Dear friends and colleagues,
Last year, I wrote about the creation of the Consortium of Northeastern Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, which was established to pursue areas of mutual interest to advance veterinary medicine 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 — is now working to develop an initial project that focuses on experiential learning. Simply defined, experiential learning occurs when students are placed in learning environments that are directly relevant to their career interests and then encouraged to reflect on these experiences.
Establishment of the consortium has been a long process in the making. In the summer of 2015, the deans of the northeastern colleges of veterinary medicine began a series of face-to-face meetings and teleconferences to discuss a potential partnership. This led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, formally establishing the consortium in May of 2016. That summer, two faculty members from each college participated in a workshop in Northern Virginia to design an initiating project that would advance experiential learning. Dr. Megan Shepherd, clinical assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, and Dr. Kemba Clapp, clinical assistant professor of radiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, represented our college.
As an outcome of this effort, the consortium recently released a request for applications (RFA) for the development of a student learning assessment tool. Although veterinary schools across the country are launching programs to increase experiential learning opportunities and enrich the student experience, educators still have much work to do to enable assessment of the impact of these programs on student learning. We need an assessment tool to evaluate these programs and how they contribute to acquisition of clinical reasoning skills — an area of intense interest for veterinary educators.
In addition to furthering the consortium’s goal of promoting effective experiential learning programs, this initial project is designed to foster development of strong professional collaborations among faculty in the consortium and provide opportunities for sharing ideas and information. Applications submitted in response to the RFA must have a plan for assembling an advisory committee that includes a consortium representative from each of the five member institutions. The consortium has funding for a single project totaling $75,000 for one or two years of research.
This initiative dovetails with our college’s overall commitment to experiential learning. Opportunities for hands-on and minds-on learning at our Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg and the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg play an essential role in advancing this goal. To better utilize these resources, we revised the DVM curriculum last year to allow students early entry into the clinics after completion of the second year of the four-year degree program. Our college is also taking a leadership role in the area of outcomes assessment on a national level with the goal of improving our teaching and learning outcomes by comprehensive evaluation of individual student performance as well as academic programs as a whole.
By participating in the consortium, the college has an opportunity not only to share our success in this area, but also learn about best practices from our consortium partners. I look forward to the college benefitting from the consortium’s coordinated efforts to advance veterinary experiential learning.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
College holds No. 2 admissions spot in North America for third year in row
When students in the Class of 2021 arrive at the veterinary college in August, they will begin their four-year professional training after another highly competitive application period.
More than 1,600 prospective students applied to enter the college’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program in the fall, representing the second largest applicant pool in North America for the third year in a row, according to the latest figures from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). Earlier this year, the college invited 336 applicants for interviews for the 120 available seats.
“This year, we not only received a large number of total applications, but also an increasing number of applicants from diverse backgrounds,” said Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services, who explained that the number of prospective students from underrepresented populations increased from 27 percent to 40 percent. “We continued to make progress on our strategic recruitment plan and implemented a holistic review process that considers life experiences in addition to academic qualifications.”
Clinical trial for overweight cats makes headlines
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is looking to trim waistlines for overweight and obese cats.
As many as half of all pets in the United States are overweight or obese and are more likely to suffer from conditions like insulin resistance, pancreatitis, or cancer as a result. Megan Shepherd, assistant professor of clinical nutrition, and Lauren Dodd, clinical nutrition resident, launched a study earlier this summer to test the effectiveness and owner-perceived quality of life from individual weight loss plans. The researchers are looking for 60 “fat cats” for the Purina-sponsored study, which is already well underway thanks to local news attention on the study.
The Roanoke Times published a front-page article describing the clinical trial, and WDBJ Channel 7 came to our Veterinary Teaching Hospital to learn more about it. Read more and sign up for about the weight loss study.
Research links common household chemicals to birth defects in mice
A new study at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has found a connection between common household chemicals and birth defects.
Known as quaternary ammonium compounds or “quats,” the chemicals are often used as disinfectants and preservatives in household and personal products, such as cleaners, laundry detergent, fabric softener, shampoo and conditioner, and eye drops. The research demonstrated a link between quats and neural tube birth defects in both mice and rats.
“These chemicals are regularly used in the home, hospital, public spaces, and swimming pools,” said Terry Hrubec, associate professor of anatomy at the VCOM-Virginia campus and research assistant professor in the veterinary college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. “Most people are exposed on a regular basis.”
Hrubec investigated the effect of two commonly used quats: alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride. She found that exposure to these chemicals resulted in neural tube birth defects — the same birth defect as spina bifida and anencephaly in humans.
Virginia Tech approves promotions and tenure for college faculty
The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved promotions for five faculty members at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine during its June 5 meeting.
The following announcements were made at the meeting:
- Michele Borgarelli of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences was promoted to professor of cardiology with tenure.
- Julia Gohlke in the Department of Population Health Sciences was promoted to associate professor of environmental health with tenure.
- Sunshine Lahmers in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences was promoted to clinical associate professor of cardiology.
- Theresa Pancotto of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences was promoted to clinical associate professor of neurology.
- Kurt Zimmerman in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology was promoted to professor of pathology and informatics.
AVMA database serves as resource for clinical trials
At a year, the AVMA Animal Health Studies Database has seen success in amassing clinical studies in veterinary medicine.
This July marks the one-year anniversary of the public launch of the database as a resource for researchers seeking animals to participate in clinical studies and for veterinarians and animal owners exploring options for treatment.
As of late May, the database listed 279 studies and had averaged about 2,500 searches per month since the public launch. There are studies in every state, the District of Columbia, and two provinces in Canada. There are studies in 17 primary fields of veterinary medicine or species, from agricultural animals to soft-tissue surgery. There are studies recruiting dogs, cats, horses, and cattle — and even one study recruiting rabbits.
Mindy Quigley, coordinator of clinical trials at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, is enthusiastic about the AVMA project getting off the ground. She said the database is a great resource for animal owners, who often spend a lot of time going through practice or university websites.
“Having one place rather than a number of different scattered sites will eventually be a transformative thing for owners and veterinarians who are interested in clinical research,” Quigley said. “Probably the biggest barrier to enrollment is just getting the information into the hands of the people who need it, so any tool that we can have that casts a wider net is definitely something that is going to help the entire field.”
Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center phases in new strategic plan
Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, is implementing an ambitious, phased strategic plan to ensure that it remains on the leading edge of veterinary medicine in support of the region’s equine community.
The EMC, an offsite campus of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, opened its doors in 1984 after a generous gift from Marion duPont Scott and the donation of 200 acres of Morven Park land from the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation. Since that time, the EMC has provided comprehensive equine healthcare services and cutting-edge research for the advancement of the equine industry and specialized training for the world’s veterinary professionals. The center is building on a strong foundation and renewing its commitment to be a leading regional provider of equine specialty care, education, and research.
New study offers guidelines on how to prioritize vaccination during flu season
After high-risk individuals, immunizing children and the elderly will have the greatest overall benefit when there are limited vaccine resources. This could save both lives and money, according to a study published in PLOS Computational Biology by Nargesalsadat Dorratoltaj of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech.
When vaccine supplies are limited, public health officials are often required to prioritize which populations have the greatest need for immediate immunization. Official recommendations for how this assessment process should be carried out are often lacking or confusing.
To get a more realistic measure of how targeted vaccination efforts benefit society at large, the Virginia Tech research team developed a “synthetic population” that works, moves, and mixes with others much like a real community. The extra level of detail in this simulation allowed researchers to capture an epidemic’s indirect or social effects, such as how one person’s vaccination may lower their family and co-workers’ risk of infection.
Veterinary student Anna Katogiritis co-founds Roots & Shoots Greece
Anna Katogiritis of Karpathos, Greece, is fourth-year DVM student pursuing the small animal track at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2015, Katogiritis volunteered at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center and now serves as the country coordinator/president and co-founder of Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Greece, a non-profit organization that empowers youth to initiate and implement service campaigns.
You visited the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo in 2015. How did that that experience prepare you for your current work?
Being able to visit and volunteer at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in Congo was both a privilege and an absolute honor. The center takes care of more than 156 orphaned chimpanzees, a number of mandrills, and other animals that may be in need of medical care. During my time there, I was able to learn about chimpanzee behavior and medicine, while at the same time, conduct parasitology testing and training the native staff in laboratory techniques. My mentors there, Rebeca Atencia and Debby Cox, are both authorities in chimpanzee conservation and had a wealth of knowledge to share with me.
Michael Watts (DVM ’00) gives back to the veterinary college
Michael Watts graduated from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000, but his relationship with the veterinary college did not end after he walked across the stage for his diploma. Watts, who owns Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care in Amissville, Virginia, continues to give back to his alma mater because he understands that the veterinary profession is facing new challenges.
“Our future depends upon continuing to attract the best caliber individuals to become our colleagues,” said Watts, who opened the Culpeper County animal hospital in 2005 after serving as hospital director of another clinic in Fairfax County. “An essential component of that effort is providing a 21st century medical education at a cost that won’t bankrupt graduates.”
In addition to his financial support for the college, Watts has given back to the profession in other ways. He has served as an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College, a committee chair for the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, past president of the VA-MD Vet Med Alumni Society, and a mentor for veterinary students.
“As practicing veterinarians, we are the beneficiaries of prior generations who supported us in our formative years,” said Watts, who grew up in Ellicott City, Maryland and earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Maryland. “Personally, I welcome opportunities to help pave the way for future students to join me in the profession that I love.”
According to Watts, financial support from alumni helps the college “offer the best possible education to future veterinarians at the best possible cost.” Regular support is also a way for alumni to help shape the future of the profession.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
College presents annual teaching hospital awards
The college recognized the accomplishments of its Veterinary Teaching Hospital employees during an awards ceremony on Friday, June 16.
Chuck Randel, agricultural technician, received the Director’s Annual Staff Performance Award this year.
The college also presented certificates of appreciation to the nominees for this award. These included Melanie Coleman, patient services; Drema Foster, medical services business manager; Melanie Gevedon, special procedures technician; Stefanie Olsen, oncology technician; and Teresa Williams, VTH assistant systems analyst.
During the ceremony, the college also presented certificates of residency to Michael Aherne, cardiology resident; Julia Disney, ophthalmology resident; Nathaniel Jue, theriogenology resident; Jamie King, neurology resident; Stewart Morgan, clinical nutrition resident; Wendy Morré, small animal internal medicine resident; Noelle Muro, small animal surgery resident; Eric Tempel, ABVP/community practice resident; Richard Trahan, large animal surgery resident; and Allan Williamson, anesthesiology resident.
Likewise, the college awarded certificates of internship to Jacqueline Cavalcanti, small animal medicine and surgery intern; Matthew Ford, small animal medicine and surgery intern; Hannah Hinson, equine field service intern; Stephanie Mayard, production management medicine intern; Brittanie Partridge, medical oncology intern; Brooke Robertson, small animal medicine and surgery intern; and Kayla Waler, small animal medicine and surgery intern. 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, communications, Vet Med Café, mechanical services, reprographics, dean’s office, and IT support employees.
Kathy Farley named June Staff Member of the Month
As an administrative assistant in the Office of Academic Affairs, Kathy Farley demonstrates exemplary performance in everyday tasks and impressive initiative with event-related projects. Most recently, Farley assisted with the Spring Awards Ceremony and the Commencement Ceremony and her dedication and ingenuity made each event run successfully. Consistently, “the quality of her work and the timeliness of her work is outstanding,” explained her nominator.
Her award certificate preparations for the Spring Awards Ceremony saved both time and money for the department and her carefully crafted seating chart and check-in system to adapt to the new format for the commencement ceremony was a tremendous support for the event. Farley is “a solid planner and has a vision of the perfect event,” her nominator explained, and overall, wants to applaud Farley for “her outstanding service, dedication, initiative, and professionalism.”
More Awards & Activities
Michele Borgarelli, professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, and LOOK-Mitral Investigators presented “The Longitudinal Outcome of K9 Mitral Valve Disease (LOOK-Mitral) Study: Preliminary Results” at American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in June 2017 at National Harbor, Maryland.
M. Borgarelli, O. Lanz, N. Pavlisko, J.A. Abbott, G. Menciotti, M. Aherne, S.M. Lahmers, et al. “Mitral valve repair in dogs using an ePTFE chordal implantation device: a pilot study.” Journal of Veterinary Cardiology (2017). Available online.
Stephen Eubank, professor of population health sciences and the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech, received an 18-month, $3 million “IARPA Functional Genomics Project” grant.
Freudenberger, K.C., A.E. Champion, N. Mohapatra, T. Cecere, and T.J. Inzana. “Glycosylation of a capsule-like complex (CLC) by Francisella novicida is required for virulence and partial protective immunity in mice.” Frontiers in Microbiology. Available online.
Julia Gohlke, associate professor of environmental health in the Department of Population Health Sciences, and Susan West Marmagas, director of the public health program and associate professor of practice, were part of a faculty team that received $75,000 in funding to study “Ecological and Human Health in Rural Communities” as part of Virginia Tech’s destination area on global systems science.
Inzana, T., B. Petruzzi, R. Briggs, E. Swords, C. De Castro, A. Molinaro, and A. Dickerman. “Capsule production interferes with biofilm formation by Pasteurella multocidaserogroup A.” Oral presentation 0S0327. European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. April 22-25, 2017. Vienna, Austria.
Petruzzi, B., C. De Castro, A. Molinaro, T. Inzana. “Polymicrobial Biofilm Formation by Pasteurella multocida and Histophilus somni.” S-942. Microbe2017, American Society for Microbiology. June 1-5, 2017. New Orleans, Louisiana. Abstract available online.
Michael Leib, the C.R. Roberts Professor of Small Animal Medicine, co-presented on “Special Interest Group: GI Endoscopy: What’s Your Diagnosis” at the 35th Annual American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in National Harbor, Maryland in June 2017.
Geraldine C. Magnin-Bissel, research scientist and analytical chemist in the Toxicology Laboratory, has accepted a faculty position in Kansas and will be leaving the veterinary college. Magnin-Bissel, who is board-certified by the American Board of Toxicology, has made important contributions to the college’s analytical chemistry and toxicology service and will be missed.
G. Menciotti, M. Borgarelli, M. Aherne, S. Wesselowski, S.M. Lahmers, J.A. Abbott, et al. “Mitral valve morphology assessed by three-dimensional transthoracic echocardiography in healthy dogs and dogs with myxomatous mitral valve disease.” Journal of Veterinary Cardiology.
Harold McKenzie, associate professor of large animal medicine in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, was the chair of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in National Harbor, Maryland from June 8-10, 2017. This year’s theme was “Innovation, Science, and Beyond.” The forum offered more than 600 educational sessions covering the breadth of internal medicine and allowed participants to earn continuing education credit.
Wendy Morré, small animal medicine resident, presented an article by herself and faculty members David Panciera, Gregory Daniel, and William Monroe on “Investigation of a novel modified fixed dose determination protocol for radioiodine treatment of feline hyperthyroidism” at the 35th Annual American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in National Harbor, Maryland in June 2017.
Wendy Morré, David Panciera, Gregory Daniel, et al. “Thyrotoxicosis induced by excessive 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine in a dog.” JAVMA 250 (12): 1427-1431, 2017.
Muro NM and Lanz OI. “Use of a novel extracapsular bone anchor system for stabilisation of cranial cruciate ligament insufficiency.” Journal of Small Animal Practice. 2017 May;58(5):284-292
Nappier MT, Corrigan VK, Bartl-Wilson LE, Freeman M, Werre S, and Tempel E. “Evaluating Checklist Use in Companion Animal Wellness Visits in a Veterinary Teaching Hospital: A Preliminary Study.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 4:87. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2017.00087.
David Panciera, the Anne Hunter Professor of Veterinary Medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, presented “Canine Hypothyroidism” at the Southwestern Virginia Veterinary Medical Association on May 18, 2017 in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, served as a committee member and co-author of the recently released National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report “Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area.” The committee was charged with examining the changing dynamics of brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area, providing a comprehensive update of the new science since the 1998 National Research Council report “Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area,” and exploring various options for addressing the challenge of brucellosis disease management in the area. The research and report writing took almost two years to complete.
Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, also conducted a career transition workshop at the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association’s annual conference in Ocean City, Maryland. The workshop was focused on opportunities in veterinary medicine in the process for transitioning from one career to another.
Jeffrey Ruth, Otto Lanz, Vincent Ziglioli, et al. “Computed Tomographic Features in a Case of Bilateral Neoplastic Cryptorchidism with Suspected Torsion in a Dog.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science. April 27, 2017.
Lauren Sheehan and Clayton Caswell. “A 6-Nucleotide Regulatory Motif within the AbcR Small RNAs of Brucella abortus Mediates Host-Pathogen Interactions.” mBio. June 6, 2017. Available online.
D. Phillip Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, will be inducted as an honorary member of the American College of Theriogenologists in August. The honor, which is uncommon in most veterinary specialty boards and colleges, recognizes Sponenberg’s lifetime of scholarly work in the field of genetics.
Krystina L. Stadler et al. “Dynamic Susceptibility Contrast Magnetic Resonance Imaging Protocol of the Normal Canine Brain.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science. March 21 2017.
Lijuan Yuan, associate professor of virology and immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was invited to give a talk at the “Symposium on Rotavirus Human Immunology: Advancing Science, Decreasing Disease” at the University of Vermont Vaccine Testing Center in Burlington, Vermont on May 15-16, 2017. The symposium was convened as part of the University of Vermont’s rotavirus award with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and brought together key scientists in the field of rotavirus human immunology, mucosal immunology, and vaccine development. Yuan’s talk was titled “The role of T cells in rotavirus inducted protective immunity: Lessons from a gnotobiotic pig model of human rotavirus diarrhea.”
Ziglioli V, Panciera DL, Monroe WE, et al. “Effects of levothyroxine administration and withdrawal on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis in euthyroid dogs.” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2017;31:705-710.
- July 21-25 – American Veterinary Medical Association Convention
- Indianapolis, IN
- August 25 – VA-MD Vet Med White Coat Ceremony
- Blacksburg, VA
- September 3 – Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia pre-game tailgate sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health (RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org)
- 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
For More Upcoming Events…
Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Dean: Cyril R. Clarke
- Assistant Dean for Advancement: Alison Wainwright Davitt
- Managing Editor: Michael Sutphin
- Web Editor: Alison Elward
- Assistant Editor: Kelsey Foster
- Contributors: Katie Burns, Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Anna Katogiritis, Sharon Peart, Dan Rosplock, Michael Sutphin
- Photography/Videography: Alison Elward, Anna Katogiritis, Moss Arts Center, Sharon Peart, Michael Sutphin, Robert Taylor Sr., Treehouse Filmworks, Michelle Turek (Michelle Turek Photography), Logan Wallace, Sherrie Whaley