Vital Signs

April 2011


Moving ahead... together

Dear friends and colleagues,

Dr. Gerhardt G. SchurigSpring in Blacksburg is, at once, an impressive time of year. The sky is bluer, temperatures are warmer, trees are blooming, and the air seems clearer and crisper. And then the next day is 31 degrees and rainy. Just like the move toward summer, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine continues to develop into a leading world-class institute for veterinary medical instruction and research. The signs of growth surround us: hard hats, emerging buildings, and prospective students fill our parking lots these days. But like an elusive season of Southwest Virginia weather, we're not quite there yet. Support from all of our stakeholders, such as our two state veterinary medical associations, alumni, and private donors, remains as important as ever.

The vitality of these relationships was showcased at our Annual Awards Luncheon on Friday, April 2. What was once a semi-annual event has been combined in to a great occasion for us to celebrate our award-winning students and faculty members and thank the donors who make scholarship funds a reality. The luncheon, held at the Inn at Virginia Tech, brought together more than 300 attendees into what was our biggest awards luncheon to date. Many of you who attended the luncheon have supported our college since even before it was founded in 1980. Speaking with you last week, I was again reminded of how far we, as a community of supporters, have come and that we, collectively, step into the future together.

Graduation for the Class of 2011 is just around the corner, or so the graduating students remind me in my meetings with them. As I speak with our outgoing students, I remind them of the importance of their involvement in the veterinary community and its associations after they receive their degrees. Our graduates will employ their skills in Virginia, Maryland, and throughout the United States and world. Regardless of where they end up, their involvement in and commitment to their professional associations remain crucial to their success as veterinarians and to the importance of our profession in society.

We all have important roles to play in the future of the college. I urge all of you to continue being a part of our college's future. Whether through ongoing communication, advice, or direct financial support, every form of engagement is valuable in shaping the future of our institution and profession. The seasons in Blacksburg may occasionally baffle us with their finicky nature, but one thing I can certainly count on is the resolve of our supporters.

As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback and input.

Best regards,

Gerhardt G. Schurig, DVM, Ph.D.
Dean
 

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In This Issue

 

 

Featured Stories


VMRCVM faculty members collaborate on groundbreaking cancer research

Dr. John Rossmeisl

Dr. John H. Rossmeisl, Jr., associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery, was among the authors of an article that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Three VMRCVM faculty members were among the co-authors of a recent article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that describes the use of a method to successfully treat a seven-year old spayed female Labrador retriever with a five-year history of degenerative coxofemoral joint disease. The dog's frequent lameness led to the discovery of a mass that was consistent with a cancerous tumor. With traditional treatment, survival for such a patient is three to six months.

The college's Dr. John H. Rossmeisl, Jr., associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery, Dr. Otto I. Lanz, associate professor of surgery, and Dr. Natalia Henao-Guerrero, assistant professor of anesthesiology, collaborated with Dr. Rafael Davalos, Robert E. Neal II and Paulo Garcia of the Virginia Tech - Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences on the article.

The authors described how they used a combination of Davalos' patent pending method of irreversible electroporation followed by the well-known medical treatment of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. After the tumor developed resistance to the chemotherapy, they used irreversible electroporation a second time to completely eradicate all signs of the cancer. After six months, the authors reported in the Feb. 14, 2011 journal article that the family pet was in complete remission according to clinical and computerized tomography scans.

It is now 12 months since the team first treated the patient, and the dog remains in complete remission.

The National Science Foundation is funding additional work in this area, presenting Davalos with a $450,000 CAREER Award to continue this research.

Davalos explained how his novel process applies electrical pulses, each microseconds in length, to a targeted tissue area. The goal is to permanently open nanopores in the membranes of a cell, causing cell death. The destruction of the cells in this case is not due to injury from heat, and therefore doesn't damage the supporting structures in the tissue, including the extracellular matrix, blood vessels, and nerves. "This accomplishment is very important since it allows the selective treatment of cells while respecting healthy tissue architecture," Davalos added.

"The procedure is essentially done with two minimally invasive electrodes placed into the targeted region," Davalos said, "delivering approximately 80 pulses to the site in about one minute. The pulses are high voltage, but low energy, so no significant heating occurs as a result of the procedure."

With new funding, Davalos will specifically look at whether irreversible electroporation procedures can be adapted for the destruction of special tumors called glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive type of primary brain tumor in humans. The median survival for people diagnosed with these tumors is only 15 months. The team, which also includes Dr. John Robertson, director of the Center for Comparative Oncology and professor of pathology at VMRCVM, and Dr. Tom Ellis at Wake Forest University, has already treated a canine patient with a brain tumor that was refractory to surgical resection. They used their procedure to kill a majority of the tumor volume, making it possible to treat the rest of the remaining cancer cells with radiation. At four months after treatment, there was no sign of the tumor.

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VMRCVM's 2011 commencement to be held on May 14

VMRCVM commencement

Eighty-five new veterinarians will graduate from VMRCVM on Saturday, May 14 in a ceremony at Virginia Tech's Squires Student Center.

Eighty-five new veterinarians will graduate from VMRCVM on Saturday, May 14. The ceremony, which will take place in Virginia Tech's Squires Student Center Commonwealth Ballroom, will include dignitaries from both Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland-College Park.

In addition to the 85 DVM degrees, Virginia Tech will also award Ph.D. and M.S. degrees and Certificates of Residency during weekend ceremonies.

The ceremony will include the presentation of diplomas jointly awarded by Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland at College Park, the administration of the "Veterinarian's Oath," the "Hooding Ceremony," and numerous awards and honors.

In keeping with tradition, the graduating class has invited a favorite faculty member to address them during the ceremony. Dr. David Grant, assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, has been selected.

Dr. Claudia True ('86), president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, will administer the "Veterinarian's Oath." Dr. John Kable ('86), president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, will welcome the new graduates into the profession on behalf of the organized veterinary medical community.

Nathaniel Burke, the valedictorian of the class of 2011, will be awarded the Richard B. Talbot Award, and Dr. Maureen Noftsinger ('01), will be honored as the Outstanding Young Alumna.

There is ample seating, though it is on a first-come, first-served basis. The ceremony begins promptly at 8:30 a.m. with a reception following in the Old Dominion Ballroom.

View more information about Virginia Tech's Spring Commencement ceremonies.

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College offers free eye exams to service dogs

service dog eye exams

VMRCVM will join with the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and Merial Inc. to participate in the Service Dog Eye Exam Event on May 12.

For the fourth consecutive year, VMRCVM will join with the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and Merial Inc. to participate in the Service Dog Eye Exam Event on May 12.

The veterinary college will hold a free eye clinic for service dogs on Thursday, May 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital located on the Blacksburg campus. The event will be held to preserve the sight of the dogs serving our community, benefit those who depend on service dogs, strengthen relationships with practicing veterinarians, and gather information to help the future performance of working dogs.

"Since service dogs allow those with disabilities the freedom to live independently, it is important that these dogs be kept in optimal health," said Dr. Phillip Pickett, professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. "In some cases, the good vision of the service dog is the 'vision' of the owner."

Service dogs include guide dogs, handicapped assistance dogs, detection dogs, military and police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and formally trained and certified therapy dogs. Dogs must be active working dogs that were previously certified or are currently enrolled in a formal training program or organization to qualify.

The veterinary college has offered free screening examinations and consultations for service dogs for more than 20 years, according to Pickett. "As with any other disease process in the body, early diagnosis based on routine yearly screening can lead to early intervention that may be able to save vision and keep the dog in the working force," he said.

Traditionally, more than 180 board certified veterinary ophthalmologists provide sight-saving eye exams to thousands of service dogs throughout the United States and Canada at no cost during Service Dog Eye Exam Month.

To receive a free service dog eye examination, dog owners or service agencies must register on the ACVO website between April 1 and April 29. Appointments are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Members of the press who would like to cover this event must RSVP to Eric McKeeby by Thursday, May 5. Please direct all inquiries via email to emckeeby@vt.edu.

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College participates in AAVMC Congressional visits

AAVMC Congressional visits

The AAVMC annual meeting involved representatives from VMRCVM making congressional visits in Washington, D.C.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) held its annual meeting in Alexandria, Va., from March 10-13, which involved representatives from the college making congressional visits in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the college and currently president-elect of the AAVMC, was among those who participated in the meetings. "It was good to join colleagues and friends from across the country to discuss legislation and other issues of importance," said Schurig. "Their outcomes will have a direct relationship with the future of veterinary medicine."

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (Va.), Vice Chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture, met with Schurig in Washington and attended the AAVMC legislative reception. Goodlatte supports the Veterinary Public Health Amendments Act of 2011, also referred to as H.R. 525, which is sponsored by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (Wis.).

This new legislation modifies the Public Health Service Act and will add veterinary public health as one of the professional groups eligible for grants to train the public health veterinarian workforce. It will also help increase the number of veterinarians working in livestock and food animal practices along with various public health fields. Additionally, it will assist with student loan repayment plans for veterinarians studying public health.

The AAVMC is a non-profit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people, and the environment by advancing academic veterinary medicine.

"I am honored to represent the college on the board of this prestigious organization, and I look forward to serving in the upcoming year," said Schurig.

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Fourth annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K to be held May 7

Bob Duncan Memorial 5k

The Fourth Annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K will be held Saturday, May 7, at 11 a.m. All proceeds will benefit the Bob Duncan Memorial Diagnostic Veterinary Pathology Scholarship.

The Fourth Annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K will be held Saturday, May 7, at 11 a.m. All proceeds will benefit the Bob Duncan Memorial Diagnostic Veterinary Pathology Scholarship, which awards a fourth year veterinary student with commitment and zeal for diagnostic veterinary pathology.

Dr. Bob Duncan was an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology who passed away in May 2007. He was an avid runner - always ready for the next challenge or race, whether it be a half marathon or relay race for charity.

Packet pick-up and race day registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Virginia Tech Cross Country course on Duck Pond Dr. If registering the day of the race, participants are encouraged to arrive early as registration will close at 10:30 a.m.

The entry fee is $20 if received by April 23 and $30 on race day. For more information and to download the registration form, please visit the Bob Duncan Memorial 5K website.

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Awards & Honors


Nathaniel Burke named Outstanding Graduating Student

Nathaniel C. Burke

Nathaniel C. Burke has been named the VMRCVM's Outstanding Graduating Student for the 2010-11 academic year.

Virginia Tech has named Nathaniel C. Burke of Luray, Va., as the Outstanding Graduating Student in the VMRCVM for the 2010-2011 academic year.

In 2005, Burke graduated summa cum laude majoring in human nutrition, foods and exercise in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for his bachelor of science. He also received his master of science at Virginia Tech in 2007 studying biomedical and veterinary sciences. His concentration was in ruminant nutrition, antioxidants/oxidative stress, and forage utilization, with a thesis looking at the assessment of redox markers in cattle.

Burke is expected to receive a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in May of 2011. Along with maintaining a grade point average of 3.99 (on a 4.0 scale) and completing over 190 hours, Burke is driven outside the classroom which is noted by his numerous awards and accolades.

Burke was given the William Preston Society Thesis Award in 2007 for his outstanding life sciences thesis. A few of his other honors include being named an American Association of Bovine Practitioners Amstutz Scholar and a Western Veterinary Conference Scholar in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Burke has presented his works at several different venues throughout his academic career. Along with other fellow scholars, he presented on the effects of gradual weaning and transport on leukocyte antioxidant enzymes and plasma malondialdehyde at the veterinary college's Nineteenth Annual Research Symposium in Blacksburg, Va.

Burke is also a published academic researcher. His collaborative research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Animal Science and Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. Burke is presently a member of several professional associations, such as the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, Academy of Rural Veterinarians, and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. Learn more

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Ten VMRCVM students awarded 2011 Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarships

Pfizer Scholars

The VMRCVM 2011 Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarship winners are (top, left to right) Hannah Bowmaster ('13), Sarah Brauning ('12), Daniel Cafarelli ('12), David Dulaney ('12), Julie Gillem ('12), (bottom, left to right) Holly Lui ('13), Lindsey Novean ('12), Curtis Plowgian ('13), Brooke Reynolds ('12), and Jeremy Shomper ('13).

Ten DVM students from the VMRCVM were recently awarded 2011 Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarships in the amount of $2,500. The scholarship winners are Hannah Bowmaster ('13), Sarah Brauning ('12), Daniel Cafarelli ('12), David Dulaney ('12), Julie Gillem ('12), Holly Lui ('13), Lindsey Novean ('12), Curtis Plowgian ('13), Brooke Reynolds ('12), and Jeremy Shomper ('13).

The students were selected by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation's (AVMF) Grants and Awards Scholarship subcommittee based on academic excellence, leadership, diversity, experience, and potential contribution in food animal or food safety veterinary medicine.

Learn more about the Veterinary Student Scholarship Program.

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Dr. William Huckle and Dr. David Caudell

Dr. William Huckle (top,center) and Dr. David Caudell (bottom, center) recently received outstanding alumni awards from Virginia Tech.

Dr. William Huckle and Dr. David Caudell receive Outstanding Alumni Awards

Two VMRCVM faculty members recently received outstanding alumni awards from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Dr. William Huckle, associate professor of cell biology and pharmacology, received the Outstanding Alumni Award for the college of agriculture’s Department of Biochemistry and Dr. David Caudell (’00), assistant professor of anatomic pathology, received the Outstanding Alumni Award for the Agricultural Technology Program.

Each year, departments in the college of agriculture honor alumni who graduated more than 10 years ago for his or her achievements since graduation. Huckle received his master's degree in biochemistry in 1981, and Caudell received his associate of agriculture degree in 1994.

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Awards & Accolades Roundup

Christine Absher, budget coordinator, was chosen as VMRCVM's Staff Member of the Month for March 2011.

Kyle Alberi ('14) and Hannah Lowe ('12) recently won awards at the American Association of Swine Practitioners meeting.

Dr. James Brown, clinical assistant professor of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, recently achieved Diplomate status in the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Dr. Melinda Cep ('09), a legislative fellow for the office of Congresswoman Rosa DeLaura (CT-3), received the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award for the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Dr. Mike Cissell, clinical instructor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, recently achieved Diplomate status in the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Dr. Linda Dahlgren, assistant professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, recently spoke at the American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention held in Baltimore, Md.

Dr. Rujuan Dai, research scientist in the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology, received a 2011 AAI Junior Faculty Travel Grant to attend the 98th AAI Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

Dr. Marion Ehrich, professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology, recently gave a presentation at the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program.

Sandy Hancock, of the Good Laboratory Practice Program Quality Assurance Unit, was chosen as VMRCVM's Staff Member of the Month for April 2011.

Neeta Jain, MS and PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology, won first place, oral, in the American Association of Veterinary Immunologists student awards for "Brucella outer membrane vesicles-polaxamer mixture as a vaccine for B melitensis in a mouse model."

Dr. Taranjit Kaur, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology, was among the co-authors of the article, "Campylobacter troglodytis sp. nov., Isolated from Feces of Human-Habituated Wild Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in Tanzaniai," in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Dr. Aaron S. Lucas ('10) recently received a Food Animal Incentive Award at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, Nev.

Joyce Morgan, former executive assistant to the dean of the college, was recently awarded the Friend of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) at the annual Virginia Veterinary Conference in Roanoke.

Dr. J. Phillip Pickett, professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, recently presented several lectures on a variety of topics in ophthalmology to the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association in East Lansing, Mich., the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association in Roanoke, Va., and the West Virginia Veterinary Medical Association in Charleston, W.Va.

Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, represented VMRCVM in an Education Consortium meeting in Washington, D.C., to explore opportunities for colleges of veterinary medicine and USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services to collaborate on enhanced Foot-and-Mouth Disease response options for the United States.

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VMRCVM Engagement


Dr. Peter Eyre delivers 2011 AAVMC Recognition Lecture

Dr. Peter Eyre

Dr. Peter Eyre was chosen by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) to deliver the 2011 Recognition Lecture.

Dr. Peter Eyre, dean emeritus at VMRCVM, was chosen by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) to deliver the 2011 Recognition Lecture. The Recognition Lecture was presented at the AAVMC Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, March 13.

"Dr. Eyre is a fierce advocate for veterinary medical education and a clear vision of its importance in ensuring veterinarians are well positioned to meet societal needs," says AAVMC Executive Director Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou. "A native of the United Kingdom who has served in leadership roles in the U.S. and Canada, Dr. Eyre brings an international perspective to challenges and problems, and has a keen eye for getting to the heart of the challenges facing veterinary education. He is unafraid to ask the hard question or propose the difficult choice."

Eyre received his undergraduate veterinary degree, bachelor of science degree, and doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. He was Lecturer in Pharmacology at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies for seven years prior to joining the faculty at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College, where he was chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and associate director of the Canadian Centre for Toxicology. Eyre was appointed dean of VMRCVM in 1985, where he established the Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine in 1989. After his retirement in 2003, he was named interim dean of the University of Calgary's new veterinary school. In 2006, he returned to Virginia-Maryland, where he continues to lecture occasionally.

The Recognition Lecture is an annual honor given by the AAVMC to an individual whose leadership and vision have made a significant contribution to academic veterinary medicine and the veterinary profession. The recipient is invited to speak on a topic of his or her choice at the AAVMC Annual Conference. Past Recognition Lecturers have included former deans, federal government officials, researchers, and academicians.

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Dr. Gary Vroegindewey engages in public health assessment and education outreach

Dr. Gary Vroegindewey

Dr. Gary Vroegindewey is working with the UMD School of Public Health and volunteers on assessment and recovery of Japan after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster.

Dr. Gary Vroegindewey, of the college's Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, represented VMRCVM at the Student American Veterinary Medical Association Annual Symposium. He presented on Global One Health Opportunities for students detailing strategic global drivers. Vroegindewey highlighted the wide range of career opportunities in international veterinary medicine and discussed experiential options to prepare for international work.

Vroegindewey is also working with the University of Maryland School of Public Health and volunteers on assessment and recovery of Japan after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. The Japan Medical Public Health Information Sharing Enterprise links personnel on ground with resources to bridge critical infrastructure gaps not addressed by formal response networks.

 

 


Student Spotlight


VMRCVM at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology

The annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology was held in March in Washington, D.C. Those who attended the Virginia Tech/VMRCVM breakfast reception at the meeting include graduates of the college's veterinary and graduate programs, former post-doctoral fellows, current graduate students, and current and former faculty.

Society of Toxicology annual meeting

Back row: Bob Gogal, Dave Barber, Celia Dodd, Mark Johnson, Geraldin Magin-Bissel, Steve Holladay, Melinda Pomeroy-Black, Nancy Contel, Murafi Mallela, Ellen Evans, Zhanquan Jia, Guilherme Emerick, Kent Carlson, Bernie Jortner
Middle row: Ebru Karpazoglu, Melinda Pomeroy-Black, Zadr Radi, Wen Li, Lynne Darby Butler, N. Alrowaly, S. Mousa, Hassan El-Fawal
Front row: Marion Ehrich, Tino Balbuena, Marquea King, Hedie Bustamante
Attending but not in the photograph: Mitzi and Prakash Nagarkati

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Upcoming Events



VMRCVM students to present community dog wash on April 9

dog wash

Students will present a community dog wash on Saturday, April 9 from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. at the veterinary college complex on the Virginia Tech campus.

The Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA) will present a community dog wash on Saturday, April 9 from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. on the Blacksburg campus.

The community dog wash event will be held at the rear of the veterinary college complex. Signs on Southgate and Duck Pond Drive will help guide dog wash participants to the event.

Presented semi-annually by DVM students enrolled in the college, the dog wash 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.

Learn more

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For questions or additional information about Vital Signs, email vetcomm@vt.edu.

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