College’s Research Program Remains Vital
Dear friends and colleagues,
Each spring, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine showcases our research excellence at the Annual Research Symposium. This year’s symposium saw record participation from 68 graduate students who gave oral and poster presentations about their research. They learned about “One Health and the Detection of Emerging Infectious Diseases” from keynote speaker Dr. Larry Madoff of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The college also presented student awards and honored Dr. Sarah McDonald of the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute with the 2015 Zoetis Award for Research Excellence.
The Research Symposium gives us an opportunity to recognize the importance of a successful research program and the accomplishments of faculty, staff, and students. Thus far this fiscal year, our research expenditures have exceeded $7.4 million with major funding from government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nonprofits such as the Alliance for Lupus Research and the American Heart Association, animal health corporations such as Zoetis and Merial, and industry partners such as Smithfield Foods. In FY 2014, the college’s research expenditures totaled $9.6 million. These figures include our faculty in Blacksburg and Leesburg, along with those at the University of Maryland and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke.
We place much of our focus on One Health, which brings together veterinarians, physicians, and other scientists to address public health threats affecting both people and animals. We also have a translational research program that takes laboratory findings directly to clients in a clinical setting, as well as clinical trials with expanded enrollment and a new Collaborative Research Network that enables specialty practices in Virginia and Maryland to participate in our cutting-edge research.
As the nation’s only two-state veterinary college, we have a unique opportunity to strengthen the bonds between our research programs at Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. Dr. S. Ansar Ahmed, head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Dr. Siba Samal, associate dean for the Maryland campus, are working together on a new joint venture that will enhance collaboration between the two campuses. Still in the early planning stages, the program will involve seed grants for faculty at Blacksburg and College Park, as well as joint committees and appointments.
Our research program includes both basic science to understand the molecular and biological basis for disease, as well as applied science to improve the lives of pets and people. New research programs cover a wide range of areas including oncology, neurology, infectious diseases, inflammation, regenerative medicine, animal models, and healthcare disparities. None of this would be possible without our high-achieving students, faculty, staff, and research partners who are committed to discovery.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine will host its annual Open House from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 11. Visitors will have a chance to learn about veterinary medicine and the college through tours, demonstrations, and lectures.
The Open House will take place on the veterinary college’s Blacksburg campus, located at 245 Duck Pond Drive, and will feature guided tours of its 270,000-square-foot complex, which includes the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students will lead hour-long tours beginning at 11 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
The family-friendly event will also feature activities designed expressly for children, including face painting, a wildlife exhibit, an anatomy lesson with a painted horse, and a demonstration on how to safely approach and interact with dogs. Veterinary students will offer special tours for elementary-age children starting at 11:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. Third-year students will also help “surgically repair” stuffed animals that children bring to the Open House (limit one per child) during a Teddy Bear Repair Clinic, open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A record 68 graduate students participated in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s 26th annual Research Symposium on Thursday, March 19.
Presentations on both clinical and basic science research were provided by eight master’s students and 11 Ph.D. students from the college’s Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences graduate program.
Research posters were presented by five Virginia Tech master’s students and 41 Ph.D. students, along with three Ph.D. students from the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Sciences.
Dr. Larry Madoff, professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, presented the symposium keynote on “One Health and the Detection of Emerging Infectious Diseases.” An academic infectious disease physician, he specializes in the epidemiology of emerging pathogens, bacterial pathogenesis, and international health. He is also director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology and Immunizations.
Dr. Sarah McDonald, an assistant professor at both the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, received the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence at the veterinary college’s 26th Annual Research Symposium.
Established in 1985 as the Pfizer Award for Research Excellence, the Zoetis award is a nationally recognized honor for a faculty member at each veterinary school in the United States. The award seeks to “foster innovative research, on which the scientific advancement of the profession depends, by recognizing outstanding research effort and productivity.”
McDonald, a virologist in the veterinary college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, studies the evolutionary dynamics and pathogenesis of rotavirus, which is responsible for the deaths of as many as half a million infants and young children globally each year.
McDonald also recently received a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the early stages of how rotavirus replicates its genome — an important gap in scientists’ virus knowledge that might aid in the development of next-generation vaccines.
A $1.4 million gift from Smithfield Foods Inc. will support antibiotic alternatives studies in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Research projects will investigate methods to enhance animal well-being and production efficiency in swine-rearing operations.
The contribution, which will be paid over three years, will fund three projects designed to improve health, reduce antibiotic use, and find alternative production methods for growing pigs. Dr. Cyril Clarke, dean of the veterinary college, said the research projects will advance swine health.
“The funding provided by Smithfield Foods will be used to develop vaccines that will reduce the need for antibiotics and the resultant development of antibiotic resistance,” he said. “Such partnerships between industry and research universities are essential to control infectious diseases and secure a safe and wholesome food supply.”
Dr. William “Terry” Swecker in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and Nammalwar “Nathan” Sriranganathan in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology are among the researchers funded through the Smithfield donation.
Alumni of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine made a very strong showing at the 2015 Virginia Veterinary Conference held at the Hotel Roanoke in late February.
Dr. Bill Tyrrell (DVM ’92) of Leesburg, Virginia, was named the Distinguished Virginia Veterinarian. After graduation, he spent four years in small animal practice in Northern Virginia, where he became fascinated with cardiology and echocardiography. He then began a cardiology residency program at the Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
“The Distinguished Virginia Veterinarian Award is given to an individual who, by his/her actions, bring recognition to veterinary medicine in Virginia,” said Dr. Peggy Rucker, current president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA). “Bill has been a tireless champion for the VVMA and is always working to build support for both our organization as well as others. He continues to serve our profession in many ways and was instrumental in the formation and development of the Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference. He now serves as our Alternate Delegate to the American Veterinary Medical Association.”
Earlier this month, Virginia-Maryland second-year students Laura Turner and Robbie Taylor were among 66 students representing 26 veterinary schools as part of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2015 Legislative Fly-in.
The two-day event gave students the chance to learn more about the federal legislative process and advocate for bills that impact the future of the veterinary profession and U.S. animal agriculture.
From the ever-increasing weight of student loans on the backs of young professionals to the lack of veterinary services across America’s rural communities, students had a lot to say when they met with their legislators in the nation’s capital
“It is always exciting for us to see so many young people come to Washington to share their views on issues that impact the veterinary profession and animal health and welfare,” said AVMA President Dr. Ted Cohn. “The rising cost of student debt is on a lot of these students’ minds as they plan for their future careers, and opening up more opportunities for veterinarians to serve rural communities in need of public health or food animal medicine is also critical to our nation’s agricultural community. We would like to thank these students for exercising their civic duty and hope that the 114th Congress will be responsive to their concerns.”
The seventh annual AVMA Legislative Fly-in was sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital and the Student American Veterinary Medical Association and received additional support from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.
Dr. Sophie H. Bogers, an equine surgery resident at Virginia Tech’s Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, was recently named a recipient of the 2015 Elaine Klein Career Development Award.
One of two career development awards offered by the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, the Klein award is a new competitive program intended to promote the development of promising investigators by providing a one-year salary supplement of $15,000. The program is restricted to one award per year and is named in honor of renowned horsewoman, Elaine Klein. The grant is funded by $15,000 donations by the Klein Family Foundation.
Bogers’ research work focuses on using stem cells to treat osteoarthritis in horses with specific aims of optimizing the anti-inflammatory properties of equine bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells.
“We are very proud to see Sophie’s good work be recognized by such a prestigious award,” said Dr. Jennifer Barrett, Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery and Boger’s adviser/mentor. “Her research has the potential to change the way osteoarthritis is treated in horses, but also perhaps in dogs and humans.”
The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation funded a slate of 17 research projects in 2015 with $986,863. The Foundation exists to help horses of all breeds by funding excellent and significant veterinary research at universities throughout North America and beyond. Its total impact since 1983 is over $22 million to fund 322 projects at 41 universities.
A partnership between two universities on opposite sides of the globe is giving invaluable, first-hand experiences to students at both institutions of higher education.
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine began its partnership with Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) in Chennai, India, seven years ago. The program involves a summer exchange of Virginia-Maryland and TANUVAS veterinary students, practicum training for the college’s Master of Public Health students, and training of TANUVAS faculty in research methodologies in Blacksburg. The two universities recently approved a dual Ph.D. program and hold an annual research symposium in Chennai.
The Virginia-Maryland students in the exchange program enroll in a two-credit elective course entitled, “International Clinical Veterinary Medicine.” During the first three weeks, students rotate through clinical services at the TANUVAS teaching hospital in Chennai, attend lectures, and visit local animal research facilities. Students benefit from exposure to veterinary cases that occur frequently in tropical and subtropical climates but not often in the United States.
This story was originally published by the Virginia Tech Graduate School.
Aspiring equine surgeon George Elane doubles as Graduate Life Center Fellow George Elane of Laurel, Maryland, is a third-year student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine who aspires to become an equine surgeon. He also serves as a Graduate Life Center (GLC) Fellow by planning events for GLC residents and fellow graduate students. Prior to his time in Blacksburg, Elane earned a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Auburn University in 2012. When not engrossed in his veterinary studies, he enjoys hiking, travel, playing piano, reading, spending time with friends and family, and watching Doctor Who.
How would you describe your area of study to your grandmother?
I would tell her that I get to work with some of the cleverest people I know, that my brain is stretched to its limits every day, that even in the field of medicine there is room for creativity, and that she really ought to buy herself a horse.
What is your primary motivation for persevering through graduate school?
I once went out on a call with a vet at 3 a.m. to see a mare who was having trouble giving birth to a foal. Without going into gritty details, there was a complication, but we worked quickly and were able to save both the mare and the foal, to the delight of the clients. It turned out it was the daughter's horse, and she sent a very sweet poster with pictures of her and her horse in thanks to the veterinarian. So that is my motivation—that one day, I will be out of the classroom, working hard and getting dirty at 3 in the morning and at the end of it all, I'll be able to make a difference. That, and hearing “Dr. Elane” doesn't sound all that bad.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
Lauren Scaletta, an oncology technician at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, has become an indispensable part of the Oncology Service team. She has a fantastic sense of humor and makes working even on stressful and busy days a pleasure, according to her nominators. “She is without fail someone that is true to her word and can be counted on. Her clients adore her! She is a compassionate listener, offering sound advice and demonstrating solid judgment,” wrote the nominators.
Scaletta is able to pick up on key phrases that may indicate a patient isn’t doing well, even if the owners don’t realize it yet, bringing it to the attention of the oncology clinicians so it can be addressed appropriately. As a service that routinely does not have students, she steps in, and has done so more than ever as the oncology caseload has steadily increased.
Among her duties, she takes the initial client history for new cases, checks in all rechecks, handles the scheduling of all cases, returns client calls, and keeps the service running smoothly and efficiently. Scaletta trained other technicians how to safely administer chemotherapy and trained them in oncology. “She has also stepped up to take on a new role in clinical trials, attending a training session in Chicago for the multi-institutional pharmaceutical trial,” the nominators noted. “Bringing Lauren onto our team was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We feel very lucky to have her—she is an inspiration to our clients, other technicians, and to the doctors.”
Several faculty members received grants from the Veterinary Memorial Fund:
- Drs. Kurt Zimmerman and John Rossmeisl. “Immunosignature Differentiation of Meningoencephalomyelitis and Brain Tumors in Dogs.”
- Drs. Jennifer Barrett and Lauren Groom. “Accuracy of open MRI for guiding injection of the equine deep digital flexor tendon within the hoof.”
- Drs. David Panciera, Wendy Morre, Gregory Daniel, and W. Edward Monroe. “Investigation of a novel modified fixed dose determination protocol for radioiodine treatment of feline hyperthyroidism.”
- Drs. John Rossmeisl, Elankumaran Subbiah, Jamie King, and Kemba Clapp. “Phase I Clinical Trial of Recombinant Newcastle Disease Virus for Canine Intracranial Meningiomas.”
- Drs. João Henrique N. Soares, P. Natalia Henao-Guerrero, Noah Pavlisko, and Allan Williamson. “Cardiovascular and isoflurance sparing effects of fentanyl in dogs.”
Dr. Marian Benitez, clinical assistant professor of small animal surgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, recently passed the ACVS board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Dr. Stacie Boswell (DVM ’09), equine veterinarian at Western Trails Veterinary Hospital in Edgewood, New Mexico, recently passed the ACVS board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Dr. Ashley Dunn (DVM ’11) has been working in small animal emergency medicine at the Meredith Place Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Meredith, New Hampshire, since October 2013. This February, she was promoted to medical director for the practice.
Dr. Kendra Freeman (MS ’14), veterinarian at CARE Veterinary Center in Frederick, Maryland, and former resident at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, recently passed the ACVS board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Dr. Farrah Horowitz (MS ’09), surgeon at East End Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center in Riverhead, New York, and former Virginia-Maryland Vet Med surgery resident, recently passed the ACVS board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Dr. David Hummel (DVM '09), surgeon at Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center in Richmond, Virginia, recently passed the ACVS board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Dr. Thomas J. Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology, was the co-chair of the First American Society of Microbiology Conference on Polymicrobial Infections on Nov. 13-16, 2014, in Washington, D.C. He also received a conference grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support this conference. Previously, Inzana was also a committee member at the Third Prato Conference on the Pathogenesis of Bacterial Diseases of Animals in Prato, Italy on Oct. 10-13, 2014.
Dr. Giulio Menciotti, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received a first-place clinical research poster prize at the 10th Annual Via Research Recognition Day on Feb. 27 at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg.
Dr. Caitlin O’Shea (MS ’14), surgeon at Wolf Creek Equine Hospital in Lothian, Maryland and former Virginia-Maryland Vet Med surgery resident, recently passed the ACVS board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Briana Petruzzi, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received a first place poster award at the Interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate Program Spring Retreat hosted by Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Science Institute on March 7.
Dr. Holly Phelps (DVM '07), veterinarian at CARE Veterinary Center in Frederick, Maryland, recently passed the ACVS board examination and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Dr. Valerie Ragan and Dr. Bess Pierce of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine traveled to Armenia to conduct a national brucellosis program assessment at the request of the Armenian Minister of Agriculture. They visited several areas in Armenia and met with farmers, community veterinarians, village mayors, and government veterinarians, as well as the agriculture minister. They also visited regional laboratories and met with Center for Disease Control’s South Caucasus team, and representatives from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. They are currently preparing a report for the agriculture minister regarding their findings and recommendations for improving the brucellosis eradication program in Armenia.
Lauren Sheehan, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received a second place poster award at the Interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate Program Spring Retreat hosted by Virginia Tech's Fralin Life Science Institute on March 7.
Dr. Stephen Smith, professor of aquatic and exotic animal medicine in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was recognized as one of the “15 Top Exotic Animal Veterinary Professors” by VetTechColleges.com.
Dr. Miranda Vieson, veterinary anatomic pathology chief resident, received a 2015 American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Trainee Poster Award to help pay for travel and registration expenses to attend the AAI Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, on May 8-12.
Dr. Michael Leib, the C.R. Roberts Professor of Small Animal Medicine, presented eight hours of lectures at the 87th Annual Western Veterinary Conference and was gastrointestinal topic coordinator in Las Vegas from Feb. 16-20, 2015.
Dr. Mark Freeman, associate professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, made two presentations at the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association conference in Roanoke on Feb 27, 2015.
Dr. Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services, and Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, associate dean for professional programs, both gave presentations at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. on March 13-15. Both Pelzer and Hodgson presented on “Who Are We Selecting and What Are the Outcomes?” and Pelzer co-presented on “The Use of the Multiple Mini Interview Format within North American Veterinary Programs.”
Dr. Jeffrey Ruth, clinical assistant professor of radiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, gave presentations at the Jefferson Area Veterinary Medical Association in Charlottesville and the Greater Peninsula Veterinary Medical Association at Newport News.
Dr. Nathaniel Tablante, associate professor and Extension poultry veterinarian at the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, gave two invited presentations on “Avian Influenza: What You Need to Know, Not Fear” and “Avian Influenza: Past, Present, and Future” at the annual meeting of the Aviespecialistas de Mexico A.C. (Poultry Specialists of Mexico) and the Asosiacion de los Lideres de las Empresas Avicolas de Mexico (Association of Leaders of Poultry Enterprises of Mexico) on March 12, 2015 in San Juan del Rio, Queretaro, Mexico.
Dr. Michelle Theus, assistant professor of molecular and cellular neurobiology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, presented a poster for the Virginia chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. Two of her graduate students, Thomas Brickler and Ben Okyere, also presented papers at the meeting. Brickler also won a travel award to the American Society of Neural Therapy and Repair.
Deena Khan and S. Ansar Ahmed. “Sex differences and estrogen regulation of miRNAs in lupus, a prototypical autoimmune disease.” Cellular Immunology 294 (2015), pp. 70-79.
Kemp SD, Zimmerman KL, Panciera DL, Monroe WE, Leib MS, and Lanz OI. “A Comparison of Liver Sampling Techniques in Dogs.” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 29(1):51-57.
Kemp SD, Zimmerman KL, Panciera DL, Monroe WE, and Leib MS. “Histopathologic Variation between Liver Lobes in Dogs.” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 29(1):58-62.
Aloka B. Bandara, Ziwei Zuo, Siddharth Ramachandran, Alfred Ritter, James R. Heflin, and Thomas J. Inzana. “Detection of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococci by Biosensor Assay Consisting of Nanoscale Films on Optical Fiber Long-Period Gratings.” Biosensors and Bioelectronics. In press.
Sujuan Guo, Yanping Liang, Susan F. Murphy, Angela Huang, Haihong Shen, Deborah F. Kelly, Pablo Sobrado, and Zhi Sheng. “A rapid and high content assay that measures cyto-ID-stained autophagic compartments and estimates autophagy flux with potential clinical applications.” Autophagy. Feb. 25, 2015.
Elliot S. Pohlmann, Kaya Patel, Sujuan Guo, Madeline J. Dukes, Zhi Sheng, and Deborah F. Kelly. “Real-Time Visualization of Nanoparticles Interacting with Glioblastoma Stem Cells.” Nano Letters. March 3, 2015.
Stephen Smith. “Non-lethal fish diagnostics for the private practitioner.” Canadian Vet. March/April 2015.
Grant DC and Troy GC. “Recurrent Urethral Fibroepithelial Polyps in a Golden Retriever.” Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 50(5):361-365.
- April 3 — 2015 DVM Program Spring Awards Luncheon
- The Inn at Virginia Tech — Blacksburg, VA
- April 4 — Community Easter Egg Hunt
- Va-Md Vet Med Main Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 11 — Va-Md Vet Med Open House
- Va-Md Vet Med Main Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 25 — Annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K
- Virginia Tech Cross Country Course — Blacksburg, VA
- May 7 – June 11 — Four-Day Vet School
- Va-Md Vet Med Main Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- May 15 — Spring 2015 Commencement Ceremonies
- Virginia Tech Campus — Blacksburg, VA
For More Upcoming Events…
Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Dean: Dr. Cyril R. Clarke
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