Dear friends and colleagues,
While wellness is a priority at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine for the whole year, it is particularly pertinent now as we celebrate the inaugural Wellness Week on our Blacksburg campus. This week, the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association and several other student clubs are hosting a series of Wellness Week workshops, lectures, and activities to address this important issue.
The week-long series of events includes a “Gratitude Wall” in the Commons where students, faculty, staff, and guests can post messages about what makes them grateful. In addition, event organizers are offering lectures and workshops on high-performance living, veterinary life, financial health, and work-life harmony. They also have partnered with a local yoga studio to offer yoga classes throughout the week. In addition, Wellness Week includes a visit of our Virginia Tech Helping PAWS group to a local nursing home and a hike. The program will conclude with a Town Hall meeting where veterinary and graduate students will have an opportunity to connect with the college leadership on wellness issues. My hope is that Wellness Week will become an annual tradition at the veterinary college and serve as a springboard for addressing wellness issues throughout the year.
For many years, our college has partnered with the Virginia Tech Cook Counseling Center to offer confidential counseling services for veterinary students. Trent Davis and Charlotte Amenkienan, licensed professional counselors with the Center, offer individual counseling sessions at the college for students dealing with academic and/or personal challenges. Trent Davis also offers animal-assisted therapy with Moose, a popular canine member of the VT Helping PAWS program, and organizes workshops on how to handle stress during orientation and at other points in the curriculum.
Without a doubt, our students will face a number of challenges in a fast-paced and high-stakes profession after they graduate, and it is crucial that we provide them with the skills and resources that they need to succeed as veterinarians. During the recent Virginia Veterinary Conference in Roanoke, wellness issues in the profession came to the forefront with an opening night presentation on “Risk Factors for Suicide, Attitudes Toward Mental Illness, and Practice Related Stressors Among Veterinarians.” Trent Davis co-facilitated a follow-up presentation the next day which gave attendees a chance to share their ideas for dealing with this important topic.
The college makes every effort to support veterinary students during their time with us and continues to assess the need for expanding its resources and services in this area. Our faculty and administrators are also engaged in conversations about wellness to ensure that the veterinary profession addresses the complex and challenging issues surrounding it. Together, we are working hard to ensure that the veterinary profession continues to succeed without sacrificing the health and wellness of veterinary students and veterinarians.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
Research team investigates traumatic brain injury with $1.7 million grant
Every year, traumatic brain injury afflicts more than 1.7 million people in the United States and leads to 52,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Virginia Tech researchers are studying the role of cerebrovascular health in the onset of traumatic brain injury with the hopes of identifying new targets for safe and effective drug therapies.
The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $1.7 million grant to the team led by Michelle Theus, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular neurobiology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Her co-investigators are John Chappell, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and Hehuang “David” Xie, a research associate professor at Virginia Tech’s Biocomplexity Institute.
The researchers are focusing on a specialized group of blood vessels called “collaterals,” or natural by-pass vessels in the brain which act as a bridge between major vessel branches, providing an alternative route for blood to flow in the event of a blockage.
Graduate students showcase their work at 2016 Research Symposium
Graduate students at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine had an opportunity to present their research findings and learn about other research endeavors at the college and beyond at the 27th Annual Research Symposium on Thursday, March 17.
Master’s and Ph.D. students from the veterinary college’s Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program provided oral and poster presentations. Graduate students from the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Sciences also participated in the Research Symposium.
Sandra Armstrong, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Minnesota, presented the symposium keynote on “Bordetella Iron Acquisition: Making a Living in the Host.” Armstrong conducts research on Bordetella, which can cause whopping cough in humans and several animal diseases such as kennel cough. She and her team study Bordetella biology, including mechanisms of nutrient uptake that are relevant to growth and persistence in the host environment.
Alumni, faculty recognized at 2016 Virginia Veterinary Conference
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine maintained a strong presence at the 2016 Virginia Veterinary Conference. Held at the Hotel Roanoke in late February, the conference was organized by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and included lectures, meetings, and an awards ceremony featuring college faculty and alumni.
The conference attracted more than 400 veterinarians, veterinary students, and licensed veterinary technicians, plus more than 60 exhibitors. The college had a booth with faculty volunteers and heavily promoted the college’s clinical trials and research. In addition, it raised more than $2,000 for the Peter Eyre Scholarship at the conference’s silent auction.
Veterinary college study and pioneering database tackle most common heart disease in dogs
When Jane Shaw of Floyd, Virginia, brought her 14-year-old border collie, Clio, into the Veterinary Teaching Hospital last fall, she learned about a clinical research study at the veterinary college that might help other dogs with similar heart conditions.
Veterinary researchers hope to determine whether an echocardiogram — a noninvasive type of ultrasound that uses sound waves to measure heart function — can effectively assess the pulmonary pressure on dogs with mitral valve disease. Mitral valve disease is the most common form of cardiac disease in the species, and pulmonary hypertension, which involves abnormally high pressures in the pulmonary vessels, is a typical complication affecting 25 to 30 percent of dogs with the disease.
“Participating in the study seems like a no-brainer,” said Shaw, whose sister’s pet had participated in an earlier clinical trial at the college. “When I learned that Virginia Tech was doing a study on the same problem that Clio had, I knew we should sign up. This study helps us and it helps other patients with the same disease.”Read more about mitral valve disease research at the veterinary college.
Dean Clarke, David Grant visit Capitol Hill for AAVMC legislative day
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine had a presence on Capitol Hill earlier this month. Cyril Clarke, dean of the college, and David Grant, associate professor of internal medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, met with congressional staff members as part of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) Advocacy Summit on March 3.
Meetings were scheduled met with staff members from the Virginia and Maryland congressional delegations, including Sen. Tim Kaine, Rep. Morgan Griffith, and Rep. Barbara Comstock from Virginia and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Steny Hoyer from Maryland. Hoyer, who is also the House minority whip, previously visited with faculty and staff at the college’s Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at the University of Maryland last fall.
During the visits, Clarke and Grant discussed the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, which was created in 2003 to pay back student loans for veterinarians who work in underserved areas, as well as a matching grant program that directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish and expand veterinary services throughout the country. They also discussed the important role that veterinarians play in addressing antimicrobial resistance.Grant participated in the Capitol Hill visits as a part of the AAVMC Leadership Academy, which was established in 2012 to “provide leadership development for emerging leaders in academia and provide a forum for building lasting ties between faculty members at veterinary schools and departments around the world,” according to the AAVMC website.
Annual Open House set for April 9
The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech will open its doors to the public during its annual Open House from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 9. Visitors will learn about veterinary medicine and the college through tours, demonstrations, and lectures.
The Open House will take place on the college’s Blacksburg campus 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. Parking will be available in the large fenced commuter/graduate parking lot off Duck Pond Drive (known as “the Cage”).
For the first time, food trucks offering local and regional dining options will be available in the parking lot in front of the veterinary college. As in years past, veterinary students will lead hour-long tours every 15 minutes beginning at 10:15 a.m.
Our summer in India: An experience of a lifetime
Each summer, selected VA-MD Vet Med students travel to Chennai, India for training in exotic animal diseases as part of an ongoing international exchange program with Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS). Training is provided at TANUVAS in a well-equipped veterinary teaching hospital with an excellent reputation and facilities. The program also includes field disease investigations and visits to poultry farms, wildlife facilities, a sheep breeding research station, and historic and cultural sites.
After nearly 20 hours of travelling, we arrived in Chennai, India at 4 a.m. in early July. We were immediately met with the hospitality of students and faculty of the Tamil Nadu University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (TANUVAS) and we settled in to our hostel to take some much needed rest.
We spent our first two and a half weeks at the Madras Veterinary College (MVC) in Chennai, which provides medical care for an incredible caseload of animals in the heart of the city of Chennai, the second largest city in India. The Small Animal Surgery Ward alone sees at least 75 patients per day, which made for hectic ward rotations, but an incredible amount of hands-on experience. The government of India subsidizes the hospital, which makes medical care at the MVC very affordable for a population of people that would otherwise not be able to afford any care for their animals. For comparison, the price of a physical exam and consultation with any veterinary specialist costs approximately 20 rupees, which equates to less than 10 U.S. cents.Read the full India travelogue.
Aspiring disease detective Betsy Schroeder gains research, international experience in dual-degree program
Betsy Schroeder of Johnstown, Pennsylvania accidentally applied to the DVM/Ph.D. dual degree program when she checked a box thinking she was simply requesting more information while filling out her application paperwork for the veterinary college. When she unexpectedly received an interview for the dual degree program, however, her bosses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immediately told her that “you need to do the dual degree. It will give you more options career-wise,” Schroeder explained.
Schroeder, who already held a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Notre Dame and a master of public health degree from the University of Minnesota, had been working at the CDC in Atlanta for a few years after graduation. “My bosses there were veterinarians, and I loved what they did,” Schroeder said. “And I knew I always wanted to go back to school for something, and I looked at them and said I really like what you guys do ... and so I decided to apply to vet school.”
Reflections on the 2016 AVMA Legislative Fly-In
Christina Betta of Catonsville, Maryland, is a second-year DVM student pursuing the small animal track, as well as public and corporate medicine, at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Her interests include orthopedics, rehabilitation medicine, acupuncture, and public policy. She hopes to work in small animal clinical practice after graduation and possibly pursue a surgery internship and residency, as well as public policy or academia in the future.
They always tell you to avoid religion and politics, but in early March, I broke that rule and attended the 2016 AVMA Legislative Fly-In. Some may wonder whatever possessed me to visit the District, especially during the craziness of an election year. Ironically, my interest in policy began far from the United States.
Focus on Faculty: Tanya LeRoith
Tanya LeRoith is a clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. She received her bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Maryland before completing her doctor of veterinary medicine degree at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She later earned her doctorate in microbiology/pathology from Washington State University. LeRoith joined the college in 2005 and holds research interests in animal models of infectious disease, viral immunology, and comparative pathology. She is also a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and has received numerous awards, including the 2005 Harriet B. Rigas Award for Outstanding Women in Graduate Studies at the Doctorate Level.
I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa, and lived in different parts of South Africa and Namibia until I was 11. I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for six months when I first moved to the U.S., but spent most of middle and high school in Rockville, Maryland.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
Nick Dervisis honored with 2016 Zoetis Award for Research Excellence
Nick Dervisis of Blacksburg, Virginia, assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, recently received the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence at the college’s 27th 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.”
Since joining the veterinary college in 2012, Dervisis has helped build a successful oncology service at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital that provides state-of-the-art services for cancer patients and opportunities to participate in clinical research. The oncology service investigates spontaneously occurred tumors in dogs and cats with similarities to those in humans.
Ashley Snider named March Staff Member of the Month
Since joining the teaching hospital as a large animal receptionist and fiscal technician in 2011, Ashley Snider has taken on many assignments and roles. This past year, her nominator wrote that “Ashley was instrumental in the planning and implementing of the Equine Field Service Holiday Open House. She researched and organized the catering, updated and distributed the invitations, created and placed the tabletop decorations, solicited donations for the door prizes, organized clean-up prior to and after the party, organized for staff to bring desserts, and organized and manned the sign-in table.”Ashley’s hard work contributed to the overall success of the event. Her nominator continued, “The atmosphere that she created for the clients in the commons was stellar and just representative of the overall effort and outcomes of her work. Ashley made it easy for EFS to have this event and we could not have had as great of an event without her. We had many clients and staff who commented on how well they liked the entire event.” Ashley’s primary duties also include scheduling appointments, handling telephone inquiries, and completing billing in equine field services.
More Awards & Activities
Several faculty members participated in the Society of Toxicology meeting in New Orleans on March 13-17. Bernard Jortner, professor emeritus of pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Marion Ehrich, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, hosted a breakfast which included several current and former faculty members at the college. Attendees included Sandra James-Yi, clinical assistant professor of toxicology, and Julia Gohlke, assistant professor of environmental health in the Department of Population Health Sciences. In addition, Virginia Tech graduate students Sophia Orbach and Rebecca Less joined the meeting.
Four graduate students in the veterinary college won awards at the Virginia Tech Graduate Student Assembly’s Research Symposium and Expo this month. Graduate students Abdullah Awaysheh and Dan Rothschild won gold and silver poster presentation awards, respectively, and James Budnick and Elsa Ludwig won gold and bronze oral presentation awards, respectively.
Several faculty members received Veterinary Memorial Fund grants in 2016:
- Herring I, Disney J, Pickett P, McKown R, Laurie G. “Topical ophthalmic administration of lacritin peptide (Lacripep) from the treatment of canine keratoconjunctivitis sicca.” $8,695
- Ruth J, Seward MC, Yarmolenko PS, Rossemeisl J, Clapp K, Dervisis N, LeRoith T, Daniel GB. “The Use of MR-Guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound in Combination with Low Temperature Sensitive Liposome Encapsulated Doxorubicin: Tissue Concentration and Acute Effects on Nerve Function in A Normal Dog Model.” $21,715
- Borgarelli M, Abbott J, Lahmers S, Lanz O, Menciotti G, Pavlisko N. “Minimally Invasive Mitral Valve Repair in Dogs Using the Harpoon Medical TSD-5.” $18,402.84
- DeMonaco S, Panciera D, Moore W, Conway T. “SDMA in Hyperthyroid Cats Before and After Treatment with Radioactive Iodine.” $19,996
- Dervisis N, Lahmers K, Kiupel M, Thaiwong T. “Tissue Microarray development for prognostic factor discovery in Histiocytic Sarcoma.” $10,230
- Klahn S, Benitez M, Lahmers K. “The Impact of neoadjuvant on grade and proliferation indices in canine cutaneous mast cell tumors: A pilot study.” $17,460.00
Jonathan Abbott, associate professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, received the 2015 Thompson Professorial Award.
Qian Cao, a Ph.D. student in X.J. Meng’s laboratory, has published a paper on “A novel immuno-modulatory role of Nsp2TF of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus in down-regulation of SLA-I expression” which was selected as a highlight paper in the journal Virology. Cao, who is a Stamps scholar supposed by the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, also won the Outstanding Graduate Student Presentation Award by the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists at the 96th Annual Meeting in Chicago.
Mitch Caudill, a second-year veterinary student, received a 2016 Second Opportunity Research Scholarship from the AVMA Council on Research. The award includes a $5,000 scholarship for a research project and $1,000 in travel expenses to a National Institutes of Health Symposium.
Caitlin Cossaboom, a dual degree DVM/Ph.D. student in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program, won the outstanding science, technology, engineering, and math dissertation award from the Virginia Tech Graduate School.
Nick Dervisis and Shawna Klahn. “Therapeutic Innovations: Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors in Cancer.” Veterinary Sciences. Jan. 20, 2016.
Ellyn Dazenski Gouldin (DVM ’09) has achieved Diplomate status with the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Elsa Ludwig, equine surgery resident in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, presented in the Bloomberg Resident Research Award Session at the Veterinary Orthopedic Society (VOS). Her presentation was on “Serum and Synovial Fluid Serum Amyloid A as an Aid in Confirming Synovial Sepsis in the Horse.” One or more awards are given each year to residents submitting abstracts for presentation at the VOS Annual Conference. The awards allow the recipients to travel to the meeting to present their work.
Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair in Bacteriology, gave an oral presentation in December at the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases in Chicago on Briana Petruzzi's project on Pasteurella multocida biofilm formation and polymicrobial biofilm formation with Histophilus somni.
Jennifer McQuiston (DVM ’97), an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was featured on CBS Evening News discussing her work on the Zika virus.
Michael Nappier, assistant professor of community practice, was named Teacher of the Week by the Virginia Tech Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research.
Maureen Noftsinger (DVM ’01), medical director and CEO of Emergency Veterinary Services of Roanoke, participated in the Virginia Tech Alumni Association’s Women’s Panel on March 23. Noftsinger, who grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, serves as the Roanoke Valley’s director to the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association. She is also on the Veterinary Memorial Fund committee, and is past president of the veterinary college’s Alumni Society. Notfsinger was the recipient of the college’s outstanding young alumni award in 2010.
Nicholas Parkinson, a master’s degree student in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, won the outstanding master’s degree student award from the Virginia Tech Graduate School.
Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, traveled to Irvine, California to serve as a committee member on the National Academy of Science’s study entitled “Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area.”
Phil Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics, was invited to speak at a veterinary college in Bayamo, Cuba, and to be a professor in the doctoral program for Improvement of Animal Production at the same college. He was also invited to give a plenary session at an international meeting in Argentina.
Sponenberg, D.P. Horses. “Mason's World Encyclopedia of Livestock Breeds and Breeding.” Editor: Valerie Porter. Volume 1, pages 421-516. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International. Wallingford and Boston. 2016.
Barrios, N., A. Bórquez, M. Gómez, D.P. Sponenberg. “Estudio descriptivo del color de manto y señas del perro Ovejero Magallánico, Chile.” (Descriptive study of the coat color and white spotting of the Magellan Sheepdog of Chile) Archivos Zootécnicos 65 (249): 99-101. 2016.
Lauren Sheehan, a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program, won the outstanding doctoral degree student award from the Virginia Tech Graduate School.
Mingshun Zhang, Donglei Sun, Gongguan Liu, Hui Wu, Hong Zhou, and Meiqing Shi. “Real-time in vivo imaging reveals the ability of neutrophils to remove Cryptococcus neoformans directly from the brain vasculature.” J. Leukoc. Biol. 99:467-473; doi:10.1189/jlb.4AB0715-281R.
Ellen Staples, the college’s equine podiatry intern, passed the Certified Journeyman Farrier examination this month.
- April 2, 2016 — Annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K
- Virginia Tech Cross Country Course — Blacksburg, VA
- April 8, 2016 — DVM Spring Awards Ceremony and Luncheon
- The Inn at Virginia Tech — Blacksburg, VA
- April 9, 2016 — VA-MD Vet Med Open House
- VA-MD Vet Med Main Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 12, 2016 — Equine Medical Center Tuesday Talk: “Wholefood Options for Equines”
- Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center — Leesburg, VA
- April 23, 2016 — Pre-game Tailgate: Spring Football Game
- VA-MD Vet Med Grove — Blacksburg, VA
- April 24, 2016 — Community Dog Wash
- VA-MD Vet Med Main Campus, Rear of Building — Blacksburg, VA
- May 5, 2016 — Alumni Luncheon at DC Academy
- Fairfax, VA
- May 12-13, 2016 — Spring 2016 Commencement Ceremonies
- Virginia Tech Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- May 14, 2016 — Alumni Luncheon at CVC East
- Virginia Beach, VA
- May 21, 2016 — Canine Breeder Excellence Seminar
- VA-MD Vet Med Main Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- June 10-11, 2016 — Human and Animal Health: We are all in this together
- 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
- Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
- Managing Editor: Michael Sutphin
- Assistant Editor: Kelsey Foster
- Web Editor: Alison Elward
- Contributors: Eden Armstrong, Christina Betta, Caitlin Cossaboom, Michael Dendinger, Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Tanya LeRoith, Heidi Macey, Jennifer Moore, Kelly Rakes, Amber Roudette, Julie Suarez, Michael Sutphin, Tiffany Trent
- Photography: Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Ivan Morozov, Megan Quesenberry, Betsy Schroeder, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace, Sherrie Whaley