Vital Signs: October 2015 Vol. 4, Issue 10

A Two-State Partnership

Dear friends and colleagues,

There are a number of veterinary colleges in the U.S. that have contracts to educate students from states other than their own, but ours is the only one that represents a partnership between two states involving a single college, curriculum, and cohort of enrolled DVM students. Built upon the strong foundations of two of the nation's leading research universities, Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland (UMD), the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is governed by a Program and Budget Review Board composed of senior administrators representing the two universities. The board meets annually to discuss program development and approve a budget that is based on the enrollment of resident students from each state (200 from Virginia and 120 from Maryland).

Education of veterinary students occurs primarily under the organizational responsibility of Virginia Tech, but with significant contributions from UMD in the area of public and corporate veterinary medicine. Students selecting the public and corporate track benefit from the close proximity of our UMD College Park campus to federal agencies in the Washington, D.C. area. Educational externships at the USDA, NIH, FDA, and other public and corporate entities prepare students for careers that do not involve private clinical practice.

Faculty based in College Park also contribute significantly to the research mission of the college. In FY15, research expenditures for the college were approximately $8 million, including approximately $2.5 million at UMD. Considering the relatively small number of faculty with substantive research assignments in College Park, this is an impressive accomplishment. Research programs of our UMD faculty focus on a variety of infectious diseases, including development of vaccines against viral diseases, novel approaches to antibacterial therapy, and control of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease.

Further development of this valuable partnership involves several projects designed to expand educational opportunities for our students and promote economic development of the two states. For example, we are funding initiatives to encourage research collaborations across the Virginia Tech and UMD campuses and we are developing strategies to increase support for the poultry industry. Efforts are also underway to establish clinical experiential training opportunities for veterinary students in closer proximity to College Park.

Not often will you see the logos of two major universities placed side by side, as the Virginia Tech and UMD logos are at the entrances of the college’s Blacksburg campus in Virginia and its College Park campus in Maryland. Indeed, the DVM diplomas awarded to our graduates bear the seals and approvals of both universities. Although at times complicated to manage, our partnership derives strength and value from the engagement of two substantive states and their flagship land grant universities.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean


Featured Stories

Pictured behind Curtis (l-r): Tom Mould; Matthew Mould; Madelyn Mould; Valerie Mould; David Grant, associate professor of internal medicine; Marian Benitez, clinical assistant professor of small animal surgery; and Rick Hiller, hospital administrator.

Curtis, a Veterinary Teaching Hospital patient who snacked on a skewer, wins national competition

A 5-year-old boxer with a habit of eating things he shouldn’t has won a national competition for the most unusual pet insurance claim after swallowing a wooden BBQ skewer and having it removed at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine nearly a year later.

After owner Valerie Mould of Princeton, West Virginia, realized that her dog, Curtis, had eaten the skewer during a family event to celebrate the birth of their daughter in 2014, she took him to a local veterinarian. She was told to watch Curtis closely, but the following morning, he vomited and collapsed. The family brought Curtis to a local emergency animal hospital, which referred him to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg for treatment.

David Grant, associate professor of internal medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, performed an ultrasound and endoscopy, but he and his colleagues found no evidence of the skewer. Curtis spent two days in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

“No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t find the skewer,” Mould said. “There were no signs that it punctured anything either, so they believed it had possibly broken down in his stomach.”

Read the full success story about Curtis on the college website.

Katogiritis checks samples for parasites at the Jane Goodall Institute’s mandrill release site at the Conkouati-Douli National Park in Congo.

Anna Katogiritis fulfills dream serving Jane Goodall Institute in Congo

When Anna Katogiritis was volunteering at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in Congo, she helped care for an 8-year-old chimp named “Podive” who remains close to her heart. Rescued at an early age, Podive, which means “trouble,” requires constant medical care because of a hepatitis B infection.

“Every day between 1 and 3 p.m., when the others at the center were on break, I would go by his enclosure, sit on the ground, and either listen to music with him, talk to him, or just sit there as his company,” said Katogiritis, a third-year veterinary student who preferred to think of Podive’s name as meaning “a kind heart.”

After several weeks, Katogiritis, who is in the college’s mixed animal track, noticed a change in the chimpanzee’s disposition toward her. “Whenever Podive would see me approaching his enclosed area, he would jump off the high structure that he sat on and run towards the very specific spot where we spent every day,” she recalled.

This summer, Katogiritis had a rare opportunity to volunteer at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center, which gives rescued chimps like Podive and other monkeys and mandrills a second chance. That two-month experience would have never happened had Jane Goodall not responded to a letter that Katogiritis sent her in 2014.

Read a first-hand account of Katogiritis’ unique experiences with the Jane Goodall Institute.

After Michele Sizer of Woodbridge, Virginia, lost her beloved dog, Baby, this past June, the veterinarians and staff at Mapleshade Animal Hospital donated to the VMF in Baby’s honor. “It means the world to me to share Baby’s memories and know that through his loss other animals can have a better quality of life,” Sizer said.

Now in its 30th year, Veterinary Memorial Fund comes full circle

Twenty years ago, a researcher at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine proved that cornea tissue can carry feline leukemia virus, potentially saving countless cats from risky tissue donations from infected animals.

That researcher was Ian Herring, associate professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. His project would not have happened without support from the college’s Veterinary Memorial Fund (VMF), which just marked its 30th year of providing competitive grants to faculty members working on clinical research projects.

Recently, Herring and ophthalmology resident Rachel Matusow completed another VMF-funded project whose findings will become part of routine pre-operative care for dogs undergoing cataract surgery at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and beyond. The $8,000 grant allowed Herring and Matusow to offer anti-glaucoma medication to 120 dogs that underwent cataract surgery over an 18-month period. Their research has been submitted for publication in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Established in 1985, the Veterinary Memorial Fund enables pet owners and families to leave a legacy of support for scientific investigations which improve the quality of health care for future generations. The fund accepts contributions, both small and large, from veterinarians and owners in memory of a pet, as well as from family and friends in memory of a person who loved animals.

Read more about the Veterinary Memorial Fund.

Around the College

Congressman Steny Hoyer visits Maryland campus

U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (pictured left), who represents Maryland’s 5th congressional district and serves as House Minority Whip, visited the College Park campus on Tuesday, Oct. 13. Hoyer, who was a state legislator when the college was formed, met with faculty and staff and toured the college’s Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at the University of Maryland. “He was highly impressed not only with our facilities but also with our teaching, research, and Extension programs,” said Siba Samal (pictured right), associate dean for the Maryland campus.

College hosts Primary Care Veterinary Educators’ Symposium

Earlier this month, the college welcomed veterinarians from around the world to attend the 2015 Primary Care Veterinary Educators’ Symposium offered by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. The symposium included several days of presentations, workshops, and discussions centered on primary care education.

Dr. Jennifer Brandt (pictured here), licensed independent social worker at The Ohio State University and internationally acclaimed guest lecturer, provided a workshop on feedback in medical education and a session on the impact of depression and anxiety in the workplace, statistics related to suicide in the profession, the connection between stress and communication styles, and an overview of the role that brain science can play in our understanding of how to effectively promote resilience within individuals and organizations.

View a Facebook photo gallery from the symposium.

The Pet Show with Dr. Katy features interview with nutrition resident Stewart Morgan

Video of the Dr. Katy Show

Stewart Morgan (pictured right), a clinical nutrition resident at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, made a recent television appearance in the Washington, D.C. area. The Pet Show with Dr. Katy featured Morgan discussing the systemic effects of obesity on its Oct. 13 broadcast. The episode also featured an interview with Britt Carr (DVM ’12), sports medicine resident at Veterinary Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Group in Annapolis, Maryland, about common injuries in obese pets.

Veterinary students, practitioners connect at mentor workshop

The veterinary college once again teamed up with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association for the annual mentor workshop on Oct. 15-16. The workshop brought dozens of veterinarians to the college representing a wide variety of private and public practices, industry, and academia. Students and mentors were paired together based on area of interest and location. The mentor workshop, which was one of the first successful such programs in the country, has been a model for similar programs in other states. View a Facebook photo gallery from the 2015 event.

College celebrates National Veterinary Technician Week and Pharmacy Week

This month, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine recognized the contributions and invaluable service of the employees who make the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s work possible. Its veterinary technicians were recognized as a part of National Veterinary Technician Week, Oct. 11-17, while its pharmacy personnel were honored as part of Pharmacy Week, Oct. 18-24. The college has numerous technicians and pharmacy personnel at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg, the Roanoke Satellite Referral Center in Roanoke, and the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg. Hats off to these employees for their service, excellence, and dedication to patients, clients, and students.

Top photos: Virginia Tech Police Officer Austin Sumners and K9 Nero (left) and Officer Larry Wooddell and K9 Boomer (right) took the time out of their day to post for a photo with some of the college’s veterinary technicians in front of the “Ready to Serve” K9 memorial statue.

Bottom photo: Pharmacy personnel at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital celebrate Pharmacy Week.

Awards & Activities

Dean Cyril Clarke with Robyn Fox

Robyn Fox named October Staff Member of the Month

As a member of the team of technicians who serve as the backbone of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s busy Community Practice (CPRAC) clinic, Robyn Fox serves as a caregiver and teacher. Since joining the hospital in October 2006, she has developed a reputation for being super organized, dedicated, and always willing to lend a hand to help others. Robyn plays a role in teaching preventive medicine skills to all fourth-year veterinary students, who are required to complete a Community Practice rotation, and her upbeat personality helps to maintain a fun learning environment.

Robyn’s nominator praised her recent contributions as the lead feline advocate in achieving CPRAC’s Cat Friendly Practice certification. "She helped put together and review the standards for the application and was an enthusiastic adopter of the practice's new low stress handling techniques. She takes pride in helping the students learn how to minimize the stress of vet visits for all of our patients, especially our cats," her nominator wrote.

Robyn loves all animals and is known as a "softy" for injured and abandoned kittens taken in by the clinic. She frequently volunteers to provide weekend and overnight care—including bottle feeding every few hours—for them in her home.

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

More Awards & Activities

A team of health care professionals, led by Bess Pierce, director of the Center for Animal Human Relationships, presented a panel discussion titled “Implementing Animal Based Therapies in the Health Care Setting: A Team Approach” at the 3d Global Risk Forum One Health Summit 2015 in Davos, Switzerland, on Oct. 6. In addition to Pierce, the collaborative team included Andrea Bertke, assistant professor of infectious diseases in the Department of Population Health Sciences; Trent Davis, a counselor at Virginia Tech’s Cook Counseling Center; Zenithson Ng of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine; and Jessica Gray of the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. They joined more than 250 international participants for this conference focused on global One Health, along with representatives from organizations such as World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Federal Office of Public Health, Swiss Confederation.

Nick Dervisis, assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences; David Grant, associate professor of internal medicine; and John Rossmeisl, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery; as well as two other external colleagues received a one-year, $10,000 grant for “Detection of urinary bladder cancer using Raman spectroscopy-based screening of urine” from the Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science’s Multiscale Bio-Engineered Devises and Systems program.

David Hodgson, head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, finished a term as president of the World Equine Veterinary Association. The association recently had a successful annual meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Oct. 8-10.

Tanya LeRoith, clinical associate professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has been named an alternate representative to the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians’ House of Delegates.

Hassan Mahsoub, Ph.D. candidate in biomedical and veterinary sciences, won the best graduate student presentation award for his presentation on “Characterization of Cellular Receptors for Turkey Hemorrhagic Enteritis Virus on Target B Cells,” at the 87th Northeastern Conference on Avian Diseases in State College, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 16.

David Papanu, pharmacy assistant, passed his Pharmacy Technician Certification Board examination.

Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine (CPCVM) and Nathanial Tablante, associate director, conducted a two-day “Career Transition Workshop 2015” on the college’s Maryland campus. Over 40 veterinarians from around the country attended the workshop to learn about career options in veterinary medicine and how to create a pathway towards a new career direction. The majority of the participants were private practitioners wishing to transition to a new area of veterinary medicine. They heard from speakers from federal and state organizations, industry, and corporate veterinary medicine, as well as those who had started businesses or created their own career.

Meriam Saleh, Ph.D. candidate in biomedical and veterinary sciences, was accepted into the Australian Society for Parasitology’s Advanced Concepts in Parasitology Course. This international course only accepts 16 students to the program each year. Course topics include parasite evolution, molecular and cellular mechanisms of parasites, drug discovery, immuno-diagnostics, bioinformatics of parasite genomes, parasite epidemiology, and parasites as disease vectors.

Phil Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Theresa Pancotto, clinical assistant professor of neurology, as well as several external colleagues, published “Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy with cholesterol deposits in a dog” in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 1-5, 2015.


Greg Daniel (invited speaker). “One Health Imaging Research Symposium on Radiotherapeutics,” College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Oct. 16, 2015.

Erin Fagan, Shawna Klahn, Nick Dervisis, and Tanya LeRoith. “Identification of the Presence and Activity of the JAK-STAT Pathway in Multiple Canine Tumors.” Annual meeting of the Veterinary Cancer Society Conference. Tyson, Virginia. Oct. 15-17, 2015.

Michael Leib presented at the Airport Road Animal Hospital on “Acute pancreatitis is dogs: An update,” “What’s new in GI therapy: antiemetics, antacids, and probiotics,” and “Chronic vomiting: what is the role of ultrasound in diagnosis and Helicobacter in treatment?” Johnson City, Tennessee, October 2015.

Sheryl Coutermarch-Ott, Tanya LeRoith, C. Washington, Nick Dervisis, R. Hontecillas-Magarzo, J. Bassaganya-Riera, Irving Coy Allen. “NLRX1 Attenuates Tumorigenesis Through the Negative Regulation of AKT and NF-kb Signaling.” Annual meeting of the Veterinary Cancer Society Conference. Tyson, Virginia. Oct. 15-17, 2015.

Phil Pickett presented a small animal ophthalmology continuing education program in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 18. Sponsored by Jorgensen Laboratories, Penn Vet Supply, Dechra Veterinary Supplies and Icare Finland.

Qizhi Qin, R. Davalos, Irving Coy Allen, and Nick Dervisis. “The AKT Signaling Pathway is Active in Canine Histiocytic Sarcoma.” Annual meeting of the Veterinary Cancer Society Conference. Tyson, Virginia. Oct 15-17, 2015.

Jessica Stahle, along with Dana Neelis, Michele Larson, Nick Dervisis, and John Rossmeisl, presented on “Diffusion Weighted Mr Imaging In The Differentiation Between Metastatic And Benign Regional Lymph Nodes In Canine Patients With Head And Neck Disease.” Annual Meeting American College of Veterinary Radiology, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Oct. 10, 2015.

Upcoming Events

November 4, 2015Continuing Education Lecture: “Canine Immune-mediated Diseases: Clinical Use of Old and New Therapies”
Roanoke, VA
November 13–15, 2015Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference
White Sulphur Springs, WV
November 18, 2015Continuing Education Lectures: “Equine Ophthalmology: Equine Recurrent Uveitis” and “Equine Leptospirosis: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention”
Leesburg, VA
November 19, 2015Continuing Education Lecture: “Anesthesia for the Older Patient”
Fairlawn, VA
December 7, 2015 — Alumni Reception, American Association of Equine Practitioners Annual Convention
Las Vegas, NV
January 8, 2016 — 5th Annual Large Animal Conference
Blacksburg, VA


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

  • Dean: Cyril R. Clarke
  • Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
  • Content Editor: Michael Sutphin
  • Web Editors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak
  • Contributors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak, Anna Katogiritis, Michael Sutphin
  • Photography: Alison Elward, Jane Goodall Institute, Jesse Janowiak, Michele Sizer, Terry Swecker, Logan Wallace
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