Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The global economic crisis that has shocked the world has now hit home. As we watched international stock markets lose trillions of dollars in equity and saw banking and investment houses drop like dominos, it was apparent to all of us that it would materially affect our state budget, and in turn, our colleges and universities. And it has.
On October 9 Virginia Governor Tim Kaine announced that state revenue shortfalls had created a $2.5 billion deficit for the current biennium and detailed the measures he is taking to address it.
Here at Virginia Tech, $8.9 million will be cut from the University Division and $2.3 million will be cut from the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station (229) as part of budget reduction measures. The university will take some measures to absorb much of this centrally, but colleges and departments will experience another 1.5 percent cut.
I say “another” because the college sustained a 2.5 percent cut in 2007-2008 and a 3.5 percent cut in 2008-2009. These reductions are cumulative, which means by June 30, 2009 our budget will be 7.5 percent less than it was on June 30, 2007. To put this in dollars and cents, it means a loss of $750,000 for the existing cuts during 2007-2009 and an additional $210,000 for the new 1.5 percent cut to create a total reduction of almost $1 million.
And this may only be the beginning. The state’s official revenue forecast for the 2009-2010 fiscal year projects a shortfall of $1.54 billion. The university has been ordered to prepare plans for a reduction of three percent and five percent for the 208 budget and nine and 13 percent for the CE/AES (229) budget.
We hope to be able to meet the projected reductions in a way that will enable us to maintain our core DVM programs and provide us with some flexibility to adapt to emerging economic conditions. At this point, we must understand the situation remains dynamic; it could get worse, or it could get better...and maybe sooner than we think.
Caught in the vortex of a financial emergency is probably not the best time to lament the 20-year trend of reduced state support for higher education that has occurred in this country. Still, education is our greatest hope for a better future; and reasonable minds must wonder about the long-term consequences of “anemic” public funding for higher education.
For now, we will take the measures we must to comply with these state and university directives, and we will make every effort to preserve the quality and integrity of our programs. I ask all of our stakeholders, from employees to friends and alumni, to do their best to help the college through this difficult period.
Gerhardt G. Schurig
In This Issue...
CDC’s King Warns of “Perfect Storm” of Infectious Diseases
Tyrrell Keeping an Eye on the Future
College to Host 20th Annual Research Symposium
Dog Walk Against Cancer a Success
Veterinary Technicians Indispensible Part of Clinical Care
Whittier Encourages Others to Consider Food Animal Veterinary Medicine
Russian Scientists Visit VMRCVM
Virginia Police Work Dog Association Holds Fall Workshop
Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center Announces “Tuesday Talks” Schedule
History Channel Films at the Equine Medical Center
Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center to Host Regional Symposium for Veterinary Technicians
Loss of Teen Saddens VMRCVM Family
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official Dr. Lonnie King predicted that infectious disease threats will intensify in the years ahead and warned of a “perfect microbial storm” during the keynote address of the recent Deans’ Forum on Infectious Diseases held at Virginia Tech.
Globalization, international development, and environmental changes are among the factors contributing to the chief risk factor, which is the proximity of animals living near people, King said, particularly in developing regions.
King said the only answer is to look at animal health and human health as a continuum and to take a “one health” approach to managing infectious disease.
In a well-illustrated and data-filled speech, King, a veterinarian who leads a staff of about 1,000 in the CDC’s National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases (ZVED), warned that unless substantial action is taken very soon we may enter an unprecedented period where pandemics threaten global public health and where the next generation of Americans is not as healthy as the generation which preceded it.
King said in 1900 only 13 percent of the population lived in urban areas, whereas in 2007 about 50 percent lived in concentrated urban areas. Soaring population growth in Asia and Africa are leading to the development of mega-cities and peri-urban areas where humans virtually co-habitate with hogs, poultry and other vectors of zoonotic disease.
He said more people are moving faster than ever before and by the year 2020, 1.6 billion people a year will be traveling internationally.
“We can traverse the world faster than any incubation period for these infectious diseases,” he said.
He predicted food borne illness and water borne illness would likely pose a major health threat for the 90 million members of America’s aging baby-boomer generation.
Food production systems are also being challenged to produce more efficiently, which has led to concentrated “feedlot” operations that provide fertile opportunities for infectious disease incubation and transmission. Last year over 21 billion food animals were raised to feed six billion people. He said that number will increase by 50 percent by 2020.
That food – and the risk of disease transmission- moves around the world through an astonishing transportation network. At any given moment, he said, 40,000 ships conveying $12 trillion worth of cargo move in and out of 305 ports of entry.
He said 60 percent of the 1400 known pathogens are multi-host pathogens and 60 percent of human pathogens are zoonotic.
An additional transmission risk is the uncontrolled importation and exportation of the illegal exotic animal industry, which King estimated is a four to six billion dollar business and is second only to the illegal drug trade.
He cited the recent SARS epidemic as an example of things to come if action is not taken to curb risks in the near future. Originating in China, that infectious disease flashed across the world in days, causing 800 deaths from 8,000 cases, affecting 30 countries and costing $80 billion in losses.
He cited current risks associated with avian influenza H5N1 causing a global pandemic and said not enough money is being spent to research and develop control strategies.
The reason, he said, is because we don’t think of these disease threats as a continuum.
“Good animal health strategies become good public health strategies, said King.
He predicted water-borne disease will become an even greater threat in the future. By 2025, two-thirds of the world population will be living in a situation with a scarcity of fresh water.
Right now, he said, 1.1 billion are dealing with fresh water scarcity and 2.6 billion are dealing with poor sanitation. Scientists have already documented the emergence of chlorine-resistant cryptosporidiosis.
Insect-borne diseases are on the rise, he said, identifying West Nile Virus as an example of a zoonotic disease that has affected 1.5 million people since being identified in 1999. There has been a two-fold increase of tick-borne diseases in the past 10 years, said King.
In order to counter these risks, we need to make massive improvements in our animal health infrastructure, develop integrated surveillance strategies, train a new infectious disease control workforce, focus on prevention and take a global perspective to the problem, King said.
He said the scientific and medical community must take a multi-disciplinary, highly collaborative approach that looks at “one world, one medicine and one health” in order to solve the problems ahead, and that veterinary medicine is uniquely suited to play a major role in the effort.
King said that there is currently a shortage of about 50,000 public health personnel, and that business leaders are beginning to understand how health affects the bottom line of business and commerce.
But of the $1.5 trillion currently expended in American healthcare, about 98 percent goes to diagnosing and treating disease and only about 2 percent goes to preventing disease.
“What’s wrong with that picture?” he asked.
You get a sense of how big a business modern veterinary medicine has become when you visit the spacious and glistening TLC The LifeCentre in Leesburg, Va.
The 18,500 square foot multi-specialty veterinary referral hospital and emergency center is like many that have been established in major cities across the country over the past ten years, and the trend continues.
Among the 30 or so veterinarians working inside is a man who keeps an eye on the future as he helps operate the largest veterinary cardiology practice in the country.
Affable, engaging, and committed to his clients, patients and colleagues, Dr. Bill Tyrrell (VMRCVM ’92) personifies an emerging new breed of veterinarian.
He is a dedicated clinician, occasional entrepreneur, and patient consensus-builder who understands that the future of veterinary medicine will best be served by strong collaboration between veterinary academia, general practitioners and veterinary specialists working together within the realm of organized veterinary medicine.
After undergraduate work in biology, Tyrrell enrolled in the VMRCVM, where he earned his DVM in 1992. After four years in private practice with Pender Veterinary Clinic, he performed a cardiology residency with Boston’s prestigious Angell Memorial Animal Hospital and Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates (CVCA) before earning his board certification from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) in 1999.
Today, he is helping train his own residents in an ACVIM approved cardiology residency training program at CVCA, where he and seven other veterinary cardiologists and two cardiology residents operate practices in Annapolis, Richmond, Springfield, Vienna, Rockville, Leesburg and Baltimore.
A former member of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association national Board of Directors and past president of the VMRCVM’s Alumni Society, Tyrrell is focused on keeping academic veterinary medicine aligned with the changing landscape of private practice.
He’s concerned that the preponderance of private veterinary referral centers are draining caseload from Veterinary Teaching Hospitals located around the country, a phenomena that has implications for the quality of instruction and research.
One idea he proposes is to create more research alliances between academia and private practice, and he is working with the VMRCVM to structure a program for prospective and retrospective studies in veterinary cardiology that could tap the statistical horsepower generated by major caseloads.
“Veterinary medicine has case studies of 10, 20, 50 or 100 dogs or cats,” said Tyrrell. “We don’t have the caliber of case studies that are present within human medicine, say 1,000 or 10,000 patients where we can get true statistics and make wide, sweeping recommendations in regard to the treatment of patients.”
A past president of the northern Virginia chapter of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, Tyrrell is in line to become president of the VVMA in 2010. He believes that the role of the state’s organized veterinary medical community is changing from one once predominately concerned with continuing education to one that is focused on advocacy.
Well-financed activist groups, as well as a series of cultural and economic factors are driving enormous changes in regulations and legislation, explains Tyrrell, and he believes the profession must carefully monitor, engage and influence public policy that relates to animal and biomedical health.
“We truly are the experts on animal health,” he said, adding that veterinarians should be consulted on animal issues during the legislative process. “We truly are the experts on animal welfare.”
Tyrrell is a believer in the “one medicine” concept that is gaining attention in both human and animal medical communities. He also believes veterinarians are among the most comprehensively trained medical professionals and are positioned to play a major role in addressing public health issues.
Tyrrell would also like to see veterinarians play a more active role in telling the story of their profession in their communities. “I think most of us as veterinarians... we’re fairly humble individuals,” he said. “We don’t tend to ‘toot our own horn’ too much, but we probably need to start doing that.”
That might be more easily said than done for the modest and gracious Tyrrell, whose understated interpersonal style belies a powerhouse of activity and ideas.
He also cherishes the role that Virginia Tech and the VMRCVM have played in his career development, and has recently pledged with his CVCA business partners Drs. Steven Rosenthal (UF ‘90), Bonnie Lefbom (‘91) and McGregor Ferguson (’99) to provide $100,000 in support for the VMRCVM through the “Campaign for Virginia Tech – Invent the Future.”
[VT & VMRCVM have] "given so much to me, so I feel I have to give back to it,” said Tyrrell, who said education is our greatest hope for the future and expressed his concern about eroding state support for higher education. “I hope that by doing so I can set an example for others to hopefully follow.”
One of the nation’s leading biomedical scientists and innovators will highlight the VMRCVM's 20th Annual Research Symposium on Friday, November 21, 2008 on the Virginia Tech campus. The annual event showcases VMRCVM student and faculty research.
Dr. Anthony Atala, the W.H. Boyce Professor and chair of the Department of Urology and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University will present the keynote address at the symposium. Atala is a surgeon specializing in pediatric urology with research interests in regenerative medicine.
His current work focuses on growing new human cells, tissues and organs. He is a recipient of the congressionally funded Christopher Columbus Foundation Award, which is bestowed on a living American who is currently working on a discovery that will significantly affect society. He has also been awarded the Gold Cystoscope Award for advancements in his field.
In 2006, he was named by Fast Company magazine as one of 50 people who “will change how we work and live over the next 10 years,” and his work was listed as Discover Magazine`s Number 1 Top Science Story of the Year in the field of medicine in 2007. A Time Magazine poll ranked Atala as the 56th most influential person of the year in 2007.
During the research symposium, graduate students who are engaged in their last year of study will present their research in fifteen-minute time slots. All other students will participate in poster sessions. Prizes will be awarded for the best presentations and the best poster sessions in both Basic and Clinical Science categories.
All attendees must register online by Wednesday, November 12 at 5 p.m.
For more information, please visit http://www.vetmed.vt.edu/research/symposium.asp
Over $3,000 was raised to support cancer research by nearly 50 teams who participated in this year’s “Dog Walk Against Cancer.” The event was sponsored by the Center for Comparative Oncology (CeCO) and the Animal Welfare Club in the VMRCVM.
Highlights of the October 11 event included a kick-off informational session on cancer in animals and a survivor and remembrance walk around the campus to honor and remember all two- and four- legged cancer survivors and victims.
The monies raised will support oncology research in the college, according to Dr. John Robertson, a professor in the college's Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP) and director of CeCO, a research center that studies cancer in animals and people. Robertson noted a group called Pawsitive Hokeez played a major role in this year’s success.
"Cancer is a major disease problem in dogs, just as it is in people," said Robertson, who estimates that as many as 40 percent of middle-aged and elderly dogs will eventually contract cancer. "Our goal is to learn as much about prevention, treatment and cure as we can."
Chartered in 2002, CeCO exists to study the development of cancer in animals and in people, to develop new ways to diagnose cancer and to find new treatments to control and cure it.
Since the Veterinary Teaching Hospital opened its doors, technicians have been working alongside veterinarians to provide the highest quality for hospital patients.
While the facilities, equipment and personnel may have changed over the past 28 years, one thing remains the same: the critical role technicians play on the clinical healthcare team and their extraordinary dedication to duty.
“Technicians are indispensable members of our healthcare team,” said Dr. Bill Pierson, director of the college’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Veterinary technicians are the “nurses” of the veterinary profession. Working under the supervision of a veterinarian, they provide specialized care and can assist in a variety of diagnostic, medical and surgical procedures for both small and large animals. Licensed veterinary technicians or “LVTs” are veterinary technicians who have completed at least two years of academic study resulting in an associate’s degree and have passed a state examination.
According to Rick Hiller, administrator of the college’s teaching hospital, the veterinary college currently employees 34 licensed veterinary technicians.
According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, there are currently over 100 veterinary technology programs in the United States that educate veterinary technicians. In order to maintain a standard of excellence these programs are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association just like colleges of veterinary medicine. While being licensed is only required for the intensive care unit and anesthesiology, the majority of the technicians in the VTH are LVTs, and of those who aren’t, most are working to attain LVT status.
Technicians are now starting to seek specialty certification in a variety of fields including emergency and critical care, medicine, dentistry, and anesthesiology. This recognition requires additional education, experience and examination. Ami Gilkey, who has been with college eight years, obtained her specialty certificate in anesthesiology. She is now working on a chapter in a textbook that will aid others in this pursuit.
“I enjoy learning and bettering myself and I love my job,” said Gilkey when asked why she chose to seek her specialty certification. “I want to always provide our patients with the best care possible.”
In addition to hands-on care for the patient, veterinary technicians also assist in teaching fourth-year students during the time they spend in the VTH.
For many, the variety of their work is what they enjoy so much.
“We not only get be involved in patient care, but we get to teach others how to provide the highest quality of care,” said Deanna McCrudden, who has been with the college for 19 years and currently serves as the supervisor for small animal technicians. “The students are a large part of why we love what we do.”
For others, the love of their patients and the desire to continually enhance the standard of care, drives them forward.
“We deeply care about all of our animals,” said Becky Wade, the large animal staff supervisor who has been with the college since 1981. “It doesn’t matter if they are the ugliest or the smelliest; there is no limit to how far we will go to make sure they are well taken care of.”
An event that occurred in the earliest years of the college provides a good example of the kind of dedication veterinary technicians bring to the hospital. Wade recalls sleeping all night on a mat outside the stall of an equine patient in order to monitor his condition. A horse named “Woody Creek” had been admitted with a fracture. He had to be supported by a hoist which was installed in a matter of hours to accommodate his injury and is still used today. At the time, the VTH did not yet have an overnight technician, so Wade volunteered to be the night nurse.
Wade said she wouldn’t have had it any other way, adding that the sling still hangs in the large animal hospital as a reminder of the case. “Every new case is a new door opened and a new solution found,” she said.
The dedication of Wade, McCrudden, and others does not go unnoticed. They were recently recognized by the hospital during National Veterinary Technician Week October 12-18.
“These individuals are just good people in every aspect,” said Pierson. “By doing their jobs extraordinarily well, they enable our veterinarians to offer the highest quality of care possible.”
Dr. Dee Whittier never has a “typical” day at the office. In fact, his office is often a local barn.
That’s exactly where a crew from Virginia Tech’s Visual & Broadcast Communications recently found him. Whittier and some students were doing sexual maturity testing on local bulls in Pulaski County when he took time out of his day to speak about the shortage of food animal veterinarians for an upcoming segment for Farm Bureau’s "Down Home Virginia” that Virginia Tech was helping produce.
“I love my job,” said Whittier. “No day is ever the same. We get to go out into the community and really get to know our clients. Plus, we help to ensure a safe food supply for everyone. It is truly a rewarding profession.”
It’s this sense of satisfaction that Whittier hopes will lead students to pursue a career in food animal medicine.
A major study conducted by the Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Consortium has determined that the nation is facing a shortage of food animal veterinarians and that it will likely get worse over the next decade.
The study determined that the supply of food animal practitioners will lag four to five percent behind a demand that is expected to increase by 12-13 percent through the year 2016.
A variety of factors are leading to this shortage, according to Whittier. One is a good deal of veterinarians are coming from urban areas and want to return there upon graduation. Another is the emerging predominance of females in the profession. It’s no secret being a food animal veterinarian is hard work and physically demanding; however, Whittier wants females to know that is no reason for them to shy away.
“Females can absolutely do this,” said Whittier. “All it takes is the proper training and practice.”
The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) was founded to help foster agriculture and the college offers many programs and incentives to encourage students to seek careers in food animal veterinary medicine.
The college's tracking oriented curriculum enables students to concentrate their studies in food animal veterinary medicine, and each year about 10-12 percent of VMRCVM students elect that track.
One such student is Aaron Lucas, a member of the Class of 2010 who was also interviewed for the program.
"I want to be a food animal veterinarian, first and foremost because I really enjoy working with people. I like the fact that being a food animal veterinarian will put me in a position to work together with farmers in my own community with the shared goal of making their operations a success," said Lucas. "It is exciting to know that soon I will be able to apply the skills learned in veterinary school to treat individual animals, keep herds safe from disease, and provide advice on management decisions."
About $200,000 in scholarship money is earmarked every year to recruit students from under-represented areas, especially food animal veterinary medicine, to pursue academic work and eventually careers in food animal veterinary medicine.
"Down Home Virginia" is a half-hour television program geared toward consumers and families in Virginia and focuses on both agriculture news and family-oriented stories. For more information on "Down Home Virginia’s" program schedule including when Whittier’s interview will air, please visit: http://www.vafb.com/video/about.htm
Three representatives from Stavropol State Agrarian University (SSAU) in Russia recently visited the College Park, Md. and Blacksburg, Va. campuses of the VMRCVM according to Dr. Bettye Walters, director of international programs.
The group visited the University of Maryland at College Park as part of a three-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Higher Education Development funded project. The goal of their visit was to become more familiar with the VMRCVM, tour the veterinary college facilities, meet with appropriate individuals and expand international cooperation.
One aspect of the USAID-Higher Education Development grant involves the development and implementation of continuing education programs for practicing veterinarians in southern Russia, according to Walters. This was facilitated through the use of Internet-based video conferencing with Blacksburg-based faculty, Walters said.
Both Dr. Ann Zajac, an associate professor and veterinary parasitologist in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP); and Dr. Virginia Maxwell, a professor and large animal veterinarian and researcher in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS); participated in the video-conferencing instructional programs.
When the Russian delegation traveled to Blacksburg to tour the college facilities, they had personal meetings with Zajac and Maxwell.
The Russian delegation included two veterinarians and a professor of foreign languages and cross-cultural communication.
Dr. Vasily P. Tolokonnikov is currently the head of the Parasitology Department and is the former dean of the Veterinary School at Stavropol State Agrarian University. He is a veterinarian by training and is the director of the continuing education component for practicing veterinarians in a cooperative project with the University of Maryland that is sponsored by a USAID Higher Education Grant.
Dr. Valentin S. Skripkin is the head of the Learning Department at Stavropol State Agrarian University. He is a veterinarian by training and is the director of the Regional Distance Learning Project, a cooperative project with the University of Maryland that is sponsored by a USAID Higher Education Grant.
Dr. Gennady G. Solgalov is the head of foreign languages and cross-cultural communication department at Stavropol State Agrarian University. He is a language specialist by training and is the lead translator for the cooperative project with the University of Maryland that is sponsored by a USAID Higher Education Grant.
Nearly 70 teams from across the commonwealth recently participated in the Virginia Police Work Dog Association’s 2008 fall workshop at in Blacksburg. The event was hosted by the New River Valley contingent of the Southwest Virginia Training Group and was sponsored by Shelor Motor Mile.
Training focused on three areas: narcotics detection, criminal apprehension, and explosive detection. The narcotics detection focused on vehicle searches, buried hides, and residential and commercial searches. During the criminal apprehension session, open area and aquatic apprehensions were featured. Officer and canine teams had the opportunity to receive special instruction from Con O’Donovan, a bomb dog handler from Dublin, Ireland during the explosive detection training.
“These training events help our officers get the latest legal updates as well as learn the latest in training techniques,” said Deputy John Hoover of the Franklin County Sherriff’s Department who is also a master trainer with the Virginia Police Work Dog Association and a certified master trainer with the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA).
Dr. Bess Pierce, an associate professor in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS), also participated in the training event. Pierce, who now coordinates the Community Practice Service in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Veterinary Corps of the U.S. Army Reserve who has worked extensively with military working dogs during her career.
For the past five years, Hoover has been leading an effort to construct a permanent memorial to honor Virginia law enforcement dogs killed in action. The commission to create the bronze statue that will be part of the Law Enforcement K-9 Memorial has been awarded to Blacksburg sculptor Larry Bechtel, who produced the heralded “Officer Down” sculpture at the Roanoke City Police Department.
The sculpture will be completed by June 2009 and the memorial itself is expected to be dedicated during fall 2009 ceremonies to be held on the campus of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.
There are an estimated 250-300 working police dogs in Virginia, according to Hoover. Hoover said that about a half-dozen animals have been killed in the line of duty since they began playing an active role in Virginia law enforcement about 35 years ago.
Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center has announced its 2008-09 “Tuesday Talks” schedule. This series of lectures is designed to provide veterinarians, horse owners, and horse professionals with valuable insight and practical advice related to a wide array of equine health care topics.
The 2008-09 Tuesday Talks schedule is as follows:
December 2, 2008: “Emergency Care for Equine Wounds and Lacerations,” presented by Jennifer Brown, DVM, Diplomate ACVS, and a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine and surgery, Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.
January 13, 2009: “Emerging Issues in Equine Parasite Management,” presented by Harold C. McKenzie III, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM, and an assistant professor of equine medicine, Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.
February 10, 2009: “Equine Colic: A Real Pain in the Gut,” presented by Nat White, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS, and Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center director.
March 10, 2009: “Current Practices in Equine Reproduction,” presented by James Brown, BVSc, Diplomate ACT, resident in equine surgery, Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.
All Tuesday Talk lectures will be held at 7 p.m. in the Equine Medical Center’s library. No fee is charged for attending but seating is limited and pre-registration is required. To register, e-mail Amy Troppmann or call (703) 771-6843. Additional information regarding the Center and its services is available online at www.equinemedicalcenter.net.
Billy the Kid just shot two deputies and has escaped from prison. He’s making his getaway on horseback. Just how far can he expect his horse to go—and at what speed?
To provide realistic answers to those and other questions, a production crew from The History Channel recently visited the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center and filmed a horse going through her paces on the hospital’s high-speed treadmill. The film footage will be used in “Real Cowboys,” a new six-part television series that will air on The History Channel early in 2009.
Jennifer Brown, D.V.M. and clinical assistant professor of surgery at the EMC, provided details on horses’ endurance capabilities at various speeds with Lola, a six-year old thoroughbred mare, hooked up to diagnostic equipment and moving with the treadmill through a walk, a canter, and a gallop. Lola’s heartbeat was monitored and displayed at all times, giving a realistic assessment of what legendary figures, or “Real Cowboys,” might have experienced in the days of the Old West.
“By observing and monitoring Lola on the treadmill, we could see how she was handling the tasks we were asking of her,” Brown noted. “We could see her exertion, how she was sweating and breathing heavily, but we could also monitor exactly what the toll of her efforts was on her heart.”
While on the treadmill, Lola’s top speed was measured at 30 miles per hour, a pace she maintained for approximately 15 minutes. “At this point, though, we could see that she was starting to tire,” Brown said. “Like any athlete, she would be able to run at sprint speed for just so long. Then she would need to rest before she would be ready to move at a high speed again.”
The treadmill is routinely used to evaluate the upper airway and, specifically, the opening into a horse’s windpipe. While on the treadmill, horses can go as fast as they would in a race or other athletic event and the changes in the structures from the nose to the lungs can be evaluated to detect problems that are not evident while they are at rest. By using high-speed video, the horses’ gait can also be examined. “The treadmill adds a critical dimension to our ability to evaluate athletes,” said Brown. “It’s a valuable tool we can use to help us bring horses back to their full potential.”
With diagnostic tools such as the high-speed treadmill at the EMC, enormous advances have been made in understanding equine athletes.
Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center will host the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians’ Mid-Atlantic Regional Symposium, scheduled for January 8-11, 2009.
The symposium offers continuing education credits for veterinary technicians who work with horses; participants will earn CE credit ranging from 1.5 to 20 credits, depending on program selections.
“This symposium is a tremendous opportunity for equine veterinary technicians to gain valuable knowledge about health care for horses,” noted Nathaniel A. White II, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor, and EMC director. “The expertise of the specialists on our faculty—along with the scope and quality of our facilities and equipment—will provide attendees with a great educational experience.”
Lectures presented by EMC faculty on Friday, January 9 and Sunday, January 11 will cover topics such as equine emergencies, neonate critical care, pain management, cardiology, respiratory disease, dentistry, and other subjects.
All lectures will take place at Lansdowne Resort, a world-class conference center, which is located just eight miles from the Equine Medical Center. Lansdowne is offering a special room rate for those attending the symposium.
“Wet labs,” which offer hands-on opportunities for participants to learn more about a variety of subjects, will be offered at the Equine Medical Center over the course of the day on Saturday, January 10. Wet labs will cover nuclear scintigraphy, digital radiography, ultrasound techniques, hoof care, diagnostic treadmill examinations, and more.
Our college community is mourning the loss of Heather N. Hendrickson, a remarkable young woman who worked part-time as a nursing assistant at the EMC. Heather recently lost her life in a traffic accident; she had been on her way to work at the EMC on Sunday morning, October 19 when she lost control of her car as she was swerving to avoid another vehicle.
Heather, a 17-year old high school senior, maintained the goal to not only attend Virginia Tech, but to enter the VMRCVM with the objective of becoming an equine veterinarian. Friends and family describe Heather as resilient, determined, energetic, and persistent. Her colleagues enjoyed working with her because she was so enthusiastic and dedicated.
“We are profoundly saddened by Heather’s passing,” said Nat White, DVM, MS, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor, and director of the Center. “She was a delightful young person, a hard worker, and a valuable employee. She will be greatly missed by all of us,” he added.
To honor Heather, the Equine Medical Center has established the Heather N. Hendrickson Scholarship Fund in her memory; awards will be made to veterinary students who are interested in a career in equine medicine. Those interested in contributing to the fund should forward a check, payable to Virginia Tech Foundation, to the development office at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, P.O. Box 1938, Leesburg, VA 20177. More information is available at Memorial Gifts on the EMC web page.