A broad suite of educational opportunities
Dear friends and colleagues,
This month, the college celebrated one of the most important events of the year with the commencement ceremonies for our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Master of Science, Master of Public Health, and Doctor of Philosophy programs. Our graduates in each of these programs have completed a robust set of educational requirements, and they are now ambassadors for the college and alumni for life. We are immensely proud of their accomplishments and look forward to hearing about their service to their communities and profession.
To prepare them for a diversity of careers, we offer our students a broad suite of educational opportunities. Danielle Brown, who was the valedictorian for the DVM Class of 2016, is an excellent example of this. Dr. Brown came to the veterinary college with a long history of academic achievement and experience working with horses through riding lessons and volunteer work at a horse rescue. She pursued the college’s mixed animal track and gained exposure to zoological medicine through our Public Veterinary Practice Club. Dr. Brown now plans to complete a small animal medicine internship and residency and hopes to become a board-certified specialist in the future.
Her educational experience was made possible, in part, because of opportunities at the college that are relevant to career interests in both private clinical practice and other veterinary careers. Even though our veterinary students specialize in one of five tracks, all of them must have the knowledge and skills needed to treat all species after graduation. To achieve this expectation, we offer a balance of clinical training across small companion animals, equine, and food supply animals to give students the hands-on experience they will need in their professional careers.
In addition to traditional educational options, our Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine offers educational opportunities for students interested in careers that do not involve private clinical practice, such as in government, industry, nonprofit, academic, and research positions. We also offer biomedical research opportunities for DVM students, including the Summer Veterinary Student Research Program, which is now underway with support from the National Institutes of Health and the Merial Veterinary Scholars Programs. Students with a strong interest in research or public health also have the option to participate in our dual DVM-PhD or DVM-MPH programs.
The college is constantly finding ways to expand our educational offerings for students so that they can be leaders in the fields of veterinary medicine, public health, and biomedical research. Although our recent commencement ceremonies marked the end of many of our students’ formal education, their lifelong education and professional careers are only beginning. We wish them well in their future careers.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
College graduates Class of 2016
The college celebrated its 2016 commencement with ceremonies held on Thursday, May 12 and Friday, May 13.
On Thursday afternoon May 12, the Graduate School awarded degrees to the college’s 35 Master of Public Health, two Master of Science in Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, and four Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences students in a commencement ceremony held in Cassell Coliseum.
The college held its DVM program commencement on Friday, May 13, awarding degrees to 116 new doctors of veterinary medicine. The ceremony was held for the first time in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech. Earlier that morning, Virginia Tech recognized the graduates in the university-wide commencement ceremony held in Lane Stadium.
Dean Cyril Clarke began the DVM ceremony by welcoming the graduates and their guests. He congratulated the graduates and reminded them how well-equipped they are to enter the veterinary profession after their time at the college. He elaborated, “You have received a comprehensive training across all major domestic species and scientific disciplines, so you are experts in comparative biology and medicine. Not only are you trained to diagnose and treat diseases in multiple animal species, but you are uniquely qualified to understand and address the risk of disease transmission between animals and humans, so you will serve as a critical public health resource in your communities.”
Latest issue of TRACKS magazine now available online
The latest issue of TRACKS magazine, the veterinary college’s biannual magazine that highlights recent events and significant stories around the college, is now available in print and online.
The spring/summer issue has an equine focus, emphasizing the college’s unique experiential training opportunities in equine medicine including equine-focused clinical rotations, in-house equine services at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, an expanding podiatry and farrier service, and an Equine Field Service that provides primary and emergency veterinary care for horses within a 35-mile radius of Blacksburg.
The issue also features the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg, a premier, full-service equine hospital that offers advanced specialty care, 24-hour emergency treatment, and diagnostic services for all ages and breeds of horses. The EMC also hosts veterinary students on clinical rotation, residents, interns, and other visiting students.
In addition, the magazine showcases current happenings around the college as well as student, faculty, and alumni profiles, including:
- The incoming Class of 2020 will be the first with a new Doctor of Veterinary Medicine curriculum with major changes.
- Jasper the miniature donkey is on the road to recovery after receiving care from the EMC and financial support from the Good Samaritan Fund.
- Danielle Brown of Woodbine, Maryland, graduates as the Class of 2016 valedictorian and achieves her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian.
X.J. Meng elected to the National Academy of Sciences
X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology at Virginia Tech, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the academy is one of the highest honors given to a scientist in the United States.
Meng, a virologist in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at the veterinary college, is one of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
He is the fifth faculty member to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences while at Virginia Tech and the sixth in the university’s history. With the selection of Meng, 23 Virginia Tech affiliates have held membership in the national academies, one of the highest honors bestowed in the United States to scientists and engineers.
American Society for Virology meeting to bring more than 1,300 researchers to Virginia Tech
A prominent international gathering of virologists is expected to bring more than 1,300 scientists from the U.S. and abroad to Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus this summer. Held from June 18-22, the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society for Virology will not only attract the world’s leading virus experts but also create a tourism boost for the region.
According to co-chair of the Virginia Tech organizing committee X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, the process to become a conference host was through a bidding process. “This is the first time Virginia Tech has hosted an American Society for Virology annual meeting,” said Meng, who is a faculty member in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences for his virus research. “The university first submitted a bid to host the conference in 2009 and it was approved in 2011.”The five-day conference will feature keynote and state-of-the-art lectures, symposia, workshops, poster sessions, and special events about viruses affecting humans, animals, and plants — including “hot topics” in the field of virology like Zika, Ebola, and HIV. It will take place in several buildings on Virginia Tech’s campus, including the Moss Arts Center, Squires Student Center, McBryde Hall, and Torgersen Hall, and in addition to staying in area hotels, many attendees will stay in Virginia Tech residence halls.
Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center launches full-time farrier service
Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg, Virginia, has hired Paul Goodness, one of the most highly respected farriers on the East Coast, and his team to provide full-time, on-site services at the EMC. The team will work closely with EMC faculty, referring veterinarians, and farriers to help make diagnoses, alleviate pain, and provide therapeutic shoeing for horses with problematic feet or joint pain.
“Paul and his team are among the most highly regarded and advanced farriers in the country,” said Michael Erskine, EMC director. “They are a perfect fit here at the EMC where our culture of caring and collaboration ensures the best treatment and services for our clients.”
Goodness, a certified journeyman farrier with the American Farrier’s Association, has been shoeing horses for four decades. His sport horse shoeing practice, Forging Ahead, attracted clients and farriers from all over the country. In the past, Goodness served as the United States Equestrian Team farrier between 1992 and 1996, and participated in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.Goodness will be joined by his son, certified farrier Luke Goodness, and a team of assistant farriers. They will provide lameness consultation and therapeutic shoeing for patients in a fully equipped shop that includes all-weather work stalls and additional holding stalls. The farrier shop will be open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Southgate Drive construction to cause traffic disruptions and detour
Construction of a new roundabout at the intersection of Southgate Drive and Duck Pond Drive will cause traffic disruptions for visitors to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and its Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg.
The roundabout is part of a multi-year Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) project that will significantly change the entrances to the south end of the Virginia Tech campus. VDOT will build a new grade-separated interchange to replace the intersection of Southgate Drive and U.S. 460 and relocate Research Center Drive to allow for the expansion of the Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport. The new interchange and roads should be open for traffic in late 2018, according to VDOT's schedule.
The veterinary college is working to notify hospital clients and other visitors about road closures, traffic delays, and congestion throughout the summer. The college website will provide regular updates about traffic impacts on Southgate Drive.
Students offer veterinary aid to the Maasai tribe in Kenya
Each summer, many of our students travel the globe to take part in service and experiential learning projects in order to both serve the global community and gain invaluable learning experiences in veterinary medicine.
This summer, for example, Michael Dendinger, a fourth-year student from Harrisonburg, Virginia, will be traveling to Lasmurdie, Australia to work with the Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Kelsey Hayden, a fourth-year visiting student from St. George's University, will be going to the Rarotonga Cook Islands in the South Pacific to work with The Esther Honey Foundation Animal Clinic.
In summer 2015, Taylor Scott, a fourth-year student from Altavista, Virginia and Tracy Perdew, a fourth-year student from Vienna, Virginia, had the opportunity to travel to the Maasai Mara region of Kenya with the Veterinarians with a Mission Programme (VMP) to administer veterinary aid to the Maasai tribe of Kenya.
Claudia True: A veterinarian and a mentor
Claudia True fell in love with horses as a 9-year-old when she visited Chincoteague Island and rode a pony there. At age 11, she started riding regularly, and she received her first horse at age 16.
Fast forward to today: The Fairfax County native was recently named the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association’s (VVMA) Veterinarian of the Year.
A double Hokie, True (biology ‘81, DVM ‘86) completed an internship at Texas A&M University and then began practicing at Woodside Equine Clinic in Ashland, Virginia, where she still works today.
“Becoming the Beach Boys” author Jim Murphy hails from the Class of 1997
At age 36, looking for a career change, Jim Murphy decided to apply to veterinary school. He had “always admired the profession of veterinary medicine as providing a unique opportunity to combine science, medicine, and communication/people skills to help people protect and preserve the bond they share with their companion animals,” but had spent most of his career working in Washington, D.C. at the Postal Service Headquarters as a writer, congressional liaison, ceremony coordinator, and speechwriter.
With a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Manhattan College in New York, Murphy had already completed the prerequisite coursework, so he spent the next year volunteering at various veterinary clinics before applying to, and gaining acceptance to, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. For the duration of the program, Murphy commuted 600 miles round-trip each week between Washington, D.C. and Blacksburg, Virginia in order to obtain his doctor of veterinary medicine degree. Currently, he works as a veterinarian at the Capitol Hill Animal Clinic in Washington, D.C.
Alumni prepare for upcoming class reunions
This fall, the college will provide several opportunities for alumni to reconnect with their classmates and visit their alma mater.
The college will host the following upcoming alumni reunions:
- Classes of 2006 and 2011: Aug. 12-13 at the Black Dog Beach Festival at Chateau Morrisette Winery in Floyd, Virginia
- Class of 1996: Sept. 17 at the Virginia Tech vs. Boston College pregame tailgate for the veterinary college’s homecoming
- Classes of 1986, 1991, and 2001: Oct. 28-29 at Oktoberfest at Mountain Lake
These exciting events will also give alumni a chance to tell what they have been doing since graduation. Many alumni have already shared with the college their hobbies and interests, which range from drag racing, to sheep and goat raising, to acupuncture, to acro-yoga and horseback riding. Many of the college’s alumni in these class years are also busy practice owners, and some of them run marathons, play guitar, make jewelry, and compete in equestrian events.
In addition, some families with multiple alumni from the veterinary college may be in attendance. Ben Kable (DVM ’14) of Westminster, Maryland, is now working with his father John Kable (DVM ’86) at Airpark Animal Hospital. John’s son Kye Kable (DVM ’16) will also be joining the practice in June. Also, Lauren Giebel (DVM ’11), who works at her father’s practice, Quince Orchard Veterinary Hospital in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has two sisters who are also alums: Megan Giebel (DVM ’05) and Erin Giebel (DVM ’04).
Around the College
Awards & Activities
Undergraduate researcher Sieu Tran named Goldwater Scholar
Sieu Tran, an undergraduate researcher in Nanda Nanthakumar’s laboratory, was named a 2016 Goldwater Scholar, a prestigious recognition given to highly qualified college-level scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Tran, who is pursuing a double major in mathematics and microbiology, was one of 252 students selected nationwide out of 1,150 nominees.
Tran has been working in Nanthakumar’s lab since the fall of 2014, examining the effects of prebiotics and probiotics on mucosal infections. Nanthakumar, an associate professor of mucosal immunology, microbiome, and inflammatory diseases in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has been at the college since 2013. He worked previously as an assistant professor and instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, assistant biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and research associate at Duke University Medical Center.
Tran plans to graduate in spring 2017 and then pursue a Ph.D. in integrated mathematics and application of models of genomics in medicine. Nanthakumar describes how “Sieu has a sharp eye for detail and an uncanny gift of observation in picking up subtle things others would have missed. He is driven to succeed; I am sure that he will be an excellent biomedical researcher.”
Elizabeth Thompson named May Staff Member of the Month
Since joining the college in September 1987, Lisa Thompson has always put in extra effort in her work as a laboratory specialist at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. Her nominator described how Lisa “is here on weekends and late at night to help with emergencies. She always has a good attitude, is helpful, and is willing to do additional things to reach a diagnosis on a case.”
Lisa is also always available to assist others in need. “She will always be happy to offer advice, teach people lab skills, and is always friendly and enjoyable to work with,” said her nominator. “She has been a hardworking EMC employee for many years and deserves recognition for her dedication and skills.”
More Awards & Activities
Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, professor of equine and production management medicine in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, has been appointed director for the Center for Animal Human Relationships (CENTAUR).
Marion Ehrich and Sandy Hancock presented a poster titled “Drug Development Using the College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech: Incorporating Quality into Early Preclinical Safety Assessment” at the VirginiaBrainRX: A Symposium on Drug Discovery for the Brain on May 23-24 in Richmond, Virginia. The symposium was sponsored by the Virginia Drug Discovery Consortium.
Tom Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was on the National Institutes of Health panel, “NIH-USDA PAR-13-204 Dual Purpose with Dual Benefit: Research in Biomedicine and Agriculture Using Agriculturally Important Domestic Animal Species (RO1)” in March.
Inzana, T.J. (Ed.). 2016. Histophilus somni: Biology, Molecular Basis of Pathogenesis, and Host Immunity. Curr. Topics Microbiol. Immunol. Vol 396. Springer, London. ISBN 978-3-319-29554-1.
Petruzzi, B., and T.J. Inzana. 2016. “Exopolysaccharide Production and Biofilm Formation by Histophilus somni.” In: T.J. Inzana, (Ed.). 2016. Histophilus somni: Biology, Molecular Basis of Pathogenesis, and Host Immunity. Curr. Topics Microbiol. Immunol. Vol 396. Springer, London. pp. 149-160.
Inzana, T.J. 2016. “The Many Facets of Lipooligosaccharide as a Virulence Factor for Histophilus somni.” In: T.J. Inzana, (Ed.). 2016. Histophilus somni: Biology, Molecular Basis of Pathogenesis, and Host Immunity. Curr. Topics Microbiol. Immunol. Vol. 396. Springer, London. pp. 131-148.
Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, attended the International Conference on One Medicine One Science (iCOMOS) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. iCOMOS is a global forum to (1) communicate the importance of science in solving pressing health issues at the interface of humans, animals, and the environment; (2) facilitate interdisciplinary, international collaborations embracing health, science, and economics; and (3) inform public policy development that is necessary for preserving human and animal health.
Valerie Ragan traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee charged with reviewing new science related to brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area since the previous NAS study in 1998. Also, Ragan traveled to Denver, Colorado to participate in the Consortium for the Advancement of Brucellosis Science (CABS). The mission of CABS is to identify gaps in current research, secure funding, award research grants, and conduct outreach for the advancement of brucellosis science worldwide.Lei S, Ryu J, Wen K, Twitchell E, Bui T, Ramesh A, Weiss M, Li G, Samuel H, Clark-Deener S, Jiang X, Lee K, Yuan L. 2016. “Increased and prolonged human norovirus infection in RAG2/IL2RG deficient gnotobiotic pigs with severe combined immunodeficiency.” Scientific Reports. 6, 25222; doi:10.1038/srep25222.
Lei S, Samuel H, Twitchell E, Bui T, Ramesh A, Wen K, Weiss M, Li G, Yang X, Jiang X, Yuan L. 2016. “Enterobacter cloacae inhibits human norovirus infectivity in gnotobiotic pigs.” Scientific Reports. 6, 25017; doi:10.1038/srep25017.
- June 26-28, 2016 — MVMA Summer Conference
- Ocean City, MD
- August 5-9, 2016 — AVMA Annual Conference
- San Antonio, TX
- August 12-13, 2016 — Reunion for the Classes of 2006 and 2011
- Chateau Morrisette Winery, Floyd, VA
- August 19, 2016 — DVM Class of 2020 White Coat Ceremony
- VA-MD Vet Med, 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
- Web Editor: Alison Elward
- Assistant Editor: Kelsey Foster
- Contributors: Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Anne Nichols, Michael Sutphin
- Photography: Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Shelby Jenkins, Doug Margulies, Jim Murphy, Megan Quesenberry, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace