Budget wrangling in Washington and Richmond continues as our government leaders – and every one of us – cope with the “Great Recession.” The unprecedented action taken by the federal government in an attempt to restore order in the financial markets, financial services and manufacturing sectors of the U.S. economy has created some opportunities, as well as some challenges.... at least in the short term.
That we are facing future shortages of veterinarians is becoming well understood; even now, there are critical shortages of veterinarians to serve in public practice and food supply veterinary medicine. In order to stabilize the profession’s future, the AAVMC and the AVMA have been working hard over the past several years to obtain federal funding to support programmatic expansion and infrastructural development at the 28 U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine.
The $789 billion economic stimulus program approved by Congress does not specifically appropriate money for our profession, but it does create billions of dollars in funding resources that each of the veterinary colleges, as well as colleges and universities in general, can compete for.
The federal government provided state governments with $39.5 billion to help state lawmakers offset critical state budget shortfalls that threatened to devastate state-level funding for education, from K-12 through higher education. On another front, the federal government allocated $10.4 billion to the National Institutes for Health, and about $1 billion of that can be used for facilities enhancement. Virginia Tech will be allowed to submit three proposals for funding through this NIH line, and the university is at this time evaluating pre-proposals from the colleges.
As part of this pre-proposal process, our college has submitted proposals for two projects. Those proposals include funding for approximately half of the cost of the Infectious Disease Research Lab (IRDL) which we will begin building this fall. We will proceed with this project regardless of this outcome, but gaining funds from this program will allow us to have more flexibility in addressing other aspects of our capital development plan.
We are also submitting a pre-proposal to seek funding for the construction of a swine facility designed to support our growing infectious disease program. At some point in the future, we may also submit a joint pre-proposal in collaboration with the other life sciences colleges at Virginia Tech to seek funding for the construction of the translational research center.
Depending upon what the university selects, and how the chosen proposals fare during the very competitive evaluation process at the federal level, we may be able to go forward with one or all of these proposals. We must remember that competition will be fierce as the 155 allopathic and osteopathic human medical schools are also vying for these resources.
From another perspective, the fiscal turbulence and uncertainty associated with the recession has obviously made it difficult to plan and budget for the future. Revenue forecasts and budget allocations, coupled with the introduction of new federal stimulus spending and the detailed protocols concerning the applications of those funds, has made it extremely challenging to make accurate financial projections in this environment.
This is clearly a time for flexibility, adaptability...and for hope.
Gerhardt G. Schurig
In This Issue...
VMRCVM Faculty, Alums, Honored During VVMA Conference
Former President William Lavery, VMRCVM Founder, Passes Away
College to Increase DVM Class Size by Five Seats
Pfeiffer, VMRCVM Professor Emeritus, Exhibits Paintings at Holtzman Alumni Center
Veterinary College Receives Two of Five Virginia Tech Carilion Grants
Veterinary Medicine Students to Present Community “Dogwash”
Front Desk Staff Helps Keep Hospital Running Smoothly
Degenerative Joint Disease can be a Painful Affliction for Canines
Equine Field Services Welcomes Dr. Dana Reeder
New Barn at Equine Medical Center to be Dedicated to Paul R. Fout
Platelet Rich Plasma Treatments Now Offered at Equine Medical Center
Suess (’89) on Leading Edge of Professional Trend
Easter Egg Hunt at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
One faculty member and two alumni from the VMRCVM were honored, and several faculty members presented lectures during the annual Virginia Veterinary Conference in Roanoke.
Dr. W. D. Whittier, a professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS) and extension beef cattle specialist, was honored with a VVMA “Veterinary Service Award.” Whittier, who has served at the college for the past 28 years, earned his DVM from the University of California at Davis in 1979 and a M.S. degree from Virginia Tech in 1983. Whittier was also on the founding committee of the Virginia Academy for Food Animal Practice.
In presenting the award, VVMA President-elect Dr. Bill Tyrrell (’92) said that Whittier had provided “inspiration and guidance to many of our graduates who have followed in his large footsteps in caring for our commonwealth’s food animals.”
Dr. Tom Massie (‘95), who was installed as the president of the VVMA, was honored with the “Mentor of the Year” award. “Mentors like Tom Massie instill the confidence and enthusiasm in students that is necessary to ensure progressive interest in the field of veterinary medicine,” wrote Class of 2011 student Nathaniel Burke in a letter of nomination. “He is truly an asset to the profession.”
Dr. Travis Taylor (‘03), a small animal clinician and hospital director at Centerville Animal Hospital, was presented the “Recent Graduate Leadership Award.”
Dr. Michael Leib, the C.E. Roberts Professor of Small Animal Medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS), presented lectures entitled “Acute pancreatitis in dogs – A Diagnostic Update,” “Giardia and Tritrichomonas: An Update,” and “Challenging/Interesting Vomiting Cases.”
Dr. Jonathan Abbott, associate professor, DSACS, presented lectures entitled “Canine Heart Failure – Current Management,” “Feline Cardiomyopathy – An Update,” and “Arrhythmias: Diagnosis and Therapy.”
Dr. John Currin, clinical associate professor in the DLACS, and Whittier presented “Emerging Diseases in Virginia – Current Research in the VMRCVM.”
Dr. Mark Crisman, professor in the DLACS, presented “Getting the Most Out of Integrative Medicine.”
The VMRCVM community mourns the passing of William Edward Lavery, the 12th president of Virginia Tech. Lavery died at 78 on Feb. 16.
Among many accomplishments, Lavery led the movement to create the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. He worked closely with founding Dean Richard B. Talbot, former Virginia Governor John Dalton, Virginia political leaders and others during the 1970’s and early 1980’s to create and finance the construction of the college.
Dr. Peter Eyre, the second dean of the VMRCVM, recalled Lavery as a passionate advocate for the creation of the college and said that Lavery’s commitment was a major reason in his decision to accept the position.
“I recall many stories he told me about the animated interactions he had with Governor Dalton and members of the General Assembly – as well as with the university, agricultural and veterinary communities,” Eyre wrote in a letter of condolence to Mrs. Peggy Lavery. “He was tireless in his advocacy.”
“It is no exaggeration to say that without his unwavering leadership the college would not have materialized,” said Eyre.
Lavery also provided historic leadership for a major land-grant university during a period of dramatic growth and development.
“Bill guided Virginia Tech as it transitioned and matured as a research university. I had the pleasure of serving as professor and dean during his time of leadership, which I recall as dynamic and exciting,” said Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger.
Lavery brought stability to the university following the years of explosive growth under President T. Marshall Hahn Jr. But, he ushered in rapid growth in other areas, complementing Hahn’s successes. He emphasized research, and expenditures in support of research totaled more than $70.2 million by fiscal year 1987, moving the university into the top 50 research institutions in the nation.
He enhanced research opportunities by initiating the Corporate Research Center (CRC) and Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties (VTIP). During his 12-year term, the first two buildings were begun at the center and two more were planned.
Lavery hired the university’s first vice president for development, Charles Forbes, who led the $8 million Campaign for the Veterinary College in the college’s founding years. Assets of the Virginia Tech Foundation grew from $6.2 million to $140.1 million during his term.
“Bill was a fine person … very caring and compassionate. He was the consummate ‘people person’ interested in others,” said Minnis Ridenour, who served as executive vice president under Lavery.
Lavery joined the faculty at Virginia Tech in 1966 as director of administration for the Extension division before being tapped as vice president for finance in 1968. In 1973, he became executive vice president, and he was appointed president in 1974, effective Jan. 1, 1975.
Born in Geneseo, N.Y., Lavery earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, his master’s in public administration from George Washington University, and his doctorate in extension administration from the University of Wisconsin.
He began his professional career as a teacher and coach at Clarence Central High School in Clarence, N.Y., before serving two years in the Army. He began working for the federal Extension Service’s Division of Management Operations in 1956, where he remained until 1966.
Lavery married the former Peggy Johnson of Pawnee City, Neb., in 1956, and the couple had four children.
After stepping down Dec. 31, 1987, he continued to serve the university, first as honorary chancellor, then as the William B. Preston Professor of International Affairs. After his retirement on Aug. 1, 1991, he was named president emeritus.
The university recognized his contributions by presenting him with the Ruffner Medal in 1993 and by dedicating the William E. Lavery Animal Health Research Center in his honor in 1995, the same year he was named an honorary alumnus of Virginia Tech.
The VMRCVM will expand its DVM professional class from 90 to 95 students effective fall 2009, according to VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig.
This marks the first time that the college has increased enrollment in the DVM program since 1995, when the class size was expanded from 80 students to 90 students. That year, the college began accepting 10 students from around the country, in addition to the 50 students from Virginia and 30 students from Maryland it has accepted in each class since its inception.
The action was taken by the college’s Executive Board for a number of reasons, according to Schurig. First, there is a general consensus that the academic veterinary medical community needs to increase enrollment size in order to address a growing shortage of veterinarians in the United States.
Many colleges around the country, including the VMRCVM, are developing strategies to increase their class size. Once the college’s new instructional building is constructed, for example, the VMRCVM is expected to increase enrollment to 120-130 students.
An additional reason for increasing the DVM class size by five students is to help offset statewide budget reductions that threaten to undermine the quality of college programs.
Increasing the class size will also enable the college to keep tuition increases below the national average, according to Schurig.
A collection of oil paintings created by Professor Emeritus Dr. Carl J. Pfeiffer entitled “Landscapes, Seascapes and Wildlife” is on display in Virginia Tech’s William B. Holtzman Alumni Center through April 2009 in the William B. Holtzman Alumni Center.
Pfeiffer, a former professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP) who retired from the VMRCVM in 2000, has been painting for almost 35 years. His style blends impressionism with realism.
“His work reflects his avid interests in nature, biology and the out-of-doors, and his experiences living in Virginia, Newfoundland, Japan, and trips to Alaska,” according to an informational flier describing the exhibition.
Pfeiffer has also presented exhibitions in Canada and Japan.
Internationally recognized for his work in gastrointestinal diseases, Pfieffer joined the VMRCVM in 1982. He earned degrees from Duke, Southern Illinois University and Harvard.
The 29 paintings, some of which are for sale, can be viewed during business hours in the alumni center.
Two of the five seed grants recently awarded by the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute were awarded to faculty members in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
The $30,000 grants are to support collaborative research between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic researchers on medical challenges that include heart care, cancer, infectious disease, obesity, and technology.
"As the Virginia Tech Carilion enterprise grows, these joint efforts will become very important to the success of our educational and research efforts," said Tom Campbell, assistant director for research and operations for the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
Drs. Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology, and Chris Roberts, an associate professor, both in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP) were each awarded funding.
Inzana, who is also the associate vice president for research programs for Virginia Tech, was awarded funding for "Development of nanoscale optical fiber biosensor assays to detect and differentiate Staphylococcus aureus and Methicillin-Resistant S. aureus (MRSA)." His co-investigators are Tom Kerkering, M.D, infectious disease section chief, Carilion Clinic; J.R. Heflin, professor of physics in the College of Science, Virginia Tech; and A.B. Bandara, research assistant professor in the DBSP in the VMRCVM.
Roberts was awarded funding for "Characterization of Early Defects in Immunosurveillance Mechanisms during Ovarian Cancer Progression." He is completing the work with Eva Schmelz, human nutrition, food, and exercise associate professor at Virginia Tech; and Dennis Scribner M.D, gynecological oncology section chief, Carilion Clinic.
“We are extremely pleased with Dr. Inzana and Dr. Roberts’ grants,” said Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the veterinary college. “Our college has a strong commitment to translational medicine and these collaborations with Carilion further strengthen that program.”
Carilion Clinic also provides Research Acceleration Project grants and Daniel Harrington M.D., vice president for academic affairs for Carilion Clinic and associate dean for clinic and regional integration for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, reports there have been several where Virginia Tech faculty members were partners.
"We are starting to see increased interest and activity, with both Carilion physicians and Virginia Tech researchers seeing value in the Virginia Tech Carilion enterprise," said Harrington.
During the recent round of funding, 14 projects were submitted for consideration. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute comprise a unique partnership to establish a new generation of health care professionals and leaders in their chosen fields.
Originating from the Carilion Clinic, one of Virginia's largest health care providers, and Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s leading research university, the school and institute will meld results-driven medical training with applications-oriented research.
Veterinary students enrolled in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech will present a community "dogwash" on Saturday, April 18 from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. on the Blacksburg campus.
The community dogwash event will be held at the rear of the veterinary college complex. Signs on Southgate and Duck Pond Drive will help guide dogwash participants to the event.
Presented semi-annually by DVM students enrolled in the college, the dogwash is always a popular community event. The cost of a dog wash is $10 and for an additional $5 customers can have their dogs' nails trimmed and ears cleaned.
Animals will be washed on a "first-come, first-served" basis and no appointments are necessary. Dogs will be washed while owners wait. Dogs must be on a leash, and be at least five months old with current vaccinations.
The dogwash is sponsored by the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA), a professional organization for DVM students, and the Class of 2012.
If you spend any time in the lobby of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, you quickly realize it’s a hub of activity.
It’s the place where nearly every client and patient, with the exception of those of the larger variety, spends time during their visit to the hospital. Cindy Day and her staff at the front desk are responsible for greeting and checking-in each and every client. To date, they have greeted over 100,000.
The personnel at the front desk schedule 20 to 60 appointments into the hospital’s 11 different specialty services every day. In order to do this, they must be familiar with medical terminology and numerous protocols, be able to determine when a case warrants emergency or urgent care, and follow guidelines to ensure swift action is taken.
“These folks are on our front line,” said Dr. Bill Pierson, director of the VTH. “Our veterinarians and clients depend on them to quickly and efficiently categorize a patient’s needs and keep schedules running smoothly.”
When Day began her job 22 years ago, it was only Samantha Suroski, one part-time employee and her. Since then, she has seen her staff, the work, and the technology change and grow.
“When I first started,” remembers Day, “we had to do everything—including appointments—by hand. The good news was Samantha is left-handed and I am right-handed, so we could write in the book at the same time.”
Today, Day and Suroksi, who has been with the college 24 years, and other members of the five person staff can enter appointments directly into a computerized hospital information system called CGI--which can be viewed anywhere in the hospital. This is good news considering making appointments and greeting clients is only part of the daily duties addressed by Day and her staff. They are also responsible for preparing client records for the next day and uploading information and maintaining 12 databases.
On a monthly basis, they process 250 to 300 farm visit invoices and six reports per month for the hospital’s large animal ambulatory services, and transcribing 200 to 400 radiology reports.
“Our front desk staff is such an important part of ensuring our clients and patients have a good experience here at the VTH,” said Pierson. “Their hard work and ability to multi-task benefits us all.”
Arthritis is a crippling, painful disorder that affects millions of Americans. Unfortunately, the disease is also a major problem for dogs.
Degenerative joint disease, also called osteoarthritis, is a non-infectious breakdown of the cartilage that covers the surfaces of the bones in the joints. It is also accompanied by thickening of the tissues surrounding the joint, an increase in the amount of joint fluid, and bone formation at the margins of the joint.
The disease can lead to significant pain and disability in canines who suffer from the condition, according to Dr. Tisha Harper, assistant professor of surgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS) in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
The causes of the diseases are varied and can include abnormal wear and tear on the cartilage, traumatic injury to the joint, or it can occur as part of the normal aging process.
“Any dog is at risk of developing degenerative join disease,” says Harper. “However, breeds that are more prone to diseases such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia or developmental diseases that can affect the joint more commonly develop the disease.”
Symptoms vary by each dog. However, most animals have difficulty exercising, lameness, decreased muscle mass on the affected limb and decreased ability to bend or extend the joint. There may also be increased heat or warmth associated with the affected joint.
Treatment for degenerative joint disease may be conservative or surgical, explains Harper. Conservative management involves weight management, controlled exercise, physical therapy, and pain management. The goal is to increase muscle strength and range of motion in the joint while promoting cartilage repair and decreasing pain. Surgical treatment options include surgical reconstruction, replacement of the joint or joint fusion. Veterinarians will weigh such factors such as age, activity level and the presence or absence of other disease conditions when deciding on the treatment plan.
The prognosis for dogs with the disease varies depending on the severity of the disease, the number of joints affected, and the overall health of the animal.
“Degenerative joint disease in dogs is usually secondary to other orthopedic problems; therefore, the underlying problem should be corrected if possible,” explains Harper. “However, many pets can be functional house pets with appropriate management and some surgical procedures can return animals to near normal function.”
If an owner suspects his or her dog is suffering from the disease, he or she should first contact his or her local veterinarian who can assess the animal’s condition and then, if necessary, refer them into the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for further assessment and treatment.
Dr. Dana Reeder, a member of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 1999, has joined the college as a clinical assistant professor of equine field service.
She comes to the college from Ranson, WV where she worked as an associate veterinarian at Valley Equine Associates PLLC. While there, Reeder focused heavily on racetrack work, lameness, and reproduction. According to Dr. David Hodgson, head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), when it comes to horses, Reeder has “just about done it all.”
“I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Reeder to our department,” said Hodgson. “Her experience with equine athletes and her clinical interest in hoof care and therapeutic shoeing will be of great benefit to our college as we move forward with our equine clinical services and our soon to be launched podiatry center.”
Reeder received her B.S. in agriculture engineering in 1994 from Virginia Tech. She is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Reeder has prepared show horses for competition at the highest level and has participated in fox hunting and trail riding. She is an avid endurance rider who trains, shoes, and competes on her own horses. In addition, she and her horses have thousands of miles of competitive endurance riding experience.
The late Paul R. Fout, a renowned horse breeder and trainer who passed away in 2005, will be posthumously honored when a new equine barn on the campus of Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is dedicated in his name on Friday, April 17. The ceremony will be held on the grounds of the Leesburg center at 6:30 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.
During his 60-year career, Fout found much success in his equine pursuits. He served as general manager and former chairman of the Middleburg Spring Races, designed Glenwood Park’s Alfred Hunt course, published equine-related magazines, and with a group of other buyers in the 1970s, purchased the Middleburg Training Center, which leases stalls to racehorse trainers.
But his greatest legacy is most likely related to his achievements in training racehorses. His horses won over 200 races and more than $4 million in prizes. One of his biggest success stories was Colstar, a thoroughbred he trained for Peggy Steinman, who is currently a member of the EMC Council. Colstar won 11 out of 18 races and more than $1 million in prize money, including the Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap at Belmont Park in 2000.
Steinman, a longtime friend of Fout’s, was the impetus behind the construction of the barn. “Mr. Fout was a giant in the local horse community and a strong advocate for the Equine Medical Center,” Steinman said. “His support and guidance in the equine industry was invaluable, as was the assistance he provided to the center. Naming this barn in his memory will permanently honor him and highlight his importance to the center. This is a fitting tribute.”
Fout approved the design of the new barn before his death, acknowledging the benefit of adding space to move horses in and out of the hospital quickly, thereby freeing up space for critical care cases and other emergent needs within the main hospital. The new barn is an open-air facility and includes 12 horse stalls, a nurses’ station, and three work areas. It will primarily be utilized for elective cases as well as a place to house and care for outpatients.
The barn dedication ceremony will feature an official ribbon-cutting, remarks by people who knew and worked with Fout, and a reception.
For more information about the dedication ceremony, please contact Amy Troppmann at (703) 771-6843, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
One of the most common causes of lameness in horses—an injury to tendon and ligaments—can now be treated at Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center with one of the newest treatments available: platelet rich plasma (PRP).
Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is derived from blood that is drawn from an equine patient and run through a centrifuge, which separates a solution’s less dense components from its heavier ones. This process distills a portion of the blood to a platelet concentration level that is five times richer than regular blood. At the same time, it helps to remove both red and white blood cells from the platelet rich part of the plasma.
Plasma containing this concentrated level of platelets provides an abundance of growth factors, which are the proteins in the body that stimulate cells in the tendon or ligament to start the healing process. When PRP is injected into damaged tendon or ligament, cells in the tissue—along with new cells circulating in the blood—are stimulated to bring new cells to the injured site. These healing cells work to increase the formation of new blood vessels and connective tissue, which encourages natural repair of the injury.
Because the patient’s own blood is used to make the specialized plasma—this is known as an autologous process—there is no risk of the treatment being rejected, as it might be if the blood had been provided by a donor. Autologous processes are used at the Equine Medical Center for other equine therapeutic treatments, including stem cell treatments.
“Given that tendon and ligaments in horses are often subject to injury because they become worn down with use, we’re primarily utilizing PRP treatments in these areas,” explained Dr. Jennifer Barrett, assistant professor of surgery at the Equine Medical Center.
“Ligaments, in particular, can degenerate over time, and in some cases, the normal healing and remodeling process does not kick in to an adequate level. We use PRP to help initiate cell response, so that the normal healing process is stimulated and can proceed,” she said. “As such, a PRP treatment can be particularly helpful in cases where the healing process has stalled. This treatment helps assure that the horse’s injury is completely healed and that the risk of re-injury is lessened.”
Not only can a treatment of PRP help facilitate the healing process, it may—in some cases—provide an alternative to surgery. “A real advantage to the PRP treatment,” Barrett said, “is that it is less invasive than surgery. PRP is a powerful tool in our arsenal of therapies; we can use it as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with other services we have available at the EMC, including stem cell treatments and, of course, surgery.”
Barrett cautions that a PRP treatment needs to be used with careful recuperation and rehabilitation, and rest is still an important part of the therapy. “The patient still needs time off to rest,” Barrett said. “But PRP offers a cutting-edge therapy that helps us restore horses back to full health. And that’s always our ultimate goal,” she concluded.
Dr. Rich Suess (‘89) is on the leading edge of a powerful trend in veterinary medicine. Along with his partner (Roy Barnes (‘00)), he is operating Virginia Veterinary Surgical Associates in Richmond, a private veterinary referral center.
Suess’s practice is part of a multi-specialty complex anchored around the 24/7 “Veterinary Emergency Center” in the bustling “Carytown” district of Richmond, a gentrified section of restaurants, shops and businesses located not far from Virginia Commonwealth University.
The historic outer facade of the building belies the sleek, pristine and modern interior facilities that emerged as the result of a major renovation done a few years ago. On the second floor, Suess, Barnes, and their highly trained technical and administrative staff provide the region with state of the art veterinary surgical services.
“I think (our caseload) is pretty typical of a veterinary surgical private practice,” said Suess, who has been in private practice for almost 15 years. “About 60 percent is orthopedic. It’s always going to be a little heavy on orthopedic. About 25 percent is soft tissue general surgery... a lot of that is cancer surgery, and the other 15 percent is neurologic surgery like disk herniations, neck surgery and things like that.”
Suess’ pathway to board certification and specialty practice began shortly after his graduation from the VMRCVM in 1989. He conducted a rotating internship in medicine and surgery followed by a three-year surgical residency at the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.
He had initially thought about a career in large animal veterinary medicine, but his interests gravitated toward small animal surgery. “It’s an action step,” he said. “You can see results.”
Following his training, he served for two years on Cornell’s faculty as a clinical instructor before the fierce upstate New York winters convinced him to head south. He accepted a clinical faculty position at the VMRCVM on the basis of a one-year renewable appointment, but with a growing family and the need for financial security, he opted to pursue his career in the private sector.
After six years working in northern Virginia and then Tidewater, he decided to start his own practice in Richmond. He has done so during a time in which the growth of board certified veterinary specialists in private practice is changing the way veterinary healthcare is delivered to consumers and affecting the way the profession is taught in academic institutions.
More general practitioners are referring cases to boarded surgical specialists, particularly in orthopedics, and colleges of veterinary medicine seem to be “de-emphasizing” surgical instruction, according to Suess.
Communication with referring DVM’s and with clients is a critical part of his business model, according to Suess.
“It’s absolutely vital,” said Suess who makes sure that referring practitioners are a functional part of the client/referring practitioner/specialist triad throughout the process.
“I just treat them like I would want to be treated,” he added. “I would want to know that my patient is here and what happened, and in a timely fashion.”
Suess believes the general practitioner has played a pivotal role in the growing importance of specialists in private practice. They have educated the general public about the availability of boarded specialists in the marketplace, and in the interests of providing their clients with the highest quality care, they have established the referral patterns that are characteristic of today’s profession, according to Suess.
While both general practitioners and specialists around the country are seeing reduced caseload as a result of the current economic recession, his caseload has not been substantially reduced.
One reason for that, he speculates, is because by the time a client is referred to his practice, the general practitioner has already provided the pet-owner with some kind of idea about the expenses associated with the intervention.
Suess is aware of how increased numbers of board-certified specialists in private practice are affecting caseload and instructional activities in the nation’s veterinary teaching hospitals, but he does not see current trends reversing themselves.
For one thing he says private practices are structured in a way that enables them to be more efficient with client and referring DVM communications. Also, he said, many veterinary teaching hospitals are located at rural land grant universities, whereas private referral centers are usually more conveniently located in major population centers.
“It’s a tough situation for the teaching hospitals because I think in most aspects a private practice referral hospital can provide superior service,” he said.
Some university based veterinary teaching hospitals are exploring distributed educational models for clinical instruction. Suess understands the complexities of the situation and believes some “hybrid” system that creates a partnership between the public and private sectors may be the answer.
Though gratified and successful with his thriving practice, Suess reflects wistfully about his time in Blacksburg. “Some days I do regret leaving the academic world, especially Blacksburg,” he said. “I don’t think I would have stayed in academics anywhere else but there.”
Omega Tau Sigma (OTS), a service fraternity in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, will host an Easter egg hunt on Saturday, April 11 on the college’s campus located on Duckpond Drive in Blacksburg.
The event starts promptly at 10 a.m. and is free and open to the public.
The Easter Bunny will also be on hand to greet visitors.
Participating children only need to bring a basket or other container to hold any eggs they may find. All other materials will be provided.
For more information, please contact Valerie Reinoso at firstname.lastname@example.org