Vital Signs: April 2016 Vol. 5, Issue 4

A message from Dean Cyril Clarke

Capital projects update

Dear friends and colleagues,

I am pleased to report that the college is making good progress on a number of planned capital projects that will not only improve our facilities for faculty, staff, and students, but also enable us to better achieve our missions of education, research, and clinical/diagnostic service.

In support of our educational mission, we are currently in the process of designing a flexible learning space on the first floor near the Multi-Disciplinary Labs. This scale-up instructional space will have room for 64 students, projector screens, in-floor electrical outlets, and two conference rooms. In late May, we will also replace the anatomy cooler to make room for additional specimens for our anatomy and physiology classes. Also this summer, we will expand our equine palpation barn at the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases (CMMID) to give our veterinary students more space for equine palpation. Last but not least, we are currently renovating the faculty offices for the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology on the second floor and anticipate that these renovations will be completed by late summer.

In support of our research mission, we are making much-needed renovations to the CMMID facility, including new windows and a new HVAC system. We have already completed renovations on one laboratory space and, starting this summer, will finish four additional multi-investigator laboratories to accommodate researchers from the College and the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in a truly collaborative research environment.

And in support of our clinical service mission, the college is making several changes to better serve our equine industry at both the Blacksburg and Leesburg campuses. In Blacksburg, we recently finished construction of a new equine therapeutic podiatry facility, which will be opened officially on Friday, May 27. This not only gives the Veterinary Teaching Hospital a dedicated space for its equine podiatry and farrier services, but also allows the college to provide enhanced educational opportunities for equine-track students, equine residents and interns, and participants in the college’s new advanced farrier certification training. In Leesburg, we have entered into the design phase for a renovated reception area and business office at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC). Once constructed, these renovations will allow our EMC veterinarians and staff to offer better service to clients in the region.

Visitors to the college might also notice other changes in our facilities over the next few months, including new directional signs, a renovated conference room and board room, new display screens in the hallway, an improved pharmacy “clean room,” revamped space for residents, and expanded gnotobiotic and swine research facilities. These projects would not be possible without the support of private donors, our partners, and the university, and we extend our thanks and gratitude to everyone who contributed to these improvements.

Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean


Featured Stories

Class of 2016 valedictorian Danielle Brown of Woodbine, Maryland, poses with Jax, a patient at the college's Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Class of 2016 valedictorian Danielle Brown pursues childhood dream

Like many of her classmates, Danielle Brown of Woodbine, Maryland, knew that she wanted to be a veterinarian from an early age.

“It was the first job I ever wanted to have,” said Brown, who is a fourth-year student in the mixed species track. “The yearbook in fifth grade asked, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ and I was one of the 50 percent of girls in my class who said I wanted to be a veterinarian.”

When she graduates in May, Brown will not only turn her childhood dream into a reality, but also do so with top honors as the college’s Class of 2016 valedictorian. She has a long history of high academic achievement, including graduating in the top 5 percent of her class at the Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, Maryland, and magna cum laude from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Virginia Tech has named fourth-year veterinary student Jason Regalado the Oustanding Graduating Student in the veterinary college.

Jason Regalado named 2016 Outstanding Graduating Student

Jason Regalado of Sacramento, California, has been named the Outstanding Graduating Student in the veterinary college for the 2015-16 academic year.

In 2011, Regalado graduated from California State University in Sacramento with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. He is the founding president of the student chapter of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and helped organize the Conference on Veterinary Forensics and Combating Animal Abuse in 2015.

Read more about Regalado and his accomplishments.

(l-r) Caitlin Cossaboom, Laureen Sheehan, and Nicholas Parkinson were all recognized at the Virginia Tech Graduate School Awards Ceremony.

Students return from Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium with top honors

Several students in the college’s Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences graduate program earned high marks at Virginia Tech’s Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium last month.

Caitlin Cossaboom of Salisbury, Maryland, who has already completed her Ph.D. in the college's Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program and is now finishing her doctor of veterinary medicine degree, won the Outstanding Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) dissertation award. Cossaboom, who discovered the first U.S. case of hepatitis E virus in rabbits while working in University Distinguished Professor X.J. Meng’s laboratory, rose to the top among other Ph.D. students in STEM fields for the university-level award.

Meanwhile, Lauren Sheehan of Ringwood, New Jersey, a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program, won the Outstanding Doctoral Degree Student Award, and Nicholas Parkinson of Oxford, England, a large animal medicine resident, won the Outstanding Master’s Degree Student Award. In addition, several other students at the veterinary college won oral and poster presentation awards. 

Read more about the Virginia Tech Graduate School awards.

Winnie and her owner, Jessica Blazer, made a follow-up visit to our hospital on April 15.

Brain cancer study offers hope to Winnie the English bulldog

Winnie, a 7-year-old English bulldog from Arlington, Virginia, recently participated in a clinical trial at the veterinary college to treat gliomas, a type of deadly brain tumor affecting both dogs and people.

According to her owner Jessica Blazer, Winnie started showing signs of pain in late January, and an MRI showed she had a large glioma. Luckily, her veterinarian is a member of the college’s Collaborative Research Network, which enables specialty practices to partner with the college on the latest clinical trials, and referred Winnie to participate in the study.

Winnie underwent surgery and treatment at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and is now home and steadily recovering.

View a Facebook photo gallery to learn more about Winnie’s story.

Fourth-year veterinary student Sam Grossberg attended a meeting at the White House with the USDA One Health Coordination Center team during one of his external rotations.

College seeks donations for faculty-initiated Veterinary Public Practice and Public Health Travel Scholarship

Fourth-year veterinary student Sam Grossberg’s education would not have been the same without his external rotations away from Blacksburg.

“Some of my most memorable rotations have been with the USDA and CDC where I’ve worked with teams that impact zoonotic disease control, policy, human health, and animal health at the population level every day,” said Grossberg, who is a public and corporate track student from Rockville, Maryland. He added, “I now have a much better idea of the kind of career I want to have as a public practice veterinarian thanks to an array of fantastic externships.”

Public and corporate track students like Grossberg complete eight veterinary public practice rotations, while Master of Public Health students do a nine-week practicum and capstone. All fourth-year veterinary students are required to do at least one three-week public/corporate clerkship, which provides hands-on experience in order to broaden the student’s understanding of the scope of veterinary medical practice.

Although the opportunities are endless, the high cost of travel and housing can often be a limiting factor when students plan their training experiences.  The newly launched Veterinary Public Practice and Public Health Scholarship aims to change that.

Read more about the Veterinary Public Practice and Public Health Travel Scholarship.

Phillip Pickett, professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, performs an eye exam on a service dog.

College to offer free eye exams for service dogs in May

The veterinary college will once again partner with the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and StokesRX to offer complimentary service dog eye exams in May at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital on the Blacksburg campus.  

According to ACVO, the event is open to service dogs and service dogs in training, including “guide dogs, handicapped assistance dogs, detection dogs (drug, etc.), military, police, and search and rescue.” To qualify, service dogs must be active “working animals” certified in a formal training program or currently enrolled in such a program. Proof of certification may be required.

Service dog owners may register for the event via the AVCO website through April 30. Appointments are limited and accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Read more about the free eye exams for service dogs.

Focus on Faculty: James Brown

James Brown with Jasper the donkey

James Brown is a clinical assistant professor of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. He received his bachelor of veterinary science degree with honors from the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia before earning a graduate diploma in agricultural economics from the University of England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. He completed a residency in equine production at the University of California at Davis and a three-year residency at the Equine Medical Center to earn a master’s degree in biomedical and veterinary science. Brown is board certified by the American College of Theriogenologists and achieved Diplomate status through the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2011.


I grew up on a family farm west of a town called Griffith in the state of New South Wales, Australia.

What are your current responsibilities at the college? If you teach, what do you teach?

I am an equine surgeon at the Equine Medical Center. I see a variety of cases both elective and emergency. I tend to work on a lot of dental/sinus cases as well as emergencies such as colic, lacerations, infected joints, etc. I have a clinical teaching role to students rotating through the EMC and interns and residents. Once a year I travel down to Blacksburg for equine dentistry lectures and lab.

Read the full Q&A with James Brown.

Around the College

Annual Open House draws record attendance

Despite the cold weather, area families and community members attended the college’s annual Open House on Saturday, April 9 in large numbers. This year’s event featured two local food trucks in addition to tours, demonstrations, and lectures. Family-friendly events included a Teddy Bear Repair Clinic and an anatomy lesson with painted horses. New this year, several student organizations teamed up to provide instructional events for both the public and veterinary paraprofessionals and first responders on how to recognize and handle common pet emergencies and perform CPR. View a Facebook photo gallery of this year’s Open House.

Students recognized for scholarship at Spring Awards Ceremony

The college continued its long-standing tradition of recognizing student achievement and success at the Spring Awards Ceremony on Friday, April 8. Numerous student award winners were recognized for their scholarship, leadership, research, and community outreach. During the luncheon, the college awarded about $1.2 million in scholarships to students, thanks to the generosity of the college’s numerous donors. View Facebook photo galleries of the award winners from the Class of 2016, Class of 2017, Class of 2018, and Class of 2019, as well as special awards to students, faculty, and staff.

First-ever Wellness Week offers workshops, lectures, and activities

The college celebrated its inaugural Wellness Week, March 28 to April 4, with a series of events designed to raise awareness about wellness issues affecting veterinary and graduate students. Wellness Week included workshops, lectures, and activities, as well as a “Gratitude Wall” in the Commons where students, faculty, staff, and guests posted messages about what makes them grateful. Organized by the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the week also included yoga classes, Virginia Tech Helping PAWS visits to a local nursing home, and a hike. A Town Hall meeting at the end of Wellness Week gave students a chance to connect with college administrators on wellness issues. View a Facebook photo gallery of Wellness Week activities.

Community Dog Wash brings “spring cleaning” to furry friends

Veterinary students held a Community Dog Wash at the veterinary college on Sunday, April 24. Presented by the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Class of 2019, the popular semi-annual event attracted community members and their dogs of all shapes and sizes. Check out the coverage of this year’s dog wash from WDBJ Channel 7 News and The Roanoke Times.

Students, faculty compete in Talent Show to raise support for Stray Fund

The college’s second annual Talent Show fundraiser not only raised support for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Stray Fund, but also let attendees see another side of their classmates and colleagues. Hats off to the student organizers, performers, sponsors, and celebrity judges for a successful fundraiser. Hosted by the Student Chapter of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the April 15 event featured musicians, a dancer, comedians, and other acts and was sponsored by Merial, Purina, and Bayer. Fourth-year student Betsy Schroeder served as the Talent Show emcee, while first-year student Andrea Oliver took home the top prize for her Dr. Seuss-inspired poem about fermentation. View a Facebook photo gallery of the 2016 Talent Show.

Bob Duncan Memorial 5K supports veterinary pathology scholarship

The college’s 9th Annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K was held on Saturday, April 2 on the Virginia Tech cross country course to honor Bob Duncan, a beloved professor who passed away in May 2007. Proceeds of more than $1,000 will benefit the Bob Duncan Memorial Diagnostic Veterinary Pathology Scholarship, which recognizes a fourth-year veterinary student for a commitment and zeal for diagnostic veterinary pathology. The event would not be such a great success without the help of the runners, walkers, organizers, sponsors, volunteers, and donors who made it possible. View a Facebook photo gallery from the 5K.

Awards & Activities

Chip Godine, Megan Shepherd win alumni awards
Distinguished alumni award winners Chip Godine (l) and Megan Shepherd (r).

Chip Godine, Megan Shepherd honored with distinguished alumni awards

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine has recognized two former students with its Lifetime Achievement Award and Outstanding Recent Alumni Award.

Richard “Chip” Godine (DVM ’87) of Ruckersville, Virginia was honored with the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. Established in 2014, the award recognizes alumni for their exemplary and sustained achievements in veterinary medicine and their positive impact. In addition his veterinary work at the Ruckersville Animal Hospital, Godine is the past president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and the North American Association for Light Therapy.

Megan Shepherd (DVM ’06, Ph.D. ’12) of Blacksburg, Virginia was honored with the 2016 Outstanding Recent Alumni Award. The award recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally and through service to the university since graduating. Shepherd is a clinical assistant professor of clinical nutrition in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and has achieved Diplomate status with the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

Harth Tucker with Dean Cyril Clarke

Harth Tucker named April Staff Member of the Month

As an IT Support Center Analyst, Harth Tucker assists the college in many roles. One nominator describes how “Harth has taken on the task of upgrading most of our conference rooms to help facilitate the growing demand for video conferencing. He has also helped to implement lecture capture in the large classrooms which takes a lot of time to plan and coordinate as well as maintain. He is constantly making the trip from one side of the building to the other to set up video conferences. This is often challenging as many requests come at the last minute. Harth does all of this while still providing computer support and assisting the other employees as the senior technician. He is always very helpful and has saved us a significant amount of money by doing these renovations himself. He definitely deserves the recognition.”

Tucker’s other nominator reiterated this praise, describing how Tucker “…thinks ahead, foresees potential issues and alternative courses of action… His easy-going, helpful manner makes him a pleasure to deal with.” Tucker joined the college in September 2012.

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

More Awards & Activities

George Belov, a faculty member in the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Sciences, has been promoted to associate professor with tenure.

Michele Borgarelli, associate professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, presented “Why is canine degenerative mitral valve disease no longer simple?” on March 3 at the Appalachian Veterinary Medical Association of Southwestern Virginia in Abingdon, Virginia.

James Brown, clinical assistant professor of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, attended the World Equine Veterinary Association’s meeting in Romania.

Kemba Clapp, assistant professor of radiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, was awarded the Class of 2018 Outstanding Instructor Award. She also earned the Diversity Ally and Advocate Certificate and now is pursuing Diversity Ambassador status through Virginia Tech’s Diversity Development Institute.

Caitlin Cossaboom of Salisburgy, Maryland, who has already completed her Ph.D. in the college’s Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program and is now finishing her DVM degree, was awarded the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Hubert Global Health Fellowship to work on rabies control in Cambodia. The program typically accepts 10-12 students nationwide every year, only one or two of which are veterinary students. Last year, fourth-year student Betsy Schroeder also received the same fellowship to travel to Ethiopia.

Greg Daniel, head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, hosted a Nuclear Medicine Short Course April 15-17 at the veterinary college. It was attended by 49 people, most of whom were diagnostic imaging residents from other colleges.

Alexander Kwiatkowski, Jia-Qiang He, and Mark Paitkowski

Alexander Kwiatkowski (pictured left) and Mark Paitkowski (right), who are both undergraduate students majoring in biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, were awarded second place in the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine Research Day last month. The students work in the laboratory of Jia-Qiang He (center), assistant professor of stem cell physiology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and were invited to present their research at the Southwest Virginia Life Science Forum on April 7 in Roanoke.

Michael Leib, the C.R. Roberts Professor of Small Animal Medicine, presented “Diagnostic utility of cecal biopsy in dogs undergoing colonoscopy” in March at the Comparative Gastroenterology Society GutSki in Winter Park, Colorado. Leib also offered continuing education at the 88th Annual Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in March and the ContinuED South East Veterinary Symposium in Charleston, South Carolina in April.

Michael Nappier, assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, completed a year-long teaching certification program through Virginia Tech’s Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research.

Daniel Nelson, associate professor in University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Sciences, received the 2016 College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Award for Faculty Research.

Noah Pavlisko, assistant professor of veterinary anesthesiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, was awarded the Class of 2016 Outstanding Instructor Award.

Utpal Pal, a faculty member in the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Sciences, has been promoted to full professor.

Scott Pleasant, professor of equine field service and equine extension, was inducted into the International Equine Veterinarian Hall of Fame in February at the 13th annual International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio. Established in 1997, the International Equine Veterinarian Hall of Fame honors veterinarians who have contributed to the knowledge and recognition of proper hoof care for horses. Pleasant, who is also director of the equine podiatry service, is a 1980 graduate of Virginia Tech and a member of the veterinary college’s charter Class of 1984. View a video tribute from Pleasant’s Hall of Fame induction.

Jeffrey Ruth, clinical assistant professor of radiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, presented “Imaging of Thoracic Neoplasia in Cats” and “Imaging of Urogenital Neoplasia” at the West Virginia Veterinary Medical Association Annual Meeting at the Greenbrier Resort on April 15-17.

Nathaniel Tablante, a faculty member in the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Sciences, has been promoted to full professor.

James Trybus (DVM ’04) has been named director of the North Carolina Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System.

Nathaniel White, professor emeritus of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, attended an equine stockholder meeting held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on April 7. The meeting included veterinarians, industry representatives, and USDA officials who discussed a variety of topics including the Equine Disease Communication Center activity, import regulations and facilities, current regulations for soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, the current status of equine infectious anemia, industry education about biosecurity practices, the risk of foreign disease in the United States, new markets in China and Cuba for horse export, oversight of horse welfare during transport to Canada or Mexico for slaughter, and USDA surveillance of diseases. The USDA invites stakeholders annually to discuss industry concerns related to equine diseases in an effort to help the equine industry.


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Upcoming Events

May 5, 2016 — Alumni Luncheon at DC Academy
Fairfax, VA
May 11, 2016 — DVM Program Application Cycle Begins
Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS)
May 12-13, 2016Spring 2016 Commencement Ceremonies
Virginia Tech Campus — Blacksburg, VA
May 14, 2016 — Alumni Luncheon at CVC East
Virginia Beach, VA
May 18, 2016Virginia Tech Staff Appreciation Day
Virginia Tech Campus — Blacksburg, VA
May 21, 2016Canine Breeder Excellence Seminar
VA-MD Vet Med Main Campus — Blacksburg, VA
June 10-11, 2016Human and Animal Health: We are all in this together
Blacksburg, VA
June 26-28, 2016 — MVMA Summer Conference
Ocean City, MD


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
  • Managing Editor: Michael Sutphin
  • Web Editor: Alison Elward
  • Assistant Editor: Kelsey Foster
  • Contributors: James Brown, Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Michael Sutphin
  • Photography: Shawn Budge, Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Doug Margulies, Megan Quesenberry, Michael Sutphin, Logan Wallace
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