Vital Signs: October 2017 Vol. 6, Issue 10

A message from Dr. Cyril Clarke

A time of transition

Dear friends and colleagues,

On Monday, Oct. 30, Virginia Tech issued a special announcement regarding academic leadership changes at the university. Provost Thanassis Rikakis has stepped down as Executive Vice President and Provost effective November 1. I have been appointed to serve as Virginia Tech's interim Executive Vice President and Provost effective November 1, and Dr. Gregory Daniel, professor and head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, has become interim dean of the college.

I am honored to serve Virginia Tech in this role as the university transitions from the Beyond Boundaries visioning phase to planning and implementation. Virginia Tech is uniquely situated to move forward boldly in ways that will shape higher education and advance the university to even greater heights.

Dr. Daniel has been a member of the college's Executive Board for the past 10 years and he has a keen knowledge of and a strong commitment to the vision and success of the college's strategic goals and advancement. I am grateful that he has stepped forward and embraced this opportunity at a time when I will focus my attention on the university as a whole. I am confident Dr. Daniel will provide the college with strong leadership moving forward.

As you know, the college is engaged in a number of very important initiatives, including implementation of a revised DVM curriculum, partnering with a humane care organization in the National Capital Region, building the Comparative Oncology Research Center in Roanoke, initiating a new Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree, further developing our partnership with the University of Maryland, expanding the footprints and missions of our teaching hospitals in Blacksburg and Leesburg, and appointing a task force to draft a plan to address student educational debt. These and other impactful initiatives will continue as they are vitally important to the strategic positioning of the college.

Thanks to the support of our faculty and staff, the college is well positioned to take advantage of the university-level initiatives involving destination and strategic growth areas, as well as the new incentive-based budget model. Our research, teaching and outreach missions–including diagnostic, clinical, and public health service–are all in a growth phase, thanks again to the creativity and industry of faculty and staff. Our students and graduates continue to shine in their academic performance, public service, and career accomplishments. And our alumni continue to provide essential support with their time, talents, and treasure that allows the college to grow and thrive.

These are exciting times at both the university and college levels. Please join me in lending your support as we navigate this temporary transition together.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost


Featured Stories

Virginia Tech Board of Visitors group photo
Thanassis Rikakis (left) and Cyril Clarke

Cyril Clarke named interim executive vice president and provost

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands has named Cyril Clarke to be interim executive vice president and provost effective Nov. 1. Thanassis Rikakis will step down from his position as executive vice president and provost and will assist Clarke in this transition before becoming the Presidential Fellow for Academic Innovation to continue his research on innovation in academe.

“Virginia Tech has come to a pivotal moment in its history,” said Sands. “To continue our momentum, we must do the hard work and have the tough conversations necessary to make the aspirations of Beyond Boundaries a reality. Thanassis provided tremendous insight and energy that propelled us to the completion of the visioning phase and the development of the first academic initiatives under Beyond Boundaries. Thanassis suggested and I agreed that now is the time to make a change in leadership as we transition fully to planning and implementation. His role was essential to this process and I am deeply grateful for his many contributions to Virginia Tech.

“Over the past three years, the Virginia Tech community and our partners have developed a bold vision for what Virginia Tech could become a generation from now. Beyond Boundaries envisions Virginia Tech as a leading global university, deeply engaged with our partners in the spirit of the land-grant university to address the greatest challenges of the commonwealth, the nation, and the world,” Sands said. “As we move forward from completing the visioning stage to planning and implementation, we will engage our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and partners to build upon the initiatives now underway.

“In Cyril, we have a dedicated and inspirational leader — one with broad knowledge of Virginia Tech. Not only is he deeply committed to our shared vision, but he also has a unique understanding of the environment and culture we must navigate.”

Read more about Clarke's interim appointment.

Gregory Daniel
Gregory Daniel

Gregory Daniel named interim dean of veterinary college

Gregory Daniel, professor and head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, has become interim dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine effective Nov. 1.

The appointment follows dean Cyril Clarke’s appointment as Virginia Tech’s interim executive vice president and provost.

“I am grateful that Greg has stepped forward and embraced this opportunity at a time when I will focus my attention on the university as a whole,” said Clarke. “Greg has the support and the respect of our faculty and will provide our college with strong leadership moving forward.”

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2007, Daniel is a professor of radiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and holds a joint appointment of professor in the Department of Basic Science Education at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Before coming to Virginia Tech, he was professor and director of radiological services at the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville.

Read more about Daniel's interim appointment.

VTC expansion project
Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea (from left), Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology Michael Friedlander, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Agee, and Carilion Clinic Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Patrice M. Weiss break ground to officially announce construction on the VTC Biomedical Research Expansion.

Governor, Virginia Tech Carilion officials break ground on Biomedical Research Expansion in Roanoke

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic officials on Oct. 24 to begin construction on a new facility in Roanoke to expand biomedical research and provide enhanced experiential learning opportunities to students at all levels.

Known as the Virginia Tech Carilion Biomedical Research Expansion, the 139,000-gross-square-foot building will rise on the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus at Jefferson Street and Reserve Avenue.

The new building will provide additional state-of-the-art research laboratories organized around interactive research themes and infused with experiential learning environments.

“A great deal of thoughtful discussion and envisioning the future have occurred over the last two years among the leadership of Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic, biomedical research scientists at VTCRI and across the university, and physicians from Carilion Clinic and the VTC School of Medicine to identify the strategic areas on which to focus,” said Virginia Tech Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology Michael J. Friedlander, who is also the founding executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

Cancer studies will connect several primary focus areas, including brain health and disorders, immunology and infectious disease, and obesity and metabolic disorders, Friedlander said.

An enhanced collaboration with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, for example, will focus on comparative oncology where new treatments for cancers will be developed to help human patients as well as offering new treatments for companion animals that often develop some of the same or similar cancers as humans.

Read more about the expansion project in VT News and on the Roanoke Times website.

Q Bentley
Meet Q Bentley. She was enrolled in a clinical trial at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital after neurologist Daniel Cuff of Bush Veterinary Neurological Services diagnosed her with a large brain tumor earlier this year.

Brain tumor treatment for dogs may soon be used in human patients

Data from a clinical trial at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech to treat brain tumors in dogs may eventually be used to help humans.

The study is trying to determine the safety of a new chemotherapeutic drug and drug delivery method in the treatment of brain tumors in dogs. It’s funded by the National Institutes of Health and is a collaboration between the college and the Thomas K. Hearn Brain Tumor Research Center at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The goal of the trial is to try to identify a safe, effective dose of the drug to use in a future clinical trial. Because canine and human brains are very similar, researchers hope the data found in the trial can be applied to people.

John Rossmeisl, professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and principal investigator on the study, explained that research on dogs with cancer can be a pathway to accelerate drug development for human cancers.

“The dogs are benefiting from this, but eventually this drug is intended to go into humans,” he said.

One dog from the Washington, D.C., area is doing exceptionally well after participating in the trial. Her name is Q Bentley.

Read more about Q Bentley's treatment in VT News and view a video of Q's story coverage by WUSA9 in Washington, D.C.

Kenneth Oestreich
Kenneth Oestreich (center), assistant professor of immunology, and his team found a new molecular complex that helps develop and regulate immune responses. Kaitlin Read, a research specialist and Oestreich’s lab coordinator, and Michael Powell, a doctoral student in Virginia Tech’s translational biology, medicine, and health graduate program, are co-first authors on the paper.

Scientists identify potential key to therapeutic treatments for autoimmune diseases

A collaborative team of scientists led by Kenneth Oestreich, an assistant professor in both the veterinary college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, has identified a novel combination of immune response factors involved in the body’s fight against invading pathogens.

This new finding could provide insight into the development of better vaccines or even into chronic autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

In a study in the October edition of the Journal of Immunology, the research team described how it discovered a novel transcription factor involved in the development of a specific kind of T helper cells, called T follicular helper (Tfh) cells.

T helper cells in the body develop, or differentiate, into a number of different subtypes to coordinate immune responses to a particular pathogen. One type helps fight viral and intracellular bacterial infections, such as Salmonella, while another protects the body from larger pathogens, like parasitic worms. Tfh cells, though, can develop in response to several different infections.

Read more about the autoimmune disease research discovery.

TEAM Haiti project team
TEAM Haiti, a group of Virginia Tech faculty and graduate students, met with community groups in rural Haiti.

Researchers take a TEAM approach to Haiti’s development challenges

Haiti has been the focus of international development assistance for decades. Despite countless efforts, life is still tenuous for its 10.5 million citizens.

Kathy Hosig, associate professor of population health sciences and director of the Center for Public Health Practice and Research, is among a group of Virginia Tech faculty and students who traveled to Haiti in August to test a development model that may bring sustainable change to Haiti’s rural communities. Based on Virginia Tech’s community development model in Malawi called TEAM Malawi, TEAM Haiti formed to assess whether the components of the TEAM approach – technology, education, advocacy, and medicine – could work in the Caribbean nation.

Read more about TEAM Haiti's collaborative approach to Haiti's development challenges.

Dr. Jennifer McQuiston speaking at VASEM summit
Alumna Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, spoke at the VASEM Summit held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Dr. X.J. Meng and students at VASEM summit
Pictured (left to right) are Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences; X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology; Kelly Freudenberger Catanzaro, dual DVM/Ph.D. degree student; and Nicholas Catanzaro, Ph.D. student in the Meng laboratory.

Scientists focus on diseases, bioterrorism at Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine summit

Virginia Tech leaders, scientists, and engineers gathered on Oct. 29-30 to focus on challenges in emerging infections and preparedness for the 2017 Summit of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (VASEM). 

National and emerging leaders from science and medicine from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as government agencies and several universities, attended the summit at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

X.J. Meng, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, chairman of the summit’s organizing committee, and a University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at the veterinary college, is among the faculty who spearheaded and/or spoke at the event.

Alumna Jennifer McQuiston spoke on the origin of emerging infections. McQuiston is deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. She is a three-time Hokie alumna, holding a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of Science, and a master’s degree in molecular microbiology and a doctorate of veterinary medicine with honors, both from the veterinary college.

The summit’s theme fits in with Virginia Tech’s focus on Global Systems Science as a Destination Area and the transdisciplinary study of the dynamic interplay between natural and social systems. 

Read more about the VASEM 2017 summit.

Student Spotlight

Ann Lynch
Jessica Agnew (shown here on a recent research trip to Bangladesh) was selected by the Clinton Global Initiative as one of 50 students for a crowdfunding effort. She presented her work to combat malnutrition in Mozambique at the organization’s annual global conference.

Dual degree student Jessica Agnew targets hunger and malnutrition in Mozambique

A Virginia Tech student’s campaign to fight malnutrition took center stage in a gathering of world leaders and college students at the Clinton Global Initiative University Commitments Challenge in Boston.

Jessica Agnew, a Ph.D. student in planning, governance, and globalization in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ School of Public and International Affairs, and Master of Public Health student in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, is one of 50 students worldwide who was selected to crowdfund and present her project in the annual challenge organized by President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation. The event convened more than 1,000 college students, global leaders, former heads of state, Nobel Prize laureates, celebrities, CEOs, and philanthropists to tackle the world’s most pressing problems at Northeastern University, Oct. 13-15.

Agnew’s crowdfunding challenge, Buy2Thrive, is inspired by her passion to end hunger, along with years of research on how food, agriculture, and economics play a role. For the past few years, Agnew — a former chef — has conducted field research in Bangladesh and Kenya, partnering with businesses in developing nations to help low-income consumers make more nutritious food purchases.

Read more about Agnew's work to end hunger.

Marigold Ernst
Ph.D. student Marigold Ernst presented her research which aims to reverse tetracycline resistance in a multidrug-resistant strain of Salmonella.

Stamps Scholar Marigold Ernst presents antimicrobial resistance research in Boston

Marigold Ernst, chief resident of clinical pathology and Ph.D. student supported by the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, recently presented her research at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Conference in Boston. We asked her a few questions about this experience.

Q: The theme for the conference was Drug Development to Meet the Challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance. Can you tell us more about the mission of the conference?

A: There is global concern about the number of disease-causing bacteria that are becoming resistant to or are already resistant to multiple antibiotics. This was a conference hosted jointly by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID). The conference was attended by biology and chemistry researchers, health professionals, laboratory and health technologists, and government regulatory agents from numerous countries. It was an opportunity to come together and learn about the current status of the antibiotic resistance problem, give presentations about the many ongoing research efforts to address this problem, and hear about the best ways to coordinate scientists, governments, and international focus groups to bring about the development of new antimicrobial drugs.

Read the full Q&A with Marigold Ernst on the Stamps Scholars Facebook page.

Alumni Corner

Jennifer McQuiston and her dog Emma
Jennifer McQuiston, pictured with her dog, Emma, is deputy director of the CDC's Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology. She was among the national experts who spoke at the Summit of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine on Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C.

Alumna Jennifer McQuiston investigates infectious diseases to save lives

After a nine and a half hour canoe ride, Jennifer McQuiston arrived in a village in the Republic of Congo so remote that a Google search doesn’t recognize its name.

In August, she was part of a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that camped there for a few weeks, tracking animals in a nearby jungle for blood and other samples. They were investigating the origin of monkeypox, a virus first detected in African monkeys and characterized by skin lesions.

“It’s the closest thing we have right now to smallpox,” said McQuiston, an epidemiologist and deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, located within the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

McQuiston, a Virginia Tech alumna, often is on the front lines of infectious disease investigations, specifically zoonotic diseases that are spread between animals and humans.

Read more about McQuiston's work with the CDC.

Around the College

Veterinary students, practitioners connect at mentor workshop

The veterinary college once again teamed up with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, and the West Virginia Veterinary Medical Association for the annual mentor workshop held on Oct. 5-6.

The workshop brought more than 60 veterinarians to the college representing a wide variety of private and public practices, industry, and academia. More than 200 students were paired with mentors 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.

College hosts visiting scholars from India

Visiting scholars from India gained valuable clinical experiences at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital during their recent five-week stay in Blacksburg. The students were here as part of a collaborative student and faculty exchange program with Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Chennai, India. Pictured, from left to right: Noah Pavlisko, assistant professor of veterinary anesthesiology; Tamilarasan Kumar; Sobanaasree Rajendran; Vijay Ramnath Venugopal; Keerthana Raajendran; Sabari Arul Murugasamy; and Cyril Clarke, interim executive vice president and provost.

Students host Fall Fest celebration

The college's Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association hosted a Fall Fest celebration on Oct. 7 for members of the college community. The festivities included a dunk tank featuring faculty volunteers, jousting, lawn games, relay races, pumpkin painting/carving, board games, and more. Members of the college, families, and guests enjoyed camaraderie and fun on a beautiful autumn day in Blacksburg.

Practitioners gather in Winchester for continuing education

Alumni and other practitioners gathered on Oct. 12 in Winchester for a continuing education lecture held at Piccadilly's Public House. Sponsored by Purina, the event featured a talk on seizures and treatment of seizure activity by speaker Avril Arendse, clinical instructor of neurology and neurosurgery. Guests also enjoyed networking and catching up on the latest college news.

College celebrates National Veterinary Technician Week

Both the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg and the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg celebrated National Veterinary Technician Week, Oct. 15-21. The event celebrates veterinary technicians and their commitment to making the college’s work possible. Pictured are veterinary technicians in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital sharing their Halloween spirit. View photos from National Veterinary Technician Week on Facebook.

Awards & Activities

Jennifer Barrett

Jennifer Barrett honored with 2017 Zoetis Award for Research Excellence

Jennifer Barrett, of Leesburg, Virginia, the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery at the veterinary college, has received the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence. Barrett is a faculty member at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia.

Established in 1985 as the Pfizer Award for Research Excellence, the Zoetis award is a nationally recognized honor for a faculty member at each veterinary school in the United States. The award seeks to “foster innovative research, on which the scientific advancement of the profession depends, by recognizing outstanding research effort and productivity.”

Barrett, who joined the Equine Medical Center (EMC) faculty in 2007, focuses her research on regenerative medicine and its applications to the equine athlete. A founding director of the North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association, Barrett established the Regenerative Medicine Service at the EMC, which offers stem cell treatment and platelet rich plasma therapy to patients in Leesburg and beyond.

Read more about Barrett's award and research.

Dr. Cyril Clarke and Terry Wnorowski

Terry Wnorowski named October Staff Member of the Month

Since joining the veterinary college more than 25 years ago, ophthalmology technician Terry Wnorowski has demonstrated consistent excellence in her work in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Her nominator described how Terry “has expanded her skill set to not only include outpatient case management, but she has collaborated with our other ophthalmology techs to develop an efficient system for triaging emergency case consultations from referring veterinarians and clients.”

Wnorowski is known for being calm, cool and collected. She is a calming force for those around her, whether they are students, clinicians, or house officers. She is known for getting things done when services are short handed, having expanded skill sets, and being a great hands-on helper for student teaching.

"Our faculty and staff have stated repeatedly how lucky we are to have such a dedicated, upbeat, and hardworking technician," her nominator noted. Wnorowski was called "the ultimate team player," and deemed "one that we can all aspire to be like in our day-to-day actions in our hospital."

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

Victoria Kok

Victoria Kok honored with emerita status

Victoria Kok, professor librarian for the Veterinary Medicine Library, part of University Libraries at Virginia Tech, has been conferred the title of professor emerita librarian by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The emeritus title may be conferred on retired professors, associate professors, and administrative officers who are specially recommended to the board by Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. Nominated individuals who are approved by the board receive an emeritus certificate from the university.

A member of the university community since 1973, Kok made significant contributions to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine through her research which focused on libraries resources and support. The Veterinary Medicine Library provides information services, access to collections, and additional resources to assist with the curriculum and research programs related to veterinary medicine and public health in support of the students, faculty, and staff of the college across its three locations.

Upcoming Events


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

  • Interim Dean: Gregory B. Daniel
  • Assistant Dean for Advancement: Alison Wainwright Davitt
  • Managing Editor & Web Editor: Alison Elward
  • Contributors: Marya Barlow, Jenny Kincaid Boone, Olivia Coleman, Dana Cruikshank, Alison Elward, Marigold Ernst, Steven Mackay, Mark Owczarski, John Pastor, Madison Rafferty, Stamps Scholars, Michael Sutphin, Ashley J WennersHerron
  • Photography/Videography: Lynn Blevins, Olivia Coleman, Alison Elward, Jordan Fifer, David Hungate, Emily Koth, Doug Margulies, Jennifer McQuiston, Megan Quesenberry, Stamps Scholars, Maureen Sroufe, Logan Wallace
Subscribe to Vital Signs!