Vital Signs
October 2007

The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Inventing the Future

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Amidst great fanfare and pride, Virginia Tech made history by kicking off a $1 billion capital campaign on Saturday, October 20 at the beautiful Inn at Virginia Tech, itself a monument to the wonderful role of philanthropy in higher education. The $1 billion campaign goal propels Virginia Tech into the midst of a handful of elite universities that have chosen to undertake such an endeavor, and I have no doubt that we will be successful.
However, it will require an enterprise-wide commitment from all of us: employees, students, alumni and friends in order to achieve this goal. The $581 million already raised is extraordinary and it speaks volumes about the promise of our cause and our capacity to be successful. But raising an additional $419 million is a challenge that will demand the very best of all of us.
Here in the college, we are embracing two campaigns: the goal for the Virginia Tech campus of the VMRCVM is $31.2 million dollars and I am excited to announce that we have already raised $17,425,267 toward this goal. This represents remarkable progress and we should all be proud and excited. But we must also remember that much of this amount is from deferred and planned gifts that may not materialize for many years. Our college is facing important financial needs in the immediate future. Our campaign priorities are arranged to address the individual areas of enhancing academic excellence, identifying funds to construct our translational research complex and raising funds for our “Dean’s Fund for Excellence.”
Of the $4.7 million goal designed to enhance our academic excellence, $2.7 million will develop resources for endowed faculty chairs and professorships, $1.5 million is for student scholarship support, and $500,000 is earmarked for library support. Our $70 million translational medicine complex will require $25.8 million in private support, and the Dean’s Fund for Excellence will provide the flexibility to move quickly on strategic opportunities.
The second major campaign that we are addressing is for the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center and our goal is $15 million. Thanks to the magnificent generosity of Mrs. Shelley Duke, a member of the Board of Visitors and a great friend of veterinary medicine who has made a $10 million commitment, as well as other benefactors, we have already established great momentum. While the next edition of Vital Signs will provide more information about this magnificent gift, let me take this moment to offer Mrs. Duke our profound thanks and enduring gratitude for this visionary investment in our future.
Her decision to provide this major commitment has energized our college community, and it emboldens us to face the future with confidence. We are grateful to Mrs. Duke and all of the others who have invested in our college of veterinary medicine. We look forward to building upon this success as we embrace the broader campaign that will lead to new levels of excellence for our college in the years ahead.

Gerhardt G. Schurig

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Thatcher Helping Lead Major National Science Foundation program on Oxidation

Dr. Craig Thatcher Consumers are becoming used to the flurry of advertising messages that tout the health benefits of anti-oxidants in certain foods and beverages. While some may not understand what they are or how they work, they are beginning to understand that they should eat or drink them when they can.
Growing consumer awareness has followed increased scientific understanding of the relationship between oxidation and disease, and the latter has been substantially advanced thanks to the power and resources that a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) grant has brought to an interdisciplinary research and graduate education team at Virginia Tech that is focused on the intersection of chemistry and biology.
For the past four years, about 20 faculty members working in 12 departments and five colleges at Virginia Tech have been examining the relationship between unpaired electrons in an atom, or free radicals, and the advent of cancer, diabetes and other maladies.
They are also looking at everything from how food-packaging systems can be enhanced to how pharmaco-therapeutic nanoparticles can be effectively delivered to targeted tissues and systems within mammalian body systems.
The research effort is known as the Macromolecular Interfaces with the Life Sciences program, or MILES. Some of the progress that has been made with the MILES program was recently showcased in about 30 scientific posters that were presented during a three-day symposium and industry showcase held at the Inn at Virginia Tech. This year the MILES program was integrated with the MacroMolecular and Interfaces Institute in an event called “Frontiers in Macromolecular Science and Engineering at Virginia Tech: A Showcase of Collaborative Research.” The event also included 13 industry partners and was designed to promote further intersection with the private sector.
Dr. Craig Thatcher, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and professor in the college’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), is one of three principle investigators who were awarded the $3.2 million NSF innovative Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant.
Thatcher, along with co-PI’s Dr. Tim Long, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Dr. Susan Duncan, a professor in the Department of Food Science & Technology has been overseeing the development of the program, which has blossomed into a major research effort that has drawn increased national attention.
"Oxygen centered radicals are intermediary products that occur in chemical and biological processes such as lipid oxidation, aging and product deterioration,” according to excerpts from the grant project summary. “Oxidative stress is implicated in many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, and the compromise of immune function.”
During the oxidation process, oxygen reacts with some molecules and causes atoms to lose electrons, which creates atoms with unpaired electrons, or free radicals.
“These highly reactive atoms seek to correct their imbalance by robbing electrons from other atoms, which can interfere with cellular processes or damage cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane,” wrote Virginia Tech science writer Susan Trulove in an earlier article concerning the program. “The defense is anti-oxidants-molecules that scavenge the free radicals.”
The MILES program is focused on four specific research platforms. Research Platform 1, “Fundamental Investigations of Oxygen Centered Free-Radical Mechanisms,” is probing the molecular nature of the oxidation process. Research Platform 2, “Oxidation in Bio-Derived Monomers and Macromolecular Synthesis” is looking at ways novel biomaterials can be developed. Research Platform 3, “Oxidation Control Mechanisms in Complex Food and Beverage Matrices” is looking at ways to preserve food quality through food packaging that can minimize oxidation damage and other areas. Research Platform 4, “Oxidative Processes in Human and Animal Aging and Disease” is looking more directly at the relationship between oxidation and disease.
In addition to the graduate education programs that are supported by the NSF IGERT grant, the MILES program has developed a Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) which has provided undergraduate students with an opportunity to engage with the innovative research effort.
The MILES team is currently seeking NSF funding to support a major public information campaign that is designed to educate the public about the oxidation process and free radicals and encourage behavioral changes on the basis of their improved understanding that can result in better health.
As conceived, a major-scale traveling exhibit based on a “mall” theme with several “retail shops” focusing on different aspects of how the oxidation process affects people’s lives will be constructed. The exhibit will include an “immersion theatre” experience that will enable visitors to scientifically visualize fundamental radical and antioxidant reactions in three dimensions using Virginia Tech’s Cave Automated Virtual Environment (CAVE) technology.
The researchers are preparing a major NSF grant request to address that project, according to Dr. Thatcher.

Hodgson Serving as 2008 Olympic Veterinarian

Dr. David Hodgson Dr. David Hodgson had scarcely unpacked his bags after journeying from Sydney, Australia to the United States to assume his new duties as head of the VMRCVM's Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS) when it was time to hop on board another jet bound for Hong Kong.
His quick return to the other side of the planet was involved with preparations to serve as one of about 20 official Olympic Committee Veterinarians for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
It is a task he has enjoyed before. Having worked with the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and having been involved with the preparations for the equestrian events at the 1996 games in Atlanta, he is familiar with the grandiosity and the elegance associated with what is considered one of the pinnacle events in all of equestrian sport.
“Having an opportunity to work with these elite athletes, both horse and riders, offers a fascinating dimension of experience,” said Hodgson, who added that the magnitude and scale of the event is truly impressive. “I'm honored to be a part of it. It's been really interesting to see how another side of the industry works.”
About two dozen countries are expected to field more than 200 horses during the Olympics, where equine sports include the three-day event, dressage, and jumping competitions, he said. Each country will bring their own equine veterinarians to assist in the care for their own horses. In addition, the local organizing committee itself is responsible for providing state-of-the-art veterinary facilities with a cadre of "official" veterinarians who are drawn from throughout the world.
Duties range from providing day-to-day veterinary care to provision of emergency management during competition. Hodgson will spend five weeks in Hong Kong next summer engaged with the Olympic effort. During the first three weeks, he and his colleagues will prepare for the games and ensure that the animals are properly quarantined and cared for, and the games themselves will be held during the final two weeks.
While there, he will reside in a major hotel complex adjacent to the Olympic Equestrian venue.
Hodgson assumed his leadership position in the DLACS in July.
Hodgson earned a B.V.Sc. and a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney. He is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and a Fellow in both the Australasian College of Biomedical Scientists and in the American College of Sports Medicine.
Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Dr. Hodgson also served as head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Sydney. He has also held positions at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, Washington State University and the University of Glasgow during a career spanning more than 25 years.

Agri-Business Council Visits VMRCVM, Tech

Dr. Pelzer Agri-Business Council The VMRCVM, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Natural Resources joined together to present an informational tour and presentation for members and staff of the Board of Directors of the Agri-Business Council.
“The Virginia Agri-Business Council is a critical stakeholder organization for the college,” noted VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig. “We’re pleased to have this opportunity to showcase our college and our programs for them.”
Three groups of visitors rotated through presentations based at each of the three colleges, which focused on the thematic areas of Infectious Diseases and Translational Medicine, Bioprocessing, and Biodesign and Biotechnology.
Interim Veterinary Teaching Hospital Director Dr. Bill Pierson presented a welcome and overview on the college’s work in infectious diseases and translational medicine during the VMRCVM event.
Candace Leubering, a graduate student in the College of Natural Resources, then presented a talk entitled “Environmental Variability and Disease Emergence” and Dr. Zach Adelman of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences made a presentation entitled “Mosquitoes, Viruses and Human Disease- Can we Break the Cycle?”
Following those presentations, Dr. Kevin Pelzer, an associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), led the visitors on a tour of the large animal hospital and provided a demonstration and explanation of an ambulatory service vehicle.
Dr. Mohammed Saleem, a post-doctoral student in the college, made a presentation in the Biodesign and Biotechnology event entitled “Buy one Vaccine, Get Two for Free: Multivalent Vaccines.”
The series of presentations was repeated for each of the three tour groups.

AVMA Accreditation Team Conducts Site Visit

Accreditation Team An accreditation team from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Council on Education recently spent almost a week conducting a site visit of the college’s three campuses as part the VMRCVM’s accreditation process.
All AVMA accredited colleges of veterinary medicine must undergo a comprehensive evaluation by the AVMA’s Council on Education every seven years. The accreditation process includes a detailed institutional self-study that often includes extensive surveys concerning programs and outcomes, the publication of a comprehensive accreditation document, and a major site inspection visit conducted by an AVMA/COE site evaluation team.
The accreditation process measures how well colleges of veterinary medicine meet certain standards that have been deemed essential to helping veterinary academia provide a quality educational experience for the profession.
Criteria evaluated during accreditation include organization, finances, physical facilities and equipment, clinical resources, library and information resources, students, admissions, faculty, curriculum, research programs and outcomes assessment, according to the AVMA.
The nine-member team visited the College Park, Maryland campus, the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, and the Blacksburg campus during their six-day evaluation.
A comprehensive agenda was designed to provide the accreditation team members with a detailed overview of the college’s instructional, research and clinical programs. Extensive opportunities were also provided for team members to meet and gather information from students, faculty, administrative officials and alumni.

Swecker Elected to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education

Dr. Terry Swecker Dr. William S. “Terry” Swecker, Jr., an associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), was elected the large animal clinical sciences representative on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Council on Education during the AVMA’s House of Delegates meeting held in conjunction with their recent annual convention in Washington, DC.
“We are very proud of Dr. Swecker’s election to such a significant leadership position,” said VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig. “The role of the AVMA’s Council on Education in ensuring the quality of academic veterinary medicine is a critical one.”
Since 1948, the AVMA’s Council on Education has been responsible for accrediting all northern American colleges of veterinary medicine, which now includes twenty-eight colleges in the United States and four in Canada.
The AVMA now provides accreditation for foreign colleges of veterinary medicine which voluntarily seek the classification, and meet or exceed all standard requirements.
Dr. Swecker will be charged with representing the interests of large animal clinical sciences during the accreditation process and will serve in this capacity for a six-year term.
“I am honored to be elected to this important position. I would like to offer special thanks to Drs. Lisa Miller and Steve Lichiello, VVMA representatives on the AVMA House of Delegates and all District II delegates for their support during the election at the AVMA convention,” said Dr. Swecker. “I look forward to representing Large Animal Clinical Sciences on the Council.”
Swecker received his D.V.M. in 1984 and his Ph.D. in 1990 from the VMRCVM. Prior to joining the faculty of the VMRCVM in 1990, Swecker was an associate veterinarian in Troutville, Virginia. He is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

Klein, Other VMRCVM Professors, Edit Major Textbook

Dr. Bradley Klein The newest edition of the world’s most widely published textbook in veterinary physiology has been recently published, thanks to the leadership of Dr. Bradley Klein, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences (DBSP) at Virginia Tech and several other collaborators from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, including VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig.
Klein served as co-editor of the 720-page book, along with Dr. James G. Cunningham of Michigan State University. The “Textbook of Veterinary Physiology,” which has been published in four languages, is considered a seminal textbook in academic veterinary medicine and a useful reference text for veterinary practices.
Klein also edited the chapter on neuro-physiology that appears in the text.
Klein, who was recognized as the Norden National Teacher of the Year in veterinary medicine several years ago, indicated he was invited to collaborate on the project by Cunningham some time ago and will likely remain engaged with the textbook project in the future.
The newest edition also includes a new chapter entitled “The Immune System” which was co-authored by VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig and Dr. Ansar Ahmed, interim head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP). Both are veterinary immunologists and professors in DBSP.
The new chapter on the immune system discusses the normal function of the immune system and describes how it may be affected by autoimmune and immunodeficiency disorders, leading to several types of diseases.
Also, Dr. Sharon Witonsky, an associate professor in the college’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), served as Clinical Correlations Editor of the book, which was published by Elsevier-Saunders. This edition contains 25% more clinical correlations boxes, which show how the principles and concepts of physiology can be applied to diagnostics and treatments.
The book contains full-color illustrations and includes coverage of physiopathology and clinical problem-solving techniques. It is logically organized by body-system, which makes it easy to quickly locate specific information.
The edition also includes a new chapter on cancer, which describes the malfunction of the cell involved in neoplasia, which is essential background to diagnosing and treating cancer in pets.

Ahmed appointed interim head of Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Dr. Ansar Ahmed Dr. S. Ansar Ahmed has been named interim head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP). He will fill the vacancy left by Dr. Ludeman Eng who was recently appointed assistant dean for strategic innovations in the college.
Dr. Ahmed, a professor of immunology who has been a DBSP faculty member since 2001, will also continue to serve as director of the college’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease.
“I am very pleased to name Dr. Ahmed to this position,” said VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig. “His leadership and vision will play a critical role as we continue to develop a robust research program in the college.”
Dr. Ahmed holds a DVM from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore and a Ph.D. from the School of Veterinary Studies, The Murdoch University, Australia. He is a member of the American Association of Immunologists and the International Cytokine Society.

Equine Medical Center Presents Inaugural Distinguished Service Award to Shelley Duke

Mrs. Shelley Duke Mrs. Shelley Duke, owner and manager of Rallywood Farm in Middleburg, Va., has been named the first recipient of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center’s Distinguished Service Award.
The accolade was established to recognize individuals who have generously and tirelessly provided leadership and expertise to help the Equine Medical Center attain a higher level of achievement in service, teaching and research. The award was presented during a Sept. 13 meeting of the center’s council in recognition of Duke’s extraordinary dedication and exemplary volunteer service.
“Shelley is a friend, advocate, and leader for the Equine Medical Center,” said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the EMC. “Her enthusiasm, tremendous efforts and exceptionally high standards have contributed greatly to the hospital’s transformation into a premier equine healthcare and teaching facility, and this commendation is richly deserved.”
Duke, a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, has spent more than 20 years working towards the betterment of equine healthcare and veterinary programs at the university. She has served as chair of the center’s council since 1999 and is credited with establishing the hospital’s highly successful volunteer program.
“Growth is a dynamic experience when the result is being able to see and feel the fruits of one’s efforts,” said Duke. “I feel proud to represent the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center and am sincerely appreciative of this honor.”

Eng appointed assistant dean for strategic innovations

Dr. Ludeman Eng Dr. Ludeman A. Eng has been appointed assistant dean for strategic innovations in the college. He most recently served as head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP).
In his new position, Eng, an associate professor of cell biology and anatomy in the DBSP, will work with VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig on the implementation of various strategic initiatives, draw on his extensive administrative experience to provide leadership and input to various boards and committees, and follow-up on board actions to ensure that policy and resolution action items are completed and implemented.
He will also oversee the information technology group, represent the dean at college and university functions when needed, and continue his faculty responsibilities within the DBSP.
“Dr. Eng’s experience and broad, administrative leadership at the college and the university level will be critical as the college moves forward with many necessary programs including our building development plan and our expanding translational medicine initiative,” said Dean Schurig.
Dr. Eng served as president of the Virginia Tech Faculty Senate from 1990-1991 and is currently serving on both the Advisory Committee for the School of Biomedical Engineering and Science and the Advisory Committee for the Virginia Tech-Carilion Medical School.
Dr. Eng completed his undergraduate work at Rutgers University. He earned his M.A. and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and joined Virginia Tech in 1981. Prior to joining the VMRCVM, he served as a postdoctoral fellow and research associate at the University of Miami.

Equine Medical Center Faculty Care for Critically Ill Foals

foal During the first 30 days of life, newly born horses (called “foals”) are especially sensitive to bacteria and other dangers commonly found in their every day surroundings. Each year between January and June, dozens of these foals are brought to Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center for treatment where the hospital’s experts work diligently to return the critically ill young animals to full health.
“We work with extremely compromised patients that sometimes arrive to us with diseases involving multiple organs,” said Dr. Anne Desrochers, clinical assistant professor in equine medicine at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. “It is very fulfilling to see many of these little babies go home happy and healthy after having been so sick.”
Common problems that can affect foals include prematurity, neonatal sepsis (infection), hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (brain damage resulting from a lack of oxygen which is also known as “dummy foal”) and diarrhea. “These diseases can occur due to exposure to pathogens in utero or after birth” said Desrochers.
Due to their delicate nature, neonates that are brought in for emergency treatment are always seen first by members of the hospital’s internal medicine team who specialize in the physiologic interaction among internal body systems. These board certified experts oversee and implement their care along with help from residents, interns and nurses.
“The nature of a neonate’s illness can be more volatile because their immune defenses are not quite as vigorous as those of adults,” said Dr. Martin Furr, Professor and Adelaide C. Riggs Chair in Equine Medicine.
Furr notes that all horses have very sensitive organ systems that can be damaged by sitting or lying down for extended periods of time. A foal’s small size (the average healthy neonate weighs approximately 100-120 lbs) allows the clinicians to prevent this problem by moving the patient often and repositioning their body as needed.
“Their small size enables us to manage their posture so that they don’t become compromised as a result of lying on the mats,” said Furr.
Unlike in human medicine in which infants are often separated from their mothers, foals that are brought to the center are typically kept in the same stall as the mare. This practice is both a convenience for the owner and a benefit to the patient.
“When the foal is healthy and gets back home, we want them to have a full and normal life with their mothers so, in most cases, it is best if they stay together during treatment,” said Desrochers. “The mares are usually extremely cooperative because they seem to understand that we’re here to help.”
Integral to the success of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center’s neonatal care service is the Foal Watch Volunteer Program which matches volunteers with cases requiring around-the-clock attention. Participants in the program sit with sick patients for assigned periods of time in order to observe and report any physical or behavioral changes.
“It is important to be very alert with neonates because their weakened state makes them susceptible to other complications,” said Furr. “Our faculty, staff and volunteers, very carefully monitor these patients to avoid problems such as sores, eye infections and imbalance in blood glucose levels.”
According to Penny Archer, director of volunteer services at the center, the Foal Watch Volunteer Program runs from the time that the first foal is admitted in early February to the time that the last patient leaves in late June. Horse experience is not necessary but all participants undergo mandatory training.
“The goal is to supplement the EMC’s workforce with a capable and trained volunteer team,” said Archer. “They are an extra pair of eyes, hands and ears in the intensive care unit.” Although the task of bringing a sick foal back to health can be very challenging and demanding, those who participate in the healing process note that it is also extremely fulfilling.
“The first time they start nursing, the first time that they take steps, it makes your job worthwhile,” said Desrochers. “It’s very demanding to deal with because the foals are usually so sick and vulnerable and not every patient recovers, but at the end of the day, it is always worth it.”
Information regarding the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center’s clinicians and services is available online at Appointments for neonatal consultations may be scheduled by calling 703-771-6800.

Wilcke receives American Academy of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics Teaching Award

Dr. Jeff Wilcke Dr. Jeff Wilcke, the MetCalf Professor of Veterinary Informatics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP), was awarded the 2007 American Academy of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics’ (AAVPT) Teaching Award during the 15th Biennial AAVPT Symposium held recently in Pacific Grove, California.
Wilcke was recognized for over twenty years of devotion to teaching veterinary professional and graduate students and his many contributions to clinical pharmacology.
During his career, Dr. Wilcke has participated in developing the Veterinary Antimicrobial Decisions Support (VADS) System and he developed the KinetiClass software program for veterinary students. He has also authored numerous book chapters, reviews, abstracts, and proceedings and has presented numerous CE programs for graduate veterinarians.
In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Dr. Wilcke also serves as the director of the Veterinary Medical Informatics Laboratory in the VMRCVM and as a member of the Content Committee of the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization.
He received his DVM from Iowa State University and his MS from the University of Illinois. Before joining the faculty as an assistant professor at Virginia Tech in 1982, Wilcke was a resident in clinical pharmacology at the University of Illinois-Urbana College of Veterinary Medicine. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology.

First VMRCVM student participates in Veterinary Clinic Student Exchange Program

Melinda Cep The first VMRCVM student to participate in the “Veterinary Clinic Student Exchange Program” that was created as part of a 2005 memorandum of understanding between the college and the University of Austral in Valdivia, Chile, has recently returned to Blacksburg after her time in the South American country.
Melinda Cep, a third year student, spent three-weeks in Valdivia conducting public health research with the Instituto de Medicina Preventiva Veterinaria.
“We are very pleased to have Melinda participate as our college’s inaugural student in this program, “said Dr. Bettye Walters, director of international programs at the VMRCVM’s University of Maryland-College Park campus. “We strive to impress upon our students the importance globalization plays in veterinary medicine and expose them to as many international opportunities as possible.”
The on-going research Cep participated in is designed to study the complex role the environment has on the risk of human infection with Leptospira, a significant public health threat in the country.
Leptospira is a zoonotic pathogen that is transmitted from animals to humans and can cause a variety of unpleasant flu-like symptoms, in addition to jaundice, red eyes, and a rash. If left untreated, it can cause kidney damage, liver failure, meningitis, and even death. However, some affected with the disease may display no symptoms at all. Humans become infected with the pathogen through contact with water, food, or soil that has been contaminated by an affected animal.
“Leptospira is often considered a disease of the poor,” wrote Cep of her experiences, “But it is also contracted by tourists and other high-risk individuals.”
Environmental exposure to this pathogen is affected by water contamination, housing and waste disposal, and animal reservoir density.
Village in Valdivia By investigating the human, animal, and environmental factors that increase the likelihood of human exposure and infection, better control of human leptospirosis may be possible through cost-effective public health interventions, according to Cep.
Cep and her fellow researchers visited a total of 60 homes in different housing communities to collect water and rodent samples and survey one family member from each home to gather data for the project. After her field-work, Cep was then involved with processing the samples in the laboratory, where she gained valuable laboratory analysis and bio-security experience while she was performing public service.
In addition to her work with Leptospira, Cep also had the unique opportunity to visit a local aquaculture company and observe cases at the veterinary school’s teaching hospital.
“My experiences in Valdivia have encouraged me to pursue my interest in public health and international veterinary medicine,” wrote Cep. “I am forever indebted not only to the faculty of our university, but the faculty at the Universidad Austral de Chile, including Drs. Carla Rosenfield, Marcelo Gomez, and Rafael Tamayo, for allowing me the opportunity to visit their campus and assist with this ongoing research project.”

College Members Tapped for Omicron Delta Kappa

ODK Members Eleven members of the VMRCVM community recently joined the Alpha Omicron Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), the most exclusive leadership honor society at Virginia Tech.
The campus-wide society recognizes superior scholarship, leadership, and character; emphasis is placed on development of the whole person, as a member of both the college community and society at large.
Ten students of the veterinary college and one college staff member were tapped for initiation into the Alpha Omicron Circle of ODK.
The Alpha Omicron Circle was founded in 1933. Over its 74 years at Virginia Tech, the Circle has initiated only 2428 members, including every university president since Julian Burruss. Among the other distinguished members of the Alpha Omicron Circle are James R. Fulbright, Sandra Sullivan, Christopher Kraft, and Frank Beamer.
During the ceremony’s keynote address, Virginia Tech Provost Mark McNamee discussed the Virginia Tech motto Ut Prosim and the value of strong leaders. His parting words encouraged both initiates and ODK members to develop their leadership skills and strive to be a positive influence in their society.
New initiates from the college included: Stacie Boswell ’09, Catherine Clark ‘10, Michelle Creamer ’10, Valery Drenning ’10, Laura Fontana ’09, Ray Gracon ’09, Michael Hickey ’09, Sara Hyink ’09, Julie Nozynski ’10, Victoria Brianna Wilson ‘10, and Lynn Young, director of alumni relations and student affairs.
The Circle also welcomed its new faculty advisor, Dr. Judi Lynch, and faculty secretary, Dr. Lud Eng. Dr. Lynch is the director of special initiatives in the VMRCVM and Dr. Eng is an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and the assistant dean for strategic innovations in the VMRCVM.

Girl Scout Troop says thank you to VMRCVM “miracle workers”

Denali and Girl Scout Many will give thanks for the blessings in their lives this Thanksgiving. For one family and a generous troop of Girl Scouts, their thankfulness will include the health of a horse named Denali and the “miracle workers” in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) at Virginia Tech.
Nearly every Girl Scout in Troop # 5110, past or present, in Summers County, West Virginia has ridden and loves Denali, the nine-year old Arabian gelding owned by Troop Leader Gayle Rancer, her husband Mark Rosenberg, and their daughters Sydney and Layla.
In the year since he joined the Rancer-Rosenberg family, Denali has quickly become an integral part of Gayle’s life. The horse has also become a favorite of Gayle’s Girl Scout troop, so when early on the morning of September 12 Gayle and her family found Denali on his back with his feet up in extreme pain, they wasted no time calling their local veterinarian, Dr. Faye Gooding of Tri-County Veterinary Services.
Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Denali’s condition only worsened. He kept collapsing, his heart rate continued to slow, and his pain became unmanageable. The family was soon faced with a very hard decision concerning Denali’s future and well-being: should they consider putting him down and ending his misery? Or should they seek additional treatment in the hope he would be able to make a full recovery?
“The clock was ticking,” said Gayle. “Denali was facing a life or death situation.” After consultation with Dr. Gooding, they decided to attempt treatment. They loaded Denali into his horse trailer and raced towards the VMRCVM in Blacksburg.
Upon their arrival, they were greeted by an emergency equine team that included Dr. Dale Rigg, Dr. Linda Dahlgren, Dr. Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, Dr. Erik Noschka, and DVM students Ashley Davis and Janie Dotson. Gayle would later dub the team “miracle workers” for the incredible care and expertise they demonstrated with Denali.
The team immediately took Denali for exploratory surgery where he was diagnosed with “right dorsal displacement of pelvic flexure and 16 feet of devitalized jejunum due to strangulating lupoma.” In other words, his small intestines were wrapped around a large, fatty tumor. Sixteen feet of his small intestines were dead and would have to be removed along with the tumor. This was a very serious surgery and there was no guarantee Denali would survive; however, it was his only chance.
With no time to spare, Denali was rushed into surgery while Gayle and Mark waited and hoped. Remarkably, Denali came through the surgery even better than expected and as the days passed, his recovery amazed even his doctors. He even earned the nickname “Wonder Boy” from Dr. Rigg. Five days after his surgery, Denali was strong enough to return to his family and the girls of Troop #5110 in West Virginia.
“Our family is thrilled beyond belief to have him home, and extremely proud of his stamina,” said Gayle. "His miraculous surgery has given us a grateful, appreciative and very happy horse. His surgery was major, and his recovery has required a lot of quality time with him. Our Thanksgiving gift will be watching him enjoy his freedom when we release our horse back into his pasture. We love this guy so much!"
The girls of Troop #5110 are also happy to have Denali back with them. To show their appreciation to the VMRCVM for the care Denali received, the troop has donated a portion of the proceeds from their cookie sales to the college to help offset the remaining balance of “Running Together,” the beautiful, bronze statue depicting a girl leading her horse with her dog keeping pace that greets visitors at the VMRCVM’s Blacksburg campus.
“We are delighted by the contribution made by Girl Scout Troop #5110. It shows a great amount of initiative, compassion and caring. Their character and generosity set a good example for all of us,” said Amanda Dymacek, assistant director of development for the college. “What a wonderful way to say ‘thank-you’.”

EMC’s White Elected Vice President of AAEP

Dr. Nat White Dr. Nathaniel A. White II, the Jean Ellen duPont Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, has been selected as the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) next vice president. As such, Dr. White will move into a line of succession that leads to the presidency of the AAEP in 2010.
White earned his DVM degree from Cornell University in 1971. After completing an internship and residency in surgery at the University of California-Davis, he spent a year in practice before graduating with a master of science in pathology at Kansas State University in 1976.
Dr. White has served on the faculty of Kansas State University, the University of Georgia and Virginia Tech. He was formerly the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Surgery as an eminent scholar at Virginia Tech from 1987 to 2003.
Dr. White has a long history of active involvement in the AAEP. He is currently the chair of the AAEP Foundation Advisory Committee, and is a past chair of the Student Relations Committee and a former member of the board of directors. Dr. White organized the Equine Research Summit in 2006 as part of the AAEP’s effort to highlight the need for equine research. He was recognized for his contributions to the AAEP and the profession in 2004 when he received the AAEP Distinguished Service Award.
Dr. White’s service on the AAEP Executive Committee will begin at the association’s 53rd Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida in December, 2007.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. The AAEP includes nearly 9,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.