Vital Signs: June 2015 Vol. 4, Issue 6

A message from Dean Cyril Clarke

An International Perspective

Dear friends and colleagues,

Veterinary medicine has always been a global profession, but with increased international trade and commerce, infectious disease threats, and public health and environmental issues, veterinarians are using their knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of a global society more than ever.

To address today’s challenges, we must work across disciplines and species (including the human species) and our scope must extend from local to global. Our veterinary and public health students must have opportunities for international educational experiences that enable them to manage current and emerging diseases worldwide and understand these diseases in diverse cultural and national contexts.

To meet this expectation, the college has two major international student exchanges:

  • Since 2007, we have sent eight students annually to gain clinical experience at the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) in Chennai, India. There they diagnose and treat diseases not commonly encountered in the United States. Similarly, eight TANUVAS students visit our Blacksburg campus each year to gain clinical experience in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
  • Starting this August, we will partner with the University of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, and the University Austral in Valdivia, Chile, on a new student exchange program. Two to four students from each university will rotate through each of the three participating institutions.

These exchanges involve reciprocal arrangements with an equal number of students from each university. It is essential that we provide a high-quality educational experience for international students visiting our college and teaching hospital, because this commitment then makes possible great experiences overseas for our students.

The success of these international programs depends upon the financial support of the host universities and the participating students, as well as time and energy of our faculty and staff. Each program requires clear learning objectives and faculty oversight to assure academic rigor. As we develop these exchange programs further, we are also making arrangements to recognize faculty efforts and reward them for their important work.

Through international exchanges, our students gain unforgettable experiences overseas, learn how to work more effectively in a multicultural environment, and increase their knowledge of current issues affecting animal and public health on a global scale. We also gain the perspectives and insight of students from other countries who visit our college. I am excited to see what the future holds as we continue to expand our international offerings.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean


Featured Stories

Dr. Claire Simeone (right) examines a stranded dolphin calf in San Diego during her SeaWorld internship.

Dr. Claire Simeone: From guinea pigs to fur seals

Dr. Claire Simeone’s life story thus far would make a fascinating documentary.

It would start with the 2011 alumna’s early days in Bethesda, Maryland, where she grew up with an environmentalist father. This would explain her lifelong interest in wildlife, environmental conservation, and policy.

The film would show her early love of science and animals, especially horses—at least until the day she was riding and the horse ran off and threw her into a tree. She decided guinea pigs might be a safer choice, which would explain her lifelong love of the personable and communicative rodent.

We would follow her to Scotland where she took coursework in molecular biology at the University of St. Andrews, before returning to the University of Maryland to complete a bachelor’s degree in physiology and neurobiology. We would also see her working as a veterinary technician at Maryland’s Silver Spring Animal Hospital during her undergraduate years.

Finally, she would enter veterinary school at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine where she thought small animal oncology or surgery would be her path. “Once I realized there were actually jobs that existed in wildlife, I really turned to that passion,” she explained. She elected to follow the public/corporate track and sought out summer externships to help solidify her goal.

Learn more about Simeone’s work at The Marine Mammal Center in the spring/summer issue of TRACKS magazine.

Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah, associate professor of virology, is co-author of a recent study that identified the novel swine virus.

Researchers identify novel virus in U.S. piglets affected by deadly disease

Veterinary college researchers have isolated and identified a novel virus affecting young piglets and swine blood meal, an ingredient in pig feed.

The virus, called mammalian orthoreovirus 3 (MRV3), may be contributing to intestinal infections affecting the swine population in the United States and other countries. The research was conducted by co-authors Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah, associate professor of virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Dr. X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, and published this May in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Since May 2013, diarrhea outbreaks have caused economic losses in the U.S. swine industry, including the recorded deaths of at least 8 million piglets. Two different viruses, called porcine epidemic diarrhea coronavirus and delta coronavirus, already had been isolated from the affected swine population. Disease has been reported from 32 states as well as Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia, Ecuador, and Ukraine, with repeated outbreaks in previously affected herds. Despite strict, intensive biosecurity measures adopted by many farms to control the epidemics, disease has continued to spread, the authors said.

“It remains to be determined whether MRV3 is responsible on its own or in conjunction with other viruses for the current epidemic of diarrhea in piglets in the United States, but the disease-causing nature of the virus warrants further investigations about its origin and prevalence,” Subbiah said.

Read the full story about the novel virus discovery.

The college recognized Ted Smusz (r), communications assistant, for his art donations with a plaque in the library and student lounge space. Also pictured is Dean Cyril Clarke.

Long-time veterinary college employee and digital artist Ted Smusz recognized for generosity

If you’ve ever called the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, there’s a good chance you’ve talked to Ted Smusz. A communications assistant for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Smusz works with a six-person team that answers more than 500 calls a day at the hospital switchboard.

The Blacksburg resident is also a self-taught digital photographer and editor, who recently donated his unique animal art to the hospital’s examination rooms and, most recently, to a renovated student lounge and library space. This month, the veterinary college recognized Smusz, who has spent more than 30 years with the college, for his generosity.

To say that Smusz is a patient man is an understatement. “I can spend up to 40 hours on a photo,” said Smusz, whose artistic contributions to the veterinary college are now recognized with a plaque in the student lounge. “I’m not only sizing the photo, but also blowing it up and digitally redrawing it. I do most of it manually to save the skin texture and tone on my subjects.”

The 13 works of art in the student lounge and library space became a reality thanks to a team effort. Teresa Ko of Teresa Ko Commercial Interiors in Blacksburg provided consultation on sizing and placement of the art, special projects coordinator Cindi McKenzie had all of the pictures matted and framed, and facilities maintenance assistant Ed Wilson hung the finished products.

Read more about Smusz and his accomplishments.

Dr. Daniel Nelson from the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Medicine was nominated for the Invention of the Year Award.

Maryland researcher wants to beat bacteria without antibiotics

When a person becomes infected with Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus — better known as MRSA — treatment options are severely limited due to the fact that nearly all antibiotics are rendered useless against the dangerous bacteria.

However, Dr. Daniel Nelson, an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland, has discovered an enzyme that can attack and destroy MRSA by chewing through the bacteria’s cell wall. Nelson’s patented enzyme earned him a spot as one of nine nominees for the University of Maryland’s Invention of the Year.

The enzyme, named PlyGRCS, is produced by bacteriophage — viruses that infect bacteria. Nelson has been studying these specific types of enzymes, also called endolysins, for more than a decade. Because the enzymes function like antibiotics, Nelson coined the term “enzybiotic” in 2001 — a term now widely used in the scientific community.

Read more about Nelson’s research at the University of Maryland campus.

Stamps fellows (l-r) Xiaofeng Liao, Kelly Freudenberger, Anne Nichols, Qian Cao, Dr. Miranda Vieson, Dr. Marigold Ernst, Tracee Popielarczyk, Kaylyn Williams, Dr. Jeff Alexander, and program leader Dr. Roger Avery gather for a group picture before the Stamps Convention banquet.

Veterinary Medicine Stamps Scholars attend 2015 national convention

When the college’s contingent of Stamps Leadership Scholars piled into their vehicles in April, their sights were set on Atlanta and the 2015 Stamps Scholars National Convention. The excitement of the nine graduate students and program leader Dr. Roger Avery was evident as they headed down Interstate 81.

The scholars each receive support from the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation (SFCF), a program started by E. Roe and Penny Stamps in 2006 to aid talented students in their education and career aspirations. The Stamps Scholars network now makes up one of the largest merit based scholarship programs in the country.

The relationship between Stamps and Virginia Tech is unique in several ways. Not only were Tech students the first graduate students selected to enter the Stamps program, but the Blacksburg-based group continues to serve a special role as the only STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduate students to be included as Stamps Scholars.

Read more about the Stamps Scholars and their participation in the 2015 National Stamps Convention.

The deer tick (pictured here) can carry the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease and has replaced the American dog tick as the region’s predominant tick species. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

Lyme disease on the rise among people, dogs in New River Valley

A study at the veterinary college has found that one third of deer ticks collected from sites in nearby Giles and Pulaski counties carry the agent responsible for Lyme disease. Conducted by Dr. Anne Zajac, professor of parasitology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, the study follows reports from veterinarians and physicians showing higher rates of the tick-borne disease in Virginia’s New River Valley.

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Small Animal Community Practice has seen an increasing number of dogs with Lyme disease symptoms. “Based on what we’ve seen clinically, more and more dogs in our area are testing positive for exposure to the agent that causes Lyme disease every year,” said Dr. Mark Freeman, assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.

Although Lyme disease presents a number of challenges to diagnose and treat, canine patients typically respond well to a three- to four-week round of antibiotics.

“There is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs, but it is optional based on risk of exposure,” he said. “For a small dog that stays mostly indoors, we might just recommend a good tick repellent instead, but for dogs that go hiking or spend a significant amount of time outdoors, we would recommend the vaccine and follow-up boosters.”

Freeman encourages dog owners to use products that repel or kill ticks regardless of their dog’s vaccination status because ticks can spread a number of ailments, not just Lyme disease.

Welcome to the College

Dr. Carling Sitterley

Dr. Carling Sitterley joins college as assistant director of admissions and student services

Dr. Carling Sitterley of Blacksburg, Virginia, has joined the veterinary college as assistant director of admissions and student services. In her new role, Sitterley will support the college’s admissions and recruitment efforts, provide mentorship and advising to student organizations, and coordinate other college activities such as an upcoming summer camp for underrepresented students.

A veterinarian and alumna of the college, Sitterley completed both her doctor of veterinary medicine degree and master of public health degree here in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She graduated from the College of William & Mary with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2008.

Alumni Corner

A patient poses with Dr. Chip Godine at Ruckersville Animal Hospital, which the family has owned since 2006.

Dr. Richard “Chip” Godine (DVM ’87) leads the way with veterinary laser therapy

Dr. Richard “Chip” Godine might not have become a leading proponent of laser therapy in veterinary medicine had he not injured his shoulder in 2007. When Godine went to his family doctor to treat the injury, his physician recommended laser light therapy to reduce pain and inflammation. Amazed at the treatment’s effectiveness, he went to an international laser therapy conference in Toronto to learn more about this emerging modality.

Godine, who graduated from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987, became convinced of the science and potential for the practice and immediately purchased his first therapeutic laser system at the conference, Meditech’s BioFlex system. After a year of customizing human protocols for his veterinary patients and being pleased with the outcomes, the company asked Godine to develop its veterinary protocols and presets for its entry into the veterinary market.

Today, Godine is the immediate past president of the North American Association for Light Therapy and the first veterinarian to serve as the leader of this organization comprised mostly of physicians and dentists. He recently served as the conference chair of the 2014 World Association for Laser Therapy Congress, the largest and most successful international laser therapy conference to date, and has authored a chapter on veterinary laser therapy applications in two textbooks to be released this summer.

Read the full alumni profile of Dr. Godine.

Around the College

College releases latest issue of TRACKS magazine

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has released the spring/summer issue of its biannual news magazine, TRACKS. Produced by the Office of Public Relations and Communications, the magazine tells the story of how students, faculty, staff, and alumni are protecting animal and human health. This issue’s cover features a seal patient at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, where alumna Dr. Claire Simeone treats whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals. Other feature stories cover Dr. Bess Pierce’s recognition as the top human-animal bond veterinarian and the college’s researchers who are seeking to stop the most common zoonotic disease in the world: brucellosis. Check out the latest issue of TRACKS.

Regenerative medicine program holds second annual research retreat

The Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP) in Regenerative Medicine held its second Research Retreat on May 18 at Mountain Lake Lodge in nearby Giles County. Nearly 40 IGEP students and faculty from the Colleges of Engineering, Business, Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine attended. They welcomed the Computational Tissue Engineering IGEP directed by Dr. Padma Rajagopalan, associate professor of biomedical engineering and sciences and chemical engineering. The aim of the retreat was to foster expanded research collaborations between the two IGEPs working in the various aspects of biology, engineering, business, and ethics, and to strengthen the identity of regenerative medicine.

The day included introductions of the two IGEPs, presentations from two Ph.D. candidates in the Computational Tissue Engineering IGEP, and several breakout sessions. Dr. Ashley Shew, assistant professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society and a Regenerative Medicine IGEP faculty member, delivered the keynote address, and the day ended with a student poster session. The research retreat welcomed several guests, including Matt Hull of the Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technologies and Applied Sciences, Dr. Jean Clarke of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, and Dr. Cyril Clarke, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. View the Facebook photo gallery from the Regenerative Medicine IGEP retreat.

Lucy Lee looks at policy issues as Capitol Hill extern

Fourth-year DVM student Lucy Lee (pictured left) is spending six weeks serving as a policy extern with the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Governmental Affairs Division. During this time, she is learning about both the federal legislative and regulatory processes, meeting with legislators and staffers on Capitol Hill, networking with veterinarians working for the U.S. government, and exploring career opportunities. Check out the “Externs on the Hill” blog where she is sharing her experience.

Sarah Krones presents at Global Conference on One Health

Sarah Krones, a fourth-year dual degree student in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public Health programs, gave a presentation at the WVA/WMA Global Conference on One Health in Madrid, Spain, last month. She and Skander Essafi, her medical student counterpart and the director of the Standing Committee on Public Health for the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), discussed “One Health Education for the future of Doctors and Veterinarians.” The two reviewed the need for a One Health approach when dealing with health issues, addressed the collaborative efforts between the IFMSA and the International Veterinary Students’ Association (IVSA), and discussed curricular changes that could aid in One Health education. Last year, Krones was elected chairperson of the IVSA’s Standing Committee on One Health and attended the IVSA Symposium in Turkey and the IVSA Congress in Indonesia.

Ginger, the miniature horse, gives birth to “Miss Virginia Tech”

Ginger, a 3-year-old miniature horse, and her owners Janet Lewis and Tony Benvenuto at Standing Ovation Miniatures, recently celebrated the arrival of their sweet filly named “Miss Virginia Tech.” When Ginger received treatment at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for a dislocated hip in July of 2014, her pregnancy was confirmed. Ginger made a full recovery, carried her foal to term, and is now caring for her filly named in honor of the university where she received a new lease on life. Read more about Ginger’s success story at the teaching hospital and view photos of Ginger and Miss Virginia Tech on Facebook.

Dr. Dee Whittier offers hands-on experiences at 4-H State Congress

Dr. W. Dee Whittier, professor of production management medicine and veterinary Extension specialist, shows delegates at the 4-H State Congress how to work with cattle. The 4-H delegates learned how to administer medicine, give shots and implants, tag ears, and handle the cattle in the chutes at the Virginia Tech Beef Center. Held on the Virginia Tech campus from June 15-18, the Virginia 4-H State Congress is the premier, statewide annual 4-H event for outstanding 4-H teens and adult volunteer leaders.

India exchange students gain valuable clinical, cultural experiences

Two groups of students from India have visited the college this summer as part of an ongoing international exchange program with Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) in Chennai, India. The eight students in the program gain clinical experiences through one-week rotations at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, observing clinical cases and learning diagnostic and treatment approaches that they might not have encountered in their home country. Established in 2007, the program also enables eight Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine students to visit TANUVAS each summer for a similar clinical and cultural exchange.

Awards & Activities

Valerie Vaught (l), radiologic technologist, and Judy Franklin (r), medical technologist, received the 2015 Director’s Annual Staff Performance Award from interim hospital director Dr. Terry Swecker.

College presents annual teaching hospital awards

The college recognized the accomplishments of its Veterinary Teaching Hospital employees during an awards ceremony on Thursday, June 18.

A tie resulted in Judy Franklin, medical technologist, and Valerie Vaught, radiologic technologist, both receiving the Director’s Annual Staff Performance Award this year.

The college also presented certificates of appreciation to the nominees for this award. These included Karen Bristol, administrative and office specialist at the Roanoke clinic; Andrea Collins, ICU manager; Amanda Conrad, ward technician manager; Amanda Havens, community practice technician; Ginger Hudecek, medicine ward technician; Danielle Jaszewski, community practice technician; Shaun-Clair Ogle, veterinary technician at the Roanoke clinic; Sarah Shepherd, surgery ward technician; and Kristin Sullivan, senior laboratory technician.

During the ceremony, the college also presented certificates of residency to Dr. Nimet Browne, large animal medicine resident; Dr. Sarah Holland, production management medicine resident; Dr. Stefanie DeMonaco, small animal medicine resident; Dr. Katherine Barnes, small animal surgery resident; Dr. Rachel Matusow, ophthalmology resident; and Dr. Samantha Emch, neurology resident.

Likewise, Dr. Hillary Feldmann, Dr. Lydia Mudd, Dr. Sami Al-Nadaf, Dr. Keith Blum, Dr. Nicholas Gunter, Dr. Elizabeth Hiebert, and Dr. Eric Tempel received certificates of internship. The college also recognized its incoming teaching hospital interns.

The awards ceremony also recognized support staff who had contributed to the teaching hospital’s success, including housekeeping, facilities, media, Vet Med Café, mechanical services, reprographics, dean’s office, and IT support employees. Dr. Greg Troy, the Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey Taylor Mahin Endowed Professor of Internal Medicine, was also presented with a retirement gift for his 28 years of service.

View the awards ceremony photo gallery on Facebook.

Allie Price at work in the glassware lab.

Allie Price named June Staff Member of the Month

Allison “Allie” Price, glassware laboratory technician in Research and Graduate Studies, has been named the June Staff Member of the Month. Research faculty, staff, and students have all been the recipients of highly efficient customer service from Price in the glassware lab. Employed at the college for almost three years, she is described as an exceptionally dedicated worker, who constantly goes above and beyond, and always does it with a smile.

Called an exemplary employee by her supervisor, Price’s biology background keeps her attentive to graduate student research and she enjoys discussing projects with them. She helps train new students in autoclaving and waste management practices, and gently corrects any unsafe work practices she observes. “Allie takes pride in her job, and recognizes the importance of the work that she does, especially when it comes to laboratory safety. She takes an interest in learning new practices and procedures, and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others,” her nominator wrote.

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

More Awards & Activities

Dr. Tom Cecere, assistant professor of pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, participated in the Veterinary Leadership Experience, June 1-6 in Post Idaho Falls, Idaho, along with veterinary students Catherine Cowan and Andy Xin. Hosted by the Veterinary Leadership Institute, the week-long intensive leadership training program encourages participants to “think outside the box” for personal and professional growth. Veterinary students and faculty, industry representatives, private practitioners, technicians and other veterinary professionals are given the opportunity to explore the concepts of emotional intelligence, teamwork, effective communication, and servant-leadership in a facilitated small group learning environment.

Dr. David S. Lindsay, professor of parasitology, will serve as president of the American Society of Parasitologists at its annual meeting June 25-28 in Omaha, Nebraska. He will chair the 105th annual council meeting and the annual business meeting. He will also give a presidential address on “My Time With the Parasites.” His master’s degree student, Richard O. Sawyer, will also present a poster titled “Demonstration of Sarcocystis falcatula and S. falcatula Arg-like parasites in heart and breast muscles from raptors.”

Dr. Giulio Menciotti, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, gave a poster presentation on “Three-dimensional echocardiographic assessment of normal canine mitral valves” at the 2015 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 3-6.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved a promotion for Dr. Anne Zajac at its June 1 meeting. She is now a professor of parasitology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Dr. Jeff Zolkiewicz (DVM ’94) and his colleagues at Kindness Animal Hospital in Wheaton, Maryland were honored during the Wheaton & Kensington Chamber of Commerce’s 31st Annual Awards Banquet on April 29, receiving the organization’s Tribute Award. They were honored for saving the life of Ruby, a boxer mix shot in the face with a shotgun, and for participating in the Wheaton community through various programs and events. Read more about Ruby and her recovery at the hands of her new owner, Dr. Zolkiewicz.

Several students and residents attended the 42nd Annual SouthEastern Veterinary Pathology Conference in Tifton, Georgia, on May 17-18. They included veterinary students Erin Yanovich, Vanessa Oaks, Jonathan Leibowitz, and Orr Rozov; residents Dr. Miranda Vieson and Dr. Marigold Ernst; and graduate students Sheryl Coutermarsh-Ott, Kristen Eden, and Erica Twitchell. Dr. Tanya LeRoith, clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology, and Dr. Kevin Lahmers, clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology, also attended the conference with the support of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. In total, there were nine presentations at the conference from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Upcoming Events


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

  • Dean: Dr. Cyril R. Clarke
  • Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
  • Director: Sherrie Whaley
  • Content Editor: Michael Sutphin
  • Web Editors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak
  • Contributors: Alison Elward, Sara Gavin, Megan Quesenberry, Michael Sutphin, Miranda Vieson, Sherrie Whaley, Lynn Young
  • Photography: Alison Elward, Lori Greiner, Lucy Lee, Janet Lewis, Ingrid Overgard, Megan Quesenberry, Edwin Remsberg, Michael Sutphin, Miranda Vieson, Sherrie Whaley
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