Vital Signs: September 2015 Vol. 4, Issue 9

A message from Dean Cyril Clarke

A strategic vision for the future

Dear friends and colleagues,

As with any institution, strategic planning gives us an opportunity to articulate who we are and where we are going. In 2012, the veterinary college approved a six-year strategic plan to advance our teaching, research, and clinical service areas, but the work did not stop there. This August, the Executive Board updated an implementation plan to help us achieve incremental goals throughout this academic year. I am pleased to update you on these goals:

Support faculty in efforts to implement a new Doctor of Veterinary Medicine curriculum. Last year, the faculty voted on a basic framework for revision of the curriculum to better integrate courses and provide earlier clinical education. This year, course development teams will draft specific learning objectives for the first two years of the new curriculum and begin development of these courses.

Expand clinical education opportunities for veterinary students. In order to provide access to high numbers of clinical cases for training veterinary students, the college will expand existing partnerships and possibly establish new ones in metropolitan areas. In particular, we will develop a plan for expanding the program and facility at the Roanoke Satellite Clinic, explore a possible partnership with the Washington Humane Society in Washington, D.C., and search for ways to improve clinical education in small animal emergency and critical care.

Advance research and scholarship in translational medicine/comparative health sciences. The college will make progress on a recently established agreement with the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine that will transfer the research programs of at least five VCOM faculty members to laboratories at the college’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases. We’ll also develop a plan to expand the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, including expansion of translation research and oncology service space, and identify research sponsors who are interested in using our Collaborative Research Network.

Develop an undergraduate program in public health. Following the recent accreditation of our Master of Public Health program, we are drafting a proposal to establish an undergraduate major in public health at Virginia Tech.

Continue development of college administrative procedures to guide faculty development and career advancement and encourage continuous improvement. The college is supporting the career advancement and professional development of our faculty and administrators by improving policies and procedures related to annual evaluations and promotions and tenure.

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine already offers an outstanding education for our graduate and professional students, advances animal and human health through the discovery of new knowledge, and provides excellent clinical services to animal owners, but in order to build upon our success in these areas, we must follow a strategic vision for the future. With this implementation plan in place, I look forward to our many successes over the next 12 months.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean


Featured Stories

Fourth-year students Sasha Romoleroux (left) and Lucy Lee (right) help with Charlie’s physical therapy session in the Small Animal Hospital. Charlie was photographed for the Washington Post front-page article.

Washington Post: ‘For veterinary students, the hardest lesson of all is saying goodbye’

A recent article in the Washington Post featured students and clinicians at the veterinary college talking about one of the most difficult aspects of veterinary medicine: euthanasia. The article, which covered how the profession and veterinary schools are addressing the issue, appeared on the paper’s front page on Sunday, Sept. 27.

The Washington Post story opens with Sara Waltz, a fourth-year veterinary student, recounting the loss of a pet in 2008 and deciding then that she would never have the “nonchalance” that her veterinarian showed during the procedure.

“Euthanasia is one of the most common procedures veterinarians perform, and some individual doctors put more than 100 of their patients to death each year,” the article explained. “Experts say that can exact an indelible psychological toll. And now college programs training future veterinarians are paying special attention to the emotional aspects of death.”

In addition to Waltz, the article features quotes from Harold McKenzie, associate professor of large animal medicine; Jennifer Hodgson, associate dean for professional programs; Bess Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences; Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services; Kevin Pelzer, professor of production management medicine; Trent Davis, a counselor at Virginia Tech’s Cook Counseling Center; and Shawna Klahn, assistant professor of oncology. It also included photos of Mark Freeman, assistant professor of community practice, and Lucy Lee, a fourth-year veterinary student.

Read the article on the Washington Post website.

keynote speaker at the human-animal bond symposium
Philip Tedeschi of the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work gave the keynote address at the Human-Animal Bond Symposium.

Human-Animal Bond Symposium brings together experts in the field

The college’s Center for Animal Human Relationships presented a one-day symposium, “The Animal Human Experience: Exploring the Bond,” on Saturday, Sept. 26. The event drew approximately 100 participants who explored the benefits and challenges of human-animal interactions, services, and therapies.

In the morning, Philip Tedeschi, executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work, highlighted the human side of the human-animal bond. After describing his evidence-based research and experience on the therapeutic potential for animals in human health, Tedeschi described the public safety and risk factors associated with animal abuse.

These themes continued throughout the symposium during presentations on equine-assisted psychotherapy, animal abuse as an indicator of abuse of vulnerable populations, service dogs helping veterans heal, and the health of search and rescue dogs at the World Trade Center on 9/11. The event also included a recognition ceremony for St. Francis Service Dogs and a panel discussion on animal-assisted therapy on campus.

View a Facebook photo gallery from the Human-Animal Bond Symposium.

dog in a grassy field
The legacy of Rosie, a Walker coonhound rescued by Libby Whitley of Lovingston, Virginia, lives on through a donation to the Veterinary Memorial Fund.

Veterinary Memorial Fund donations honor special connections with companion animals

When Libby Whitley of Lovingston, Virginia, found Rosie, a Walker coonhound, limping along the side of the highway, she made an instant connection. After finding out that Rosie’s owner didn’t want her back, Whitley kept Rosie on the family farm.

“Unlike many hounds that started life as hunting dogs, Rosie never roamed far, but was content to patrol ‘her’ nearby valley for rabbits when she wasn’t camped out on the bench by the kitchen,” Whitley said. “She lived a good, long life until cancer and other maladies took her away from us. We will always miss her loving, indomitable spirit.”

To memorialize this special dog and the bond she shared with her owner, Rosie’s veterinarian, Al Henry of Peaks View Animal Hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia, made a contribution to the Veterinary Memorial Fund on behalf of Rosie and her family.

This gift, along with others over the years, funds life-enhancing research at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. Supported projects help develop knowledge, improve procedures, and perfect techniques in areas such as hyperthyroidism in cats, chemotherapy, wound healing, and equine laminitis.

Read more about the Veterinary Memorial Fund.

Dr. Swecker, Dr. Herring, Dr. Bartl
Left to right: Terry Swecker, Ian Herring, Lara Bartl

Leadership changes take effect at Veterinary Teaching Hospital

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has named Terry Swecker director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Swecker, who is a 1984 graduate of the college and professor of production management medicine in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, had been serving as interim director since the beginning of the year.

“Dr. Terry Swecker has served ably as interim director since January of this year and has agreed to continue his service as director, although for a limited period of time,” said Cyril Clarke, dean of the college. “As we work together over the next few years to advance the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, a succession plan will be developed to provide the hospital with long-term leadership.”

The college also announced that Ian Herring, associate professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, will continue to serve as assistant director with a primary focus on the academic dimensions of the teaching hospital. Meanwhile, Lara Bartl, assistant professor of community practice, has also been appointed assistant director with responsibility for hospital operations related to the delivery of clinical services, meeting client needs, communications, and practice efficiency.

“This team-based approach to Veterinary Teaching Hospital leadership makes available a wealth of experience gained in both academic and private practices, with representation across specialty, general practice, small animal and large animal clinical services,” Clarke added. “It also facilitates the college’s commitment to develop leadership talents of faculty.”

portrait of Dr. Subbiah
Elankumaran Subbiah

In memoriam: Elankumaran Subbiah, associate professor of virology

Elankumaran Subbiah of Blacksburg, associate professor of virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, passed away on Sept. 2 in Chennai, India, following a brief illness.

Subbiah, 55, was in India overseeing a veterinary student exchange program with his alma mater, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS). He is survived by his wife, Ruby, sons Pradeep and Praveen, granddaughter Nila, his mother, five brothers, and two sisters.

A nationally renowned virologist, Subbiah studied human and animal viruses and the control of diseases produced by them. He also investigated the use of certain viruses as treatments for invasive tumors and the development of novel, non-invasive immunization strategies to control viral diseases.

Read more about Subbiah’s life and career.

Welcome to the College

Top row, left to right: Susan Carr, Stacy Clothier, Jenna Giangarra. Bottom row: Cory Hanks, Melissa Mercer, and Eric Tempel

New residents join Veterinary Teaching Hospital

The college welcomed six new residents at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital:

  • Susan Carr has joined the college as a resident in small animal internal medicine. She received her veterinary degree from the University of Sydney and bachelor’s degree in pharmacology from the University of Melbourne. Carr also completed a medicine internship at the University of Sydney’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
  • Stacy Clothier joined the college as a resident in clinical pathology. She received her DVM from Western University of Health Sciences, master’s degree in laboratory animal medicine from Drexel University, and bachelor’s degree in biology from Villanova University. Clothier completed a small animal medicine and surgery internship at Southern California Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center and served as an associate veterinarian at Small Animal General Practice and Emergency in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.
  • Jenna Giangarra joined the college as a resident in small animal surgery. She received her DVM from Kansas State University and bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Giangarra completed a surgery internship at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston, Texas.
  • Cory Hanks joined the college as a resident in anatomic pathology. He received his DVM from Louisiana State University and bachelor’s degree in biology from Baylor University.
  • Melissa Mercer joined the college as a resident in large animal medicine. She received her DVM from Oregon State University and bachelor’s degree in biology from Willamette University. Mercer completed an internship at Southwest Equine Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona.
  • Eric Tempel has returned to the college as an ABVP/community practice resident. He received his DVM from Kansas State University and bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Kansas. He completed a small animal medicine and surgery internship at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and served as a veterinary practitioner at Animal Clinic of North Topeka in Topeka, Kansas.
Stefanie DeMonaco

Stefanie DeMonaco named assistant professor of small animal internal medicine

Stefanie DeMonaco of Blacksburg, Virginia, has been named an assistant professor of small animal internal medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. She previously served as a small animal internal medicine resident at the veterinary college and has past experience as a small animal medicine and surgery intern at Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services in Rochester, New York.

DeMonaco has a bachelor’s degree in biology from SUNY Oneoneta and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Kansas State University. She recently passed boards and is now a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Alumni Corner

After completing degrees in biological sciences, forestry and wildlife, and animal sciences at Virginia Tech, Christine Christensen earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the veterinary college in 2000.

Army veterinarian Christine Christensen (DVM ’00) volunteers with Iditarod

Alaska may not be a preferred vacation destination for most. For Maj. Christine Christensen, however, the frozen tundra offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., where she works as a veterinary pathologist.

While stationed in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, with the U.S. Army from 2003 to 2006, Christensen discovered the sport of dog sledding. Since then, she has spent her vacation time volunteering as a trail veterinarian and pathologist for major dog sled races, such as the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. Each race is 1,000 miles long and takes about two weeks for competitors to complete.

“It’s exciting to be a part of something that's so different than what I'm usually exposed to. It’s great to escape from the rat race in D.C.,” said Christensen, who graduated from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000.

Read more about Christensen and her volunteer work with Iditarod in the Virginia Tech Magazine.

Around the College

Local pet owners support first-year class at dog wash

students washing a small dog in a tub
Veterinary students held a Community Dog Wash at the veterinary college on Sept. 26. Presented by the DVM Class of 2019 and the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Association, the semi-annual event attracted community members and their dogs of all shapes and sizes. View a Facebook photo gallery of the dog wash.

Kids learn about veterinary medicine at Virginia Science Festival

vet student showing a dog mannequin to a child
The second annual Virginia Science Festival featured hands-on experiences, live performances, interactive demonstrations, and family-oriented science entertainment on a variety of science-related topics, including veterinary medicine, in both Blacksburg and Roanoke. Budding scientists of all ages learned about what it takes to become a veterinarian at the college’s interactive exhibit at the Moss Arts Center on Sept. 26. Mannequins from the college’s clinical skills lab allowed children and teens to practice veterinary skills such as bandaging and intubation. In addition, the college’s public health students had a display at the Newman Library that allowed kids to track the spread of a disease. View a Facebook photo gallery of the college’s presence at the Virginia Science Festival.

Video: Virginia Tech football halftime spot features the college

Virginia Tech’s latest football halftime spot, which features scenes from the Virginia Tech campus, had two clips featuring the veterinary college. The video shows the college’s renovated Multi-Disciplinary Laboratory and surgical suite. Learn more about the scenes from the video.

Veterinary students take home second-place prize at quiz bowl

quiz bowl competitors

Four students at the veterinary college scored well in a national competition that showcased their food animal knowledge and skills. Veterinary students (left to right) Sara Martucci (Class of 2017), Emily Murray (Class of 2016), Colleen McIntyre (Class of 2017), and Jared Risser (Class of 2017) ranked No. 2 out of 28 teams at the American Association of Bovine Practitioners Quiz Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, in September. “We have some excellent students who took extra effort to prepare and make travel arrangements and then were very capable in the competition,” said W. Dee Whittier, professor of production management medicine. “Our curriculum is preparing them well for practice when compared to students at other colleges of veterinary medicine.”

Dani McVety talks euthanasia, client communication, and business ownership in second college visit

group of students with Dani McVety

Dani McVety, hospice veterinarian and co-founder of Lap of Love, visited the college this month to speak to students in the Veterinary Business Management Association and Companion Animal Club about euthanasia, client communication, and business ownership. McVety also visited the college to speak to students last year.

Officers from the Veterinary Business Management Association and Companion Animal Club pictured with their guest speaker (left to right) are Daniel Inman (Class of ’17), Courtney Scarborough (Class of ‘18), Shannon Grimsley (Class of ’17), Jorge Posadas (Class of ’17), Dani McVety, Deepinder Sidhu (Class of ’17), and Kayla Muncy (Class of ’17).

Alumni, students celebrate homecoming at Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State game

alumni and families at homecoming

The college welcomed alumni, students, faculty, staff, family, and friends to its homecoming tailgate on Monday, Sept. 7 at the much-anticipated Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State football game. Elanco, an animal health company, sponsored the tailgate. While the game didn't turn out the way Virginia Tech fans had hoped, it was a beautiful and fun evening. View a Facebook photo gallery from the homecoming festivities.

Classes of 1985 and 1990 reunite in Blacksburg, Floyd

alumni group photo

The college hosted a reunion for the Class of 1985 and Class of 1990 on Saturday, Aug. 8. The reunion began with breakfast and a welcome from Dean Cyril Clarke followed by tours of the veterinary college. Participants then traveled to the Black Dog Music and BBQ Festival at the Chateau Morrisette winery in Floyd, Virginia. The alumni also enjoyed the Steppin’ Out festival in Blacksburg on Friday prior to the reunion.

Awards & Activities

portrait of Gregory Troy
Gregory Troy

Gregory Troy honored with emeritus status

Gregory C. Troy, the Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey Taylor Mahin Professor of Small Animal Clinical Science in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, has been conferred the title of “professor emeritus” by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

An accomplished educator and member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 1987, Troy served as director of the college’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital from 1987 to 1993, Small Animal Medicine Section chief from 1996 to 2001, and head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences from 2003 to 2007. Since 2007 he has taught courses within both the preclinical and clinical curriculums.

Read more about Troy’s recent recognition.

Dean Clarke giving a certificate to Jen Hurt
Jen Hurt with Dean Cyril Clarke

Jen Hurt named September Staff Member of the Month

Since transferring from the college’s Equine Medical Center to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 2013, Jen Hurt, radiologic technologist, has played a vital role in the hospital’s radiology section. She provides exceptional diagnostic imaging services to the large and small animal hospital, educates clinical year veterinary students, and maintains compliance with accepted radiation safety procedures.

Jen’s nominator praised her high levels of competency in all areas of imaging and the positive impact she has had on the operations of her department. “Her proficiency in CT and MR imaging has allowed us to expand after-hours capabilities, and she does so willingly, independently, and without complaint.” She was also commended for her outstanding attitude, as well as her detail-oriented and organized approach to her work. “Jen always maintains a friendly demeanor and high level of professionalism that greatly contributes to the collegial environment of the hospital. She never complains, is completely reliable, and continually improves her skills.”

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

portrait of Kaja Abbas
Kaja Abbas

Kaja Abbas recognized as Teacher of the Week

The Virginia Tech Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research recognized Kaja Abbas, assistant professor of infectious diseases in public health in the Department of Population Health Sciences, as a Teacher of the Week.

The award recognizes Abbas' dedication to promoting critical thinking among his students, and encouraging his students to communicate their ideas and perspectives clearly to peers and others of diverse backgrounds. The structure of his courses is designed to not only develop students’ competencies in public health, but also improve their professional skills in communication, administration, management, and leadership.

Read more about Abbas’ recent accolade.

Mentors wanted

The Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia Veterinary Medical Associations and the veterinary college are seeking volunteers for the mentor program. Now in its 10th year, the mentor program has more than 140 veterinary mentors from three states and 350 veterinary students participating. Mentors provide advice and support to students, meet with students either at organized meetings or individually at their clinics, foster lasting friendships among peers, and are willing to field phone calls and emails from students. Learn more about the mentor program on the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association website.


  • Benitez ME, Roush JK, KuKanich B, McMurphy R. “Pharmacokinetics of hydrocodone and tramadol administered for the control of postoperative pain in dogs following tibial plateau leveling osteotomy.” American Journal of Veterinary Research. 9: 763-770, 2015
  • Benitez ME, Roush JK, KuKanich B, Legallet C. “Clinical efficacy of hydrodone-acetaminophen and tramadol for control of postoperative pain in dogs following tibial plateau leveling osteomy.” American Journal of Veterinary Research. 9: 755-762, 2015


  • Invited Speaker: Rossmeisl JH. “Canine brain tumor clinical trials- the VT experience.” Comparative Brain Tumor Consortium Meeting, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA Sept. 14, 2015.
  • Soares JHN, Figueiró M, Ascoli F, Werre S, Goméz de Segura IA. “MAC determination with electrical stimulus: defining the lower supramaximal current intensity” at the 12th World Congress of Veterinary Anaesthesiology in Kyoto, Japan on Sept. 1-4, 2015.
  • Soares JHN, Carvalho AR, Giannella-Neto A. “Agreement between maximum Elastic Pressure estimated by three mathematical models of dynamic respiratory mechanics and Plateau pressure: a test lung study” at the 12th World Congress of Veterinary Anaesthesiology in Kyoto, Japan on Sept. 1-4, 2015.
  • Soares JHN, Carvalho AR, Giannella-Neto A. “The effects of inspiratory pause in the accuracy of respiratory system compliance estimated by two clinical monitors” at the 12th World Congress of Veterinary Anaesthesiology in Kyoto, Japan on Sept. 1-4, 2015.
  • Soares, JHN. “Respiratory Mechanics Monitoring: Interpreting the Measurements.” ACVAA Special Focus Lecture at IVECCS 2015 Meeting at Washington D.C. on Sept. 18-22, 2015.
  • Soares JHN. “Advances in Dynamic Respiratory Monitoring During Mechanical Ventilation.” State of the Art Lecture at IVECCS 2015 Meeting at Washington D.C. on Sept. 18-22, 2015.
  • Menciotti G., Apple S.M., Braz-Ruivo L., Crosara S., Haggstrom J., Borgarelli M. “Effects Of Pimobendan On Myocardial Perfusion And Pulmonary Transit Time In Dogs With Myxomatous Mitral Valve Disease: A Pilot Study Research Communications” of the 25th ECVIM-CA Congress. Lisbon, Portugal, Sept. 10-12, 2015
  • Ruth, J. “Urinary and Reproductive Ultrasound.” ACVIM Advanced Ultrasound Course. Las Vegas, NV Sept. 18-20, 2015
  • Larson, M. “Abdominal Ultrasound ACVIM Advanced Ultrasound Course.” Las Vegas, NV. Sept. 18-20, 2015
  • Larson, M. “Abdominal Ultrasound.” Sounds Technology, Arlington, TX, Sept. 13-17, 2015

More Awards & Activities

Clay Caswell, assistant professor of bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has received a three-year, $458,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on “Characterization of a novel genetic pathway required for Brucella virulence.”

Gregory Daniel, professor and head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, was appointed as the alternate delegate from the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians to the American Veterinary Medical Association House of Delegates. He has been appointed to the Reference Committee 7 – Scientific Activities.

Anna Katogiritis, third-year veterinary student, has been named a member of the first American Society of Primatologists student committee. She is the only veterinary student on the committee.

Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, traveled to Montana and Wyoming as part of the National Academies of Science’s committee charged with revisiting brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area. The committee traveled through parts of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park to gain an understanding of the scope of the problem and bison, elk, and cattle in the vicinity. The committee also heard from researchers, state and federal veterinarians, wildlife managers, and other stakeholders on their perspectives of the issue.

Jessica Stahle, radiology resident, passed the certifying exam for the American College of Veterinary Radiology.

Annette Sysel (MS ’96), president and chief veterinary officer at the Bauer Research Foundation in Vero Beach, Florida, was named the American Humane Association’s 2015 American Hero Veterinarian. Sysel was the first large animal surgery resident at the college. She received her award at a special ceremony during the Hero Dog Awards gala, which will be broadcast nationally Oct. 30 on Hallmark Channel.

Upcoming Events


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: Jenn Bates, Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak, Michael Sutphin
  • Photography: Christine Christensen, Alison Elward, Gabrielle Minnich, Joshua Peters, Diana Sandstrom, Carling Sitterley, Michael Sutphin, Libby Whitley, Lynn Young
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