Vital Signs

June 2013

An accomplished team

Dr. Gerhardt G. SchurigDear friends and colleagues,

We ended the latest academic year on a high point: our 30th annual commencement ceremony. For three decades now, the college has recognized its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine graduates in front of friends and family for all of their hard work during the previous four years.

As you know, I decided earlier this year to step down after serving as both interim dean and dean since 2003. I am pleased to report that the search for my successor has turned up three candidates from a large pool of highly qualified applicants. Each had a campus interview in June. Below you will find more information about the open forum presentations for the candidates. The campus interviews have been live-streamed and recorded for online viewing. The search process was carried out by the provost's office underlining the importance of the search to the campus.

Recently, the college also received some exciting news about our Master of Public Health program. The Council on Education for Public Health accredited the program at its June 6-8 meeting. Many stakeholders played a key role in this exciting milestone, including contributions from faculty, staff, students, alumni, administrators, and community members. This milestone would not have been possible without their help. The program launched in 2010 to address the shortage of trained public health professionals, especially in Southwest Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. We are excited to see what these graduates will accomplish with their advanced training in public health education and infectious disease, and we look forward to the future of this program now that it has achieved full accreditation.

Within the next year, we will begin a similar process with the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. The American Veterinary Medical Association's Council on Education will make a seven-year site visit in the fall of 2014. This process will involve a comprehensive self-study of our program with input from many groups, including our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. As many of you know, the college has also received accreditation from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care for its research labs and recently celebrated 25 consecutive years of accreditation from the American Animal Hospital Association for its small animal hospital.

All of these efforts — from our graduation, to our dean's search, to our accreditations — bring attention to the college's world-class education and research programs and its dedicated supporters. As always, thank you for your efforts on behalf of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Best regards,

Gerhardt G. Schurig, DVM, Ph.D.

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In This Issue



Featured Stories

Campus interviews underway for three dean finalists

Finalists for college dean search

(left to right) Dr. Christopher Olsen, Dr. Cyril Clarke, and Dr. Donald Reynolds were selected for campus interviews by the search committee looking for the college's next dean.

The search committee looking for the college's next dean selected three candidates for campus interviews. Each candidate is spending time at Virginia Tech as well as the University of Maryland, College Park.

University and community members were invited to attend each candidate's open forum presentation on "The Future of Veterinary Medicine: Educational, Clinical, and Research Opportunities." Recordings of the sessions are available online.

The three finalists will give their open presentations at the following dates:

Read more about the finalists for the dean's search.

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Dr. X.J. Meng honored as University Distinguished Professor

Dr. X.J. Meng

Dr. X.J. Meng has been named a University Distinguished Professor by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. Since joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 1999, Meng has been involved with more than $40 million in research grants.

If not for his discovery of the "fascinating world of viruses," Dr. X.J. Meng might have been a surgeon.

Instead, he is one of those rare individuals trained both in human medicine through a medical school and animal medicine through his Ph.D. studies in a veterinary school.

Meng is a professor of molecular virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. He has also been named a University Distinguished Professor by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, a rank bestowed on no more than one percent of faculty whose scholarly attainments have attracted national and international recognition. Meng is the first from the veterinary college to hold the prestigious title.

Meng's long list of achievements includes the discovery of two new viruses and the invention of the first fully-licensed U.S. Department of Agriculture commercial vaccine against a deadly swine disease. He has been involved in more than $40 million in research grants and has served as the major professor for 18 graduate students.

Read more about Meng's extraordinary accomplishments at the veterinary college.

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Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition earns LEED Silver certification

Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition

The Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition received the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

The Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition has received the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

The 30,000-square-foot building opened last fall and now serves as the main entrance to the veterinary college. It is the seventh facility on Virginia Tech's campus to earn LEED certification.

"We are excited to have not only a quality, state-of-the-art building for our veterinary students and faculty, but also this recognition for the architectural, design, and construction team's hard work to build this facility with sustainability in mind," said Mike Harness, associate dean for finance and administration.

Read more about the new building's sustainable features.

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College seeks to alleviate plight of unwanted horse population

Equine Gelding Clinic

A student takes the vital signs of one of 15 stallions that participated in the veterinary college's second annual Equine Gelding Clinic on April 13.

Tens of thousands of horses in the United States, including many in Virginia and Maryland, are unwanted. Some of them are healthy, genetically superior horses that are too expensive or difficult to manage for their owners, while others are victims of illness, disability, or indiscriminate breeding.

Dr. Julie Settlage, clinical assistant professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, hopes to change that.

In recent years, she has worked to address this problem in Virginia's New River Valley region with Equine Gelding Clinics, the most recent of which was held in mid-April. These events bring together clinicians and students at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, along with veterinary practitioners in the region, to provide no-cost castration services on a referral basis to horse owners who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Read more about the college's efforts to address equine overpopulation.

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Dr. Zenny Ng helps people through helping pets

Dr. Zenny Ng and Grace

Dr. Zenithson "Zenny" Ng with his certified therapy dog, Grace.

Some people know from an early age what their destiny in life is. For Dr. Zenithson "Zenny" Ng of Rockaway N.J., a third-year clinical resident, that destiny was to become a veterinarian.

As a child, the northern New Jersey native asked his parents if he could have a dog. Not quite as pet-minded as their son, they told him that in order to get a dog, he had to write a 10-page essay about why he wanted one. Not easily deterred from his ownership goal, he did. He also got his dog.

Ng's determination did not stop there. His eighth grade science fair project measured classmates' blood pressure as they interacted with a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, or fish. His master's thesis at the veterinary college investigated the effect of pet therapy on salivary cortisol levels and behavior patterns of dogs themselves. Ng has dedicated his academic and professional career to the study of companion animals and their relationships with humans.

Read more about Ng's work on the human-animal bond.

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Dr. Grant Turnwald

Dr. Grant Turnwald has made a gift to the college to recognize and reward innovation.

Development news: New endowment to recognize and reward innovation

Dr. Grant Turnwald, retired associate dean for academic affairs, has made a combination of outright and estate gifts to endow a new fund to recognize and reward innovation. The fund will recognize members of the college whose innovative thinking and actions have resulted in new programs, approaches, or ways of conducting business that can significantly enhance the college's mission. The top three finalists, as chosen by a committee, will be recognized and the top recipient will receive a financial award.

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Welcome to the College

Dr. Clayton Caswell

Dr. Clayton Caswell, assistant professor of bacteriology

Dr. Clayton Caswell joins college as assistant professor of bacteriology

Dr. Clayton Caswell of Greenville, N.C., has joined the college as an assistant professor of bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. He comes to the college following a three-year stint as a postdoctoral scholar at East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Caswell's research focuses on Brucella abortus, a bacterium responsible for reproductive problems in cattle and undulant fever in humans. He hopes to characterize the genetic mechanisms that enable this pathogen to live inside of host cells during chronic infection. Caswell is particularly interested in how small regulatory ribonucleic acids (RNAs) impact the biology of Brucella.

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Dr. Erin Champagne

Dr. Erin Champagne, assistant professor of ophthalmology

Dr. Erin Champagne returns to college to operate auxiliary ophthalmology service

Dr. Erin Champagne of Blacksburg, Va., has returned to the college as an assistant professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. Champagne, a seasoned ophthalmologist who was a faculty member at the college in the 1990s, will be responsible for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital's new auxiliary ophthalmology service.

Bringing more than 20 years of experience to the veterinary college, Champagne most recently filled in as an ophthalmologist at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and served as a consultant for a pharmaceutical company. In her new role, she will oversee a supplementary service that allows the teaching hospital to manage an increased caseload in its popular ophthalmology area.

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Dr. Mike Erskine

Dr. Mike Erskine, interim director of the Equine Medical Center

Dr. Mike Erskine named interim director of Equine Medical Center

Veterinarian and equine specialist Dr. Michael D. Erskine has been named interim director of Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va.

Erskine began his new position on May 20, and he is working on reorganizing, stabilizing, and enhancing the efficiency of activities at the center. Under his leadership, the Equine Medical Center will be actively communicating and promoting its activities to referring veterinarians and clients in order to be the medical center of choice for the equine community.

Erskine is an active member of the Equine Medical Center Advisory Council and serves on the council's Executive Committee. As an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, he majored in biology and then graduated from the veterinary college in 1988. He currently serves as president of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and chairs the Maryland Veterinary Foundation. A member of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association and the Maryland Horse Council, he is also a past president of both organizations.

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College graduates its 30th DVM class

Veterinarian's Oath

The DVM Class of 2013 took the Veterinarian's Oath during the commencement ceremony held on Friday, May 17. The Class of 2013 became the veterinary college's 30th graduating class during commencement ceremonies that also included a hooding ceremony, remarks from special guests, and recognition for the college's valedictorian and outstanding recent alumna. The college's Master of Public Health, Master of Science, and Ph.D. students were also recognized earlier in the day. Learn more about the graduation ceremony, view photos on Flickr, and watch a video of the Class of 2013 taking the oath.

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Government delegation from India visits college

Government delegation from India

A government delegation from India visited Virginia Tech on May 23-25 to discuss an ongoing collaboration between the university and the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Chennai, India. The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, whose flagship facility is located on Tech's campus, began a partnership with the Indian university six years ago that has grown to include a collaborative student and faculty exchange program. The visit comes on the heels of a recent announcement that the Tamil Nadu government would introduce regenerative medicine in veterinary care and will develop a Stem Cell Research Center, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country. Read more about the India delegation's visit.

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Human-animal bond symposium comes to Blacksburg

Human-animal bond symposium

The college's Center for Animal Human Relationships presented a one-day symposium, The Human-Animal Experience: Exploring the Bond, on May 3. Experts from multidisciplinary fields gathered to explore the benefits and challenges of human-animal interactions, service, and therapies. The symposium included the Booker Willoughby Service Award Ceremony, which recognized excellence in training, utilizing, and caring for service animals. View a photo gallery from the symposium.

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Retired faculty and staff tour Hahn Horticulture Garden

Hahn Horticulture Garden tour

Retired faculty and staff from the veterinary college took a tour of the Hahn Horticulture Garden on Virginia Tech's campus on Wednesday, May 29. Named after former Virginia Tech First Lady Peggy Lee Hahn, the seven-acre garden is the largest public garden in western Virginia. The program was part of a series of events to give retired faculty and staff an opportunity to network with each other and connect with the institution where they devoted their careers. Retired faculty and staff members who would like to participate in future college events should contact Lynn Young, director of alumni relations, to learn more.

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Awards & Activities

Dalton Society recognizes Donna Pitt and Dr. Gerhardt Schurig

Dr. Gerhardt Schurig and Donna Pitt

Dean Gerhardt Schurig (top, right with Virginia Tech Provost Mark McNamee) and Donna Pitt (lower, left) were inducted into the college's John N. Dalton Society to recognize their distinguished service to the college.

The Dalton Society, which exists to recognize individuals who have performed the most distinguished service to the college, recognized Donna S. Pitt and Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig at this year's graduation ceremony.

Pitt played a central role in the founding of the college and served for 29 years as executive administrator and chief financial officer to all three deans who led the college since its establishment in 1978. She helped foster and enhance strategic relationships and alliances with leaders throughout higher education, government, business, and the veterinary profession so that the college would grow and prosper into a nationally respected institution. Pitt was in charge of the college's budget, financial operation, personnel, capital planning, and construction activities.

Also inducted into the Dalton Society was Dean Gerhardt Schurig. Schurig announced earlier this year that he would step down as the college's third dean after serving with distinction in that role since 2004. A professor of immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Schurig is internationally renowned for his work in developing vaccines that are now seen as the "gold standard" against bovine brucellosis. He has 35 years of research and administration experience with the college and has led it through a period of growth and change that resulted in new buildings and new initiatives in the areas of translational medicine, public health, international outreach, and the "one health" initiative.

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Dr. Jennifer Landolfi

Dr. Jennifer Landolfi, Outstanding Recent Alumna

Landolfi named Outstanding Recent Alumna

Dr. Jennifer Landolfi was named the college's Outstanding Recent Alumna at this year's graduation ceremony. The award recognizes recent graduates who have distinguished themselves professionally in their careers since graduating.

After attending the University of Maryland for her bachelor's degree, Landolfi graduated from the veterinary college with her DVM in 2003. She then completed a zoological pathology residency at the University of Illinois and became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathology.

Landolfi is now a visiting clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine's veterinary diagnostic laboratory and a visiting research assistant professor of pharmacology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago campus.

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Long-time college supporter receives Virginia Tech's highest honor

Shelley Duke

Michelle "Shelley" Duke, 2013 recipient of the William H. Ruffner Medal

Michelle "Shelley" Duke of Middleburg, Va., was the 2013 recipient of Virginia Tech's highest honor, the William H. Ruffner Medal. Duke was recognized for the substantial difference she has made to the university through her volunteer service and support.

Duke's relationship with Virginia Tech spans more than 20 years and started when she began volunteering for and donating to the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va. An avid horse enthusiast, Duke has been director of the center's volunteer program and chair of the Equine Medical Center Council.

The Virginia Tech-related boards or committees on which Duke has served include the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors, the National Campaign Steering Committee for the university's past fundraising campaign, the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Council, the Middleburg Agricultural Research Extension Center board, the Olivio Ferrari Foundation Board of Directors, and the Dean's Advisory Council for the veterinary college. She has also served on the executive, academic affairs, research, nominating, and by-laws committees for the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

In addition to being the 2013 Ruffner Medal recipient, Duke was named an honorary alumna by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association in 2005—a distinction fewer than 15 people have received.

Read more about Duke's support for the college and university.

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College marks 25 years of hospital accreditation

25 years of hospital accreditation

The college's Small Animal Hospital has achieved accreditation by AAHA for 25 consecutive years.

The veterinary college is earning recognition for practicing the gold standard of veterinary medicine at its Small Animal Hospital for 25 consecutive years.

Since 1988, the veterinary college has voluntarily submitted itself to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Standards of Accreditation. Achieving accreditation by AAHA is an important milestone to delivering quality pet care.

"This recognition further demonstrates our commitment to providing top-quality veterinary care to our (patients)," said Dr. F. William Pierson, director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. "As a teaching hospital, we not only provide veterinary students with valuable, hands-on learning experiences, but also offer the latest in services and technology to our patients."

The AAHA Standards of Accreditation, viewed as the standard of veterinary excellence, contain more than 900 individual standards, divided into 19 sections. These areas of focus include: patient care and pain management, surgery, pharmacy, laboratory, exam facilities, medical records, cleanliness, emergency services, dental care, diagnostic imaging, anesthesiology, and continuing education.

Read more about the hospital accreditation.

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Awards & Accolades

Class of 2013 valedictorian Dr. Lauren Abell of Pocomoke, Md., received the Richard B. Talbot Award for academic excellence in the student body.

Dr. S. Ansar Ahmed, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was named a Scholar of the Week by the Office of the Vice President for Research at Virginia Tech.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved promotion and tenure for Dr. Jennifer Barrett at its June 3 meeting. Barrett is now an associate professor of equine surgery at the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center.

Dr. Jennifer Barrett, associate professor of equine surgery, recently achieved diplomate status with the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, Equine Specialty.

The American Society for Microbiology and the Federation of European Microbiological Societies awarded Dr. Clayton Caswell, an assistant professor of bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, the Mäkelä-Cassell Travel Award for Early Career Scientists. Caswell is the first to receive the award and its accompanying $5,000 grant. He will attend the fifth Congress of European Microbiologists in Leipzig, Germany, July 21-25.

Dr. Kathy Hosig, associate professor of population health sciences, was named a Scholar of the Week by the Office of the Vice President for Research at Virginia Tech.

Alice Houk, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received the Byrd-Dunn Award for best graduate student research presentation at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Society of Parasitologists.

Dr. Thomas J. Inzana, a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was recently reappointed the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair in Bacteriology by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved a promotion for Dr. Tanya LeRoith at its June 3 meeting. She is now a clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Dr. Bess Pierce, associate professor of community practice, recently achieved diplomate status with the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, Canine Specialty.

The VT Helping P.A.W.S. team won second place graduate poster at the VT Engage Showcase event held at the Inn at Virginia Tech in April.

Dan Youngstrom, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received the Seventh Annual Storm Cat Career Development Award. The award is designed as an early boost to an individual considering a career in equine research.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved promotion and tenure for Dr. Lijuan Yuan at its June 3 meeting. She is now an associate professor of virology and immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

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Maryland Activities

Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, was invited to travel to Schaumburg, Ill., to address the American Veterinary Medical Association Executive Board about public and corporate veterinary medicine, including trends and opportunities for veterinarians.

Dr. Valerie Ragan traveled to Armenia in May as part of the grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Service to provide technical assistance for animal health capacity building in the Caucasus. Ragan conducted a workshop on the creation of standardized protocol development, working with an Armenian task force established to develop protocols for anthrax prevention and outbreak response. In this second workshop, the team worked to refine details on a draft protocol started earlier in the year after an initial workshop for the project.

Dr. Valerie Ragan traveled to Trinidad to participate in a meeting attended by 17 officials from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Food Production (including the minister) in Trinidad, as well as representatives of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the Pan American Health Organization. Dr. Mike Neafsey, then a fourth-year combined DVM and Master of Public Health student, also presented the findings from his research there over the past month. The veterinary college had agreed to assist Trinidad's Ministry of Food Production in obtaining baseline data to inform and make recommendations towards the development of a national brucellosis surveillance and eradication program, which was the focus of Neafsey's work. Ragan assisted Neafsey in presenting his findings and provided recommendations to officials. The country's Minister of Food Production stated that the data generated was sufficient and significant for the country.

Dr. Gary Vroegindewey, director of global health initiatives at the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, hosted 10 veterinary students in the national capital region on April 28-29 as they visited research facilities as part of the Summer Veterinary Student Research Program. In addition to those from the veterinary college, the students hailed from Kansas State University, and Mississippi State University and included one student in the college's combined DVM/Ph.D. program. They toured and met with applied and basic researchers, laboratory animal veterinarians, and veterinary pathologists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service, Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, National Institute of Health, and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.


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

Dean: Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig
Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
Director: Sherrie Whaley
Content Editor: Michael Sutphin
Web Editor: Alison Elward
Copy Editor: Carla Craft
Contributors: Carla Craft, Frank Pearsall, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley
Photographers: Alison Elward, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace, Amanda Loman, Sherrie Whaley, Jerry Baber, Lynn Young

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