Vital Signs: November 2016 Vol. 5, Issue 11

A message from Dean Cyril Clarke

Support for student scholarships

Dear friends and colleagues,

When veterinary students arrive at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, they are not only making a commitment to four years of veterinary education but also a financial decision which will have a significant impact on their professional and personal lives. Previously, I shared the American Veterinary Medical Association’s findings that near- and long-term employment is improving in the veterinary profession and that the unemployment and underemployment rates are well below national averages. Although our students have positive career prospects once they graduate, many of them still struggle with the high cost of veterinary education and the financial burden placed on them.

In order to help alleviate this financial burden, the college offers more than 300 scholarships and awards for veterinary students. Typically awarded in the spring, these can be based on a variety of criteria including academic achievement, financial need, state residency, career interests, etc. Scholarship support decreases the need for loans, allowing students to focus on their studies and pursue a wide range of future veterinary job opportunities, including those that initially may not pay high salaries but serve the public good. Thus, when alumni and friends of the college contribute to our scholarship program, they are not just making an investment in the next generation of veterinarians. They are also supporting the veterinary community and the ability of veterinarians to service the full range of animal and public health needs.

For several years, the college has been attentive to concerns that the educational debt of our students is too high, relative to their earning power during the first years of their careers. In addition to our ongoing efforts to limit tuition rate increases, we are renewing our efforts to build more scholarship support. This is a team effort which requires support from our faculty and staff, students, alumni, and friends of the college, in addition to our coordinated efforts to reach out to these audiences under the new advancement model. My hope is that we will set a high standard for engagement that will develop new resources and build new partnerships to benefit students, and that increased scholarship support will be a tangible outcome of this approach as we make progress on the college’s strategic goals.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean


Featured Stories

Anne Nichols
Anne Nichols is a member of the inaugural class of Virginia Tech Stamps Scholars, a cohort of top students who receive support from the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation.

Above and beyond: Graduate student Anne Nichols excels as Stamps Scholar

From service to research, Anne Nichols excels in all areas as a Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences (BMVS) graduate student, and has received national acknowledgement of her outstanding efforts in and out of the classroom through the esteemed Stamps Foundation.

Though she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in studio art after transferring her major from biology at James Madison University in Harrisonsburg, Virginia, Nichols took all of the chemistry and biology courses required of a biology student. After graduation, Nichols worked in a pharmacology lab for the University of Virginia, but ultimately decided that she wanted to pursue a more translational field of study.

When her husband received an opportunity in the area, they decided to move and Nichols began working with Linda Dahlgren, associate professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, and was introduced to the veterinary college’s graduate programs.

Read more about Nichols and her accomplishments.

National Thanksgiving Turkey
In the past, the pardoned National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate have moved to a farm or historical site, but this is the first time they will live at a university.

Pardoned National Thanksgiving Turkey has new home at Virginia Tech

Look out HokieBird, there’s a new turkey in town.

The National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate, which were pardoned by President Barack Obama earlier this month as part of an annual White House ceremony, are now living out the rest of their days at Virginia Tech in Gobbler’s Rest, a newly built enclosure on campus.

The public has several opportunities to visit the turkeys (named Tater and Tot) and learn about the university’s teaching, research, and outreach programs in animal and poultry sciences and veterinary medicine. Gobbler’s Rest, which is located at the Livestock Judging Pavilion at 445 Plantation Road in Blacksburg, Virginia, will be open to the public on Dec. 2 and 3, Dec. 9 and 10, and Dec. 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Read more about the pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys and watch a video of the White House ceremony. Additional information about Tater and Tot is available on the university website.

Evymarie Prado-Sanchez at the conference
Evymarie Prado-Sanchez previously attended SACNAS during her undergraduate years but was able to return to the national diversity conference as a veterinary student and presenter.

Veterinary student Evymarie Prado-Sanchez finds inspiration and connection at national diversity conference

Evymarie Prado-Sanchez of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a second-year veterinary student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. She has interests in infectious diseases, comparative medicine, public and corporate veterinary medicine, and epidemiology. After graduation, Prado-Sanchez hopes to work with federal control, prevention, and eradication programs for infectious diseases that affect the continental United States and its territories.

Eagerness for science and research has been cultivated in me since early years by a deep fascination not only with animal health, but also understanding the famous question, “Why?” In October, I continued exploring the world and my thirst for science in Long Beach, California for the 2016 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. This Puerto Rican student got to experience the Golden State and a four-hour jetlag for science!

Read Prado-Sanchez’s full account of the 2016 Society for the Advancing of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science event.

Dagwood the pony and his care team
Dagwood and owner Ivy Shushok pose with part of Dagwood's care team at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Pony struck by lightning gets a second chance

When Frank and Kelly Shushok and their 12-year-old daughter Ivy discovered that their pony, Dagwood, had been struck by lightning earlier this fall, they turned to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine for help.

Rebecca Funk with the college’s Equine Field Service did an initial assessment of the 8-year-old pony on the farm before deciding to bring him to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for additional care. When he arrived, Dagwood was blind, deaf, unable to walk, and suffering from nerve paralysis on his face, but he made remarkable progress thanks to the care of numerous veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and fourth-year students.

Katie Wilson, clinical assistant professor of large animal medicine, supervised much of the team’s work, and Dagwood was able to return to his home in nearby Giles County earlier this month. He is one of only a small number of horses known to have survived a lightning strike.

Read the full story of Dagwood’s remarkable recovery in The Roanoke Times.

OTS members pose with award
The college's OTS chapter received the national chapter’s 2016 T. C. Fitzgerald Memorial Progress Award - Most Improved and was selected to host the national conference next year.

Veterinary service fraternity personifies “Ut Prosim,” recognized at national conference

Adrienne Bush of Silver Spring, Maryland, is a third-year DVM student at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine pursuing the small animal track. She is vice-president of the DVM Class of 2018 and has served as president of the college’s chapter of Omega Tau Sigma (OTS), an international veterinary service fraternity, for two years. In addition to service, her interests include naturopathic medicine, animal welfare, and public health. She hopes to work in small animal private practice after graduation, and plans to become certified through the Chi institute in acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

During my first OTS meeting as a new DVM student in 2014, I remember fondly reading the first slide of the club’s introductory PowerPoint presentation. It explained the goal of the fraternity, “To encourage and foster the development of well-rounded, ethical veterinarians and through them create a better profession on the basis of friendship, cooperation, and respect for their fellow professional.” I thought to myself, who wouldn’t want to be part of an organization with that goal? And with that, I decided to become a member. “What is one more club?” I thought and two months later, I was elected president of OTS. Now two years later, my participation in and love of the organization has brought me more pride and self-fulfillment than I could have imagined that “one more club” could.

Read Bush’s wrap-up of the 2016 national OTS Grand Council meeting.

Welcome to the College

portrait of Laura Hungerford
Laura Hungerford

Laura Hungerford joins college as head of Department of Population Health Sciences

Laura Hungerford of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has joined the college as professor and head of the Department of Population Health Sciences. A veterinarian and epidemiologist, Hungerford previously served as a professor and vice chair for academic programs in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

In her new post, she will oversee the Department of Population Health Sciences, which houses the Master of Public Health Program, the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, the Center for Public Health Practice and Research, international student exchange programs, veterinary student teaching, and research related to human and animal health.

Hungerford completed both a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and a doctor of veterinary medicine from Michigan State University. She also earned a master of public health degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a Ph.D. in veterinary epidemiology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Around the College

University and college leaders recognize X.J. Meng for election to National Academy of Sciences

The veterinary college hosted a reception to honor X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, for his election to the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year. Membership in the academy is one of the highest honors given to a scientist in the United States, and Meng is the fifth faculty member to be elected to the academy while at Virginia Tech and the sixth in the university’s history. The reception included remarks from Virginia Tech President Tim Sands; Provost Thanassis Rikakis; Dean Cyril Clarke; Gerhardt Schurig, former dean; and S. Ansar Ahmed, associate dean for research. Pictured here (left to right) are daughter Melissa Meng, wife Wen Li, X.J. Meng, Laura Sands, and President Tim Sands. Read more about Meng’s election to the National Academy of Sciences.

College faculty, students, and alumni connect at Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference

The veterinary college’s faculty, students, staff, and alumni reunited for the Sixth Annual Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 4-6. The college’s faculty provided continuing education lectures, and its students and alumni contributed to the growing number of attendees at the annual conference. In 2011, the veterinary college served as a catalyst to bring together the four regional veterinary medical associations (VMAs) for the first Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference.

Community members enjoy pet photos with Santa

Veterinary students continued their annual tradition of offering community members an opportunity to have their pets photographed with Santa Claus on Nov. 13. The program was presented by the college’s Omega Tau Sigma service fraternity, a veterinary student organization that provides a variety of community services. Proceeds from the event benefit the Humane Society of Montgomery County.

College seeks male miniature schnauzers for research study

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital is recruiting male miniature schnauzers to participate in a research study which aims to establish whether testing urinary calcium at different times of day can better differentiate between healthy dogs and dogs that have formed calcium oxalate urinary stones. So far, the study has confirmed that hospital’s internal medicine team experiences elevated happiness levels after visits with cuties like recent study participant Dr. Pup, an 8-year-old miniature schnauzer and companion of first-year veterinary student Andrea Calzada. Learn more about the clinical study.

Classes of 1986, 1991, and 2001 return to Blacksburg for reunion

The veterinary college hosted reunions for the classes of 1986, 1991, and 2001 in late October. Following a lunch in the commons and a tour of the veterinary college’s facilities in Blacksburg, alumni visited Oktoberfest at Mountain Lake Lodge in nearby Pembroke, Virginia. The reunions gave alumni not only an opportunity to reconnect with their classmates, but also a chance to learn about the latest at their alma mater.

Awards & Activities

Angela Webb and Dean Cyril Clarke

Angela Webb named November Staff Member of the Month

As the public face of the Office of Academic Affairs, Angela Webb is always extremely positive and helpful to all she encounters, whether that be students, faculty, family members, or others. Her nominator described how Webb “is kind to everyone and realizes the importance of teamwork and professionalism.”

In addition, Webb goes above and beyond in all of her duties as academic programs and events coordinator. “She has organized several large events, including the awards luncheon, graduation and white coat ceremony, and has paid such great attention to detail for each event,” her nominator said. “These events all went off without a hitch.” She also “engages the other staff members and keeps them informed with weekly staff meetings. This allows for everyone to know what is happening within the office. Additionally, this gives Angie the opportunity to address any concerns they may be having,” explained her nominator. This commitment to excellence does not go unnoticed.

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

More Awards & Activities

Britt Carr Benson (DVM ’12) presented an abstract on “Objective gait analysis comparison of dogs wearing five commercially available harnesses” at the American College of Veterinary Surgeons – Surgery Summit in Seattle, Washington in October. She also gave a continuing education presentation on “Regenerative Medicine for the Canine Athlete” at the Purina Sports Medicine Symposium in St. Louis, Missouri, in September and is co-authoring a textbook chapter on “Regenerative Medicine for Multimodal Management of Canine Osteoarthritis” in the upcoming edition of Multimodal Management of Canine Osteoarthritis. Benson produced numerous other peer-reviewed publications and continuing education presentations earlier this year.

James Brown, clinical assistant professor of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, and his colleagues Ravi Reddy and Chris Riggs represented the World Equine Veterinary Association at a two-day interactive workshop for equine veterinarians at Shirwal, Maharashtra, India on Oct. 24-26. Held in conjunction with the Indian Association of Equine Practitioners, the well-attended meeting dealt with equine colic, head surgery, fracture repair, and radiology.

Narges Dorratolaj of Tehran, Iran, a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program, spoke about “Social Media to the Rescue: Raising Awareness about Sexual Health in Iran” at the TEDxVirginiaTech event on Nov. 10 in Blacksburg.

Denise Glander (DVM ’85), owner of Lake Hickory Veterinary Hospital in Granite Falls, North Carolina, was named the 2016 Granite Falls Woman of the Year.

Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was on the organizing committee for VetPath 2016 (Pathogenesis of Bacterial Infections of Animals) in Prato, Italy from Oct. 11-16. He also gave two talks at the conference: “Taxonomic reclassification of ‘Haemophilus parasuis’ to Glaesserella parasuis gen. nov., comb. nov,” and Histophilus somni survives within bovine macrophages through inhibition of lysosome-phagosome fusion, but requires the IbpA Fic motif for serum resistance.”

Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology, also chaired a National Institutes of Health review panel on NIAID Investigator Initiated Program Project Applications on Nov. 10.

Erica Izer of Greencastle, Pennsylvania, a fourth-year veterinary student, was one of 16 recipients of the 2016 American Association of Bovine Practitioners Foundation – Zoetis Veterinary Student Scholarship. Students from across the country were presented scholarships at the 49th annual conference of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners in Charlotte, North Carolina, through the scholarship program. The fourth-year veterinary students each received a $5,000 scholarship and paid travel to the conference.

Michael Sutphin, public relations coordinator, was recently profiled in Virginia Tech’s student newspaper, The Collegiate Times. Sutphin, who was elected to the Blacksburg Town Council in 2011 and reelected in 2015, is the first millennial to hold that post.

Nathaniel White, professor emeritus of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, was awarded the Al & Carolyn Schiller Distinguished Service Award by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated unusual and meritorious service to the ACVS.

Upcoming Events

December 5, 2016 — Alumni Reception, American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention
Orlando, FL
December 6, 2016Continuing Education Lecture: “Salvage and Corrective Procedures for Hip Dysplasia & TTA vs TPLO - which to use?”
Bedford, VA
December 8, 2016 — Puppy University Graduation
VA-MD Vet Med, Blacksburg, VA
December 16, 2016Virginia Tech Fall Commencement
Blacksburg, VA
December 24, 2016 to January 2, 2017 — Main VA-MD Vet Med Campus Closed
Blacksburg, VA
January 6, 20176th Annual Equine & Food Animal Conference for Veterinarians
Blacksburg, VA
January 17, 2017 —Virginia Tech Spring Semester Begins
Blacksburg, VA
January 25, 2017 —University of Maryland Spring Semester Begins
College Park, MD


Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

  • Dean: Cyril R. Clarke
  • Assistant Dean for Advancement: Alison Wainwright Davitt
  • Managing Editor: Michael Sutphin
  • Web Editor: Alison Elward
  • Assistant Editor: Kelsey Foster
  • Contributors: Zeke Barlow, Adrienne Bush, Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Evymarie Prado-Sanchez, Michael Sutphin
  • Photography/Videography: Lynn Blevins, Alison Elward, Doug Graham, Nikolai Kolupaev, Evymarie Prado-Sanchez, Megan Quesenberry, Michael Sutphin, The White House
Subscribe to Vital Signs!