customer Service Excellence Certificate and Diversity Advocate Certificate
  • Cynthia Booth, executive assistant for the Office of Advancement, Diversity Ally and Diversity Advocate Certificates
  • Amy Burchett, director of budget and finance, Research Administrator Level II
  • Sharon Carbaugh, fiscal technician, Diversity Ally and Diversity Advocate Certificates
  • Kemba Clapp, assistant professor of radiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Diversity Ambassador Certificate
  • Deborah Coley, laboratory technician with the Veterinary Medicine Experiment Station, Diversity Ally and Diversity Advocate Certificates
  • Jessica Crawford, grants contracts officer, Research Administrator Level I and Level II
  • Lynett Cruise, human resources director, Diversity Advocate Certificate
  • Hannah Menefee, public health program project coordinator, Diversity Ally Certificate
  • Heather Parrish, administrative assistant for the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Customer Service Excellence Certificate and Diversity Advocate Certificate
  • Maureen Perry, pharmacy supervisor at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Diversity Ally and Diversity Advocate Certificates
  • Allison Price, glassware technician with the Veterinary Medicine Experiment Station, Diversity Advocate Certificate
  • Susan Rosebrough, graduate program coordinator, Diversity Advocate Certificate
  • Tammy Stevers, public health program and administrative assistant, Administrative Professional Development Program Certificate
  • Doris Tickle, laboratory technician at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Diversity Advocate Certificate

Cao D, Cao QM, Subramaniam S, Yugo DM, Heffron CL, Rogers AJ, Kenney SP, Tian D, Matzinger SR, Overend C, Catanzaro N, LeRoith T, Wang H, Piñeyro P, Lindstrom N, Clark-Deener S, Yuan L, Meng XJ. “Pig model mimicking chronic hepatitis E virus infection in immunocompromised patients to assess immune correlates during chronicity.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. July 3, 2017;114(27):6914-6923. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1705446114. Epub June 19, 2017.

Sharon Deem (DVM ’88), director of the Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine and president of the American College of Zoological Medicine, was featured in a behind-the-scene article about zoo veterinarians published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). According to Deem, the body of literature in zoological medicine has grown in the past decade, but most zoo veterinarians remain general practitioners. “There are many clinical zoo veterinarians that may have one field project in which they contribute to free-living population conservation,” Deem said. “Someone like myself and increasingly other vets have developed programs in which we focus more on population-level health care and not just the individual animal in our collections.” Read the full article in JAVMA.

Marmagas SW, Gohlke, J. “Home radon levels in Appalachia: A random sample of homes in Tazewell County, Virginia. American Public Health Association.” Poster presentation. Nov. 6, 2017.

Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine gave three presentations at the annual AVMA Convention in Indianapolis. Two were related to career transition, and the third was on preparing the next generation of veterinarians to contribute to global food security, which was presented at the Global Health Summit.

Upcoming Events

August 25 – VA-MD Vet Med White Coat Ceremony
Blacksburg, VA
August 253rd Annual Small Animal Summer Conference for Veterinarians
Blacksburg, VA and Leesburg, VA
August 26 – VMCVM Alumni Society & Office of Advancement Welcome Back Picnic
Blacksburg, VA
September 3 – Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia pre-game tailgate hosted by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health (RSVP to
Fed Ex Field, Hyattsville, MD
September 15-16 – Alumni reunions for Classes of ’87, ’92, ’97, ’02, ’07, and ’12
Blacksburg, VA
October 5-6 – Mentor Workshop
Blacksburg, VA
November 10-12Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference
Williamsburg, VA
November 18 – Pre-game tailgate for Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburg (registration forthcoming)
VA-MD Vet Med, Blacksburg, VA


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
  • Contributors: Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Sharon Peart, Dan Rosplock, Michael Sutphin
  • Photography/Videography: Lynn Blevins, Brief Media, Alison Elward, Emily Koth, Sharon Peart, Megan Quesenberry, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace
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