News

Vital Signs: August 2016 Vol. 5, Issue 8

A message from Dean Cyril Clarke

A New Academic Year

Dear friends and colleagues,

The arrival of new and returning students once again marks the beginning of the academic year at the veterinary college. Recently, we welcomed 127 new students in our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program with a week-long orientation and a “white coat” ceremony. The highly motivated students in the Class of 2020 join us following a competitive application period in which the college received the second largest number of applications in the U.S. The college also welcomed its seventh class of Master of Public Health students, as well as new and returning MS and PhD students in our multi-disciplinary Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences graduate program. 

This will be a banner year at the veterinary college thanks to several new initiatives. With the arrival of the Class of 2020, we will start implementing a new DVM curriculum that integrates the basic and clinical sciences, incorporates team-based learning in all first- and second-year courses, and allows for early entry into the clinics after the second year. New courses interweave scientific theory and clinical practice so that students can better contextualize what they learn in the classroom. We are also converting the DVM letter grading system to one that is pass/fail.  When developing the new curriculum, we sought input from current and former students, faculty, practitioners, regional veterinary medical associations, and other key stakeholders.

We also anticipate continuing to engage with Virginia Tech’s emerging “destination areas,” which will be areas of excellence involving curriculum and research that differentiate us as a leading university. The veterinary college is particularly well suited to advance three of these destination areas: Global Systems Science, Adaptive Brain and Behavior, and Data Analytics and Decision Sciences. We already have faculty members who are working in each of these areas. For example, our clinical neurology service and regenerative medicine researchers are searching for a better understanding of and new treatment modalities for brain tumors and traumatic brain injuries in both people and animals (Adaptive Brain and Behavior), while numerous faculty members are incorporating the One Health approach into their instructional and research programs involving infectious diseases and immunity (Global Systems Science).

The college will also complete several significant capital projects over the next year. We will finish a remodeling project for faculty offices in Phase II of our main campus building. In support of our research mission, we are also making renovations to the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases facility. One laboratory space has already been renovated, and we expect to finish four additional multi-investigator laboratories for researchers from the college and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Last but certainly not least, we will move forward with our proposal to develop an undergraduate public health program. The college already has an accredited Master of Public Health program but hopes to expand our work in this area through the creation of an undergraduate major in public health. We are confident that such a program would be of significant interest to students, address a need in the healthcare market, and contribute to Virginia Tech’s strategic expansion of the undergraduate population. This proposal will move through the university’s governance system this year.

Our continued success in these and other areas is only possible thanks to the tremendous work of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, veterinary practitioners, and donors. As always, I am thankful for your commitment and hard work as we embark on a new academic year.

Sincerely,
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean

Contents

Featured Stories

The college's week-long DVM program orientation was capped by a “white coat ceremony” at the Inn at Virginia Tech on Friday, Aug. 19, where 127 new veterinary students received their official white coats.

College welcomes new students in veterinary, graduate programs

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine welcomed new students in its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), Master of Public Health (MPH), and Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences (BMVS) M.S. and Ph.D. programs this month.

The 127 students in the DVM Class of 2020 participated in a week-long orientation capped by a “white coat ceremony” at the Inn at Virginia Tech on Friday, Aug. 19. The incoming class will be the first cohort of students to participate in the college’s new DVM curriculum. (View a Facebook gallery from the white coat ceremony.)

Cyril Clarke, dean of the veterinary college, spoke directly to students during the ceremony about the white coat’s significance. “As students, you will be accountable to yourselves, to each other, and to your faculty mentors for your integrity and commitment to learning,” he said. “After graduation, you will be accountable to your patients, clients, and the communities that you serve. You will be expected to present yourself in a professional manner with the white coat.”

Read more about the college’s welcome activities for DVM, MPH, and BMVS students.

The 2016 Summer Veterinary Student Research Program offered nine weeks of hands-on laboratory experience with faculty mentors at the veterinary college.

Veterinary students gain valuable experience through summer research program

For rising second- and third-year veterinary students looking to explore interests in biomedical research, the veterinary college provides a perfect introduction through the Summer Veterinary Student Research Program.

Held over an 11-week period in May, June, and July, the program offers one week of research-driven short courses, funded travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) and Ph.D. professionals working in government organizations, and nine weeks of mentor-guided laboratory training in animal models of disease.

In addition, this year’s 12 participants attended weekly breakfast meetings, held most Wednesday mornings throughout the summer, which featured guest speakers who are DVM scientists with varied backgrounds in the biomedical research field.

Read more about the Summer Veterinary Student Research Program.

The VetTRAC Summer Program offered participants hands-on learning experiences, such as how to perform a physical exam on a dog.

VetTRAC Summer Program offers underrepresented students a peek into the veterinary profession

A group of undergraduate students from around the country now have a better understanding of what it takes to become a veterinarian thanks to a program at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.

The second annual VetTRAC Summer Program offered a week of hands-on experiences, lectures, and tours for students from underrepresented populations interested in veterinary medicine. Nine students participated in this year’s program, which is one of three initiatives developed by the veterinary college as part of InclusiveVT, Virginia Tech’s approach to diversity and inclusion.

VetTRAC Summer Program participant Francisca Cantu of Virginia Beach, Virginia, a biology major with a pre-veterinary concentration at Old Dominion University, has known for a while that she wants to be a veterinarian. She’s especially interested in providing dental care for big cats.

“Most people want to avoid the teeth of big cats, but I want to get in there,” Cantu said. “This seemed like an unobtainable goal when I was younger, but it seems more obtainable now — especially with this program, which is an equalizer for people who don’t have these opportunities.”

Read more about the VetTRAC Summer Program.

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center race at Saratoga provided an opportunity for Hokies to show their Virginia Tech pride.

Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center hosts race at Saratoga, Hokie Hat Contest

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical center hosted a Hokie Hat Contest during a race at Saratoga on Monday, Aug. 8. Held mid-card, the event gave Virginia Tech alumni a chance to compete for a reserved box for five people on Labor Day, Sept. 5, graciously offered by Tom and Bonner Young of Manassas, Virginia, which was raffled on the day.

Awards for the hat contest were presented for several different categories. Sue Cannavino from Hyde Park, New York won best fascinator, while Kerrianne DiSalvatore from Schenectady, New York, won for the most creative Virginia Tech themed hat. Joseph Keusch from Middleburg, Virginia, won for the best gentleman’s hat, while 4-year-old Maddie Bartee of Warrenton, Virginia, won for the cutest hat.

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center race was won by Syndergaard (named after the New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard), a chestnut colt by Majesticperfection out of Magic Belle, by Gold Case, foaled March 14, 2014 in New York. The race was for maiden two year olds, foaled in New York state and approved by the New York State-Bred Registry, and offered a purse of $73,000. Syndergaard was ridden by John R. Velaquez, trained by Todd Pletcher, and owned by Eric Fein, Christopher, McKenna, Harris Fein, Guri Sinch, and Jerry Walia. Syndergaard started the race wide and chased the pace along the inside. Three furlongs from home he was coaxed into the lead in the upper stretch and ran on to secure the win.

Scott Pleasant (center) discusses the plan of action with the veterinary college’s team, the owner, and farrier Allen Heath (right). The Equine Podiatry Service wants the horse’s regular farrier to be part of the planning for the horse’s care after it leaves the clinic. Photo courtesy of the American Farriers Association

American Farriers Journal offers a “day in the life” of Equine Podiatry Service team

Like many farriers, the horseshoeing bug bit Travis Burns at an early age. The Blacksburg, Virginia, farrier grew up near Asheville, North Carolina, where his family operated a trail riding business in the Great Smoky Mountains. His initial interest in hoof care was sparked by observing how his uncles trimmed and shod their horses. However, it would be the work of others that guided and drove him toward therapeutic farriery.

His first exposure to therapeutic farriery came while a freshman at the University of Tennessee. Burns recalls venturing into the veterinary teaching hospital, where he then saw a farrier working. Looking back, it was likely resident farrier Dudley Hurst at work.

“He was doing very different shoeing from what I was exposed to,” he recalls. “It made me want to learn more about that level of shoeing.”

Read the full profile, which includes a “day in the life” of the Equine Podiatry Service team, in the American Farriers Journal.

Welcome to the College

portrait of Cassidy Rist
Cassidy Rist

Cassidy Rist joins college as assistant professor of practice

Cassidy Rist of Baltimore, Maryland, has joined the veterinary college as an assistant professor of practice in the Department of Population Health Sciences. A veterinary epidemiologist with a background in One Health, infectious diseases, and emergency preparedness, Rist will support programs and initiatives in the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine.

Prior to joining the college, Rist was a veterinary medical officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. She earned a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, and a master of public health degree in global epidemiology from Emory University in Atlanta.

portraits of new residents
Pictured (left to right, top to bottom): Lauren Dodd, Andrew Enders, Cheslymar Garcia, Lindsay Goodale, Michelle Greer, Sarah Khatibzadeh, Nadia Saklou, Richard Shinn, Lauren Trager, and Ashley Wilkinson

Veterinary Teaching Hospital welcomes new residents

The college welcomed 10 new residents at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital:

  • Lauren Dodd has joined the college as a clinical nutrition resident. She received her DVM from Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine and bachelor’s degree in general biology from Southern University and A&M College. 
  • Andrew Enders has joined the college as an ophthalmology resident. He received his DVM from Cornell University and bachelor’s degree in animal veterinary sciences from Clemson University. He completed a rotating internship at The Animal Medical Center in New York.
  • Cheslymar Garcia has joined the college as a small animal surgery resident. She received her DVM from Ross University and her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Cornell University. She completed a small animal medicine and surgery internship here at the veterinary college.
  • Lindsay Goodale has joined the college as an equine field service resident. She received her DVM and bachelor’s degree in animal science from Cornell University.
  • Michelle Greer has joined the college as a diagnostic imaging/radiology resident. She received her DVM from Ross University and bachelor’s degree in business management from Arizona State University. She completed a rotating internship at Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson in Tucson, Arizona.
  • Sarah Khatibzadeh has joined the college as a large animal surgery resident. She received her DVM and bachelor’s degree in animal science from Cornell University. She completed an internship at New England Equine Practice in Patterson, New York and an equine medicine and surgery internship at Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia.
  • Nadia Saklou has joined the college as a large animal medicine resident. She received her DVM and bachelor’s degree in equine and animal sciences from Colorado State University. She completed an internship at Steinbeck County Equine Clinic in Salinas, California.
  • Richard Shinn has joined the college as a neurology resident. He received his DVM and bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from Texas A&M University. He completed a rotating internship at Nashville Veterinary Specialists in Nashville, Tennessee, a neurology specialty internship at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston, Texas, and a neurology specialty internship at University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center in Columbia, Missouri.
  • Lauren Trager has joined the college as a sports medicine and equine field service resident. She received her DVM from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland. She completed an internship at Virginia Equine Imaging in Middleburg, Virginia and an equine field service internship at the veterinary college.
  • Ashley Wilkinson has joined the college as a small animal internal medicine resident. She received her DVM from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Virginia Tech. She completed a small animal medicine and surgery internship at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Greensboro, North Carolina and served as an emergency veterinarian at Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Richmond, Virginia.

Around the College

Week-long orientation prepares DVM students for next four years

First-year DVM students completed orientation activities designed to produce well-rounded and professional veterinary students. In addition to lectures, tours, and presentations at the college, students visited the Alta Mons campground in Shawsville, Virginia, for a day of team-building exercises designed to boost their leadership, self-confidence, and communication skills. View Facebook photo galleries from the Class of 2020’s first day of orientation, visit to Camp Alta Mons, and white coat ceremony.

Students, faculty participate in VVMA-sponsored tubing and cookout

More than 300 faculty, staff, students, referring veterinarians, guests, alumni, and officers in the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association participated in a cookout and tubing event along the New River on a beautiful and sunny day on Saturday, Aug. 20. Sponsored by the VVMA and Elanco, the event gave veterinary practitioners and faculty members an opportunity to connect with students celebrating the end of summer and the start of a new academic year. View a Facebook photo gallery from the tubing and cookout.

College welcomes Master of Public Health students

The MPH program also began a new academic year with an orientation for 24 incoming students on Friday, Aug. 19. Orientation activities included an opening reception, a welcome from Dean Cyril Clarke and MPH program leaders, and small group sessions to learn about the program curriculum, graduate student life, and resources. Students have the option to pursue a concentration in infectious diseases or public health education. View a Facebook gallery from the new graduate student orientations.

Orientation kicks off the year for new graduate students

The college welcomed new master’s and Ph.D. students in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences graduate program this month. An Aug. 20 orientation program included information sessions, a hospital tour, and a luncheon with faculty, staff, and graduate students. View a Facebook gallery from the new graduate student orientations.

College hosts second annual Small Animal Summer Conference for Veterinarians

The veterinary college’s Second Annual Small Animal Summer Conference for Veterinarians held on Friday, Aug. 19 reached 130 alumni and other veterinary practitioners in the region who came to the college’s Blacksburg campus and 50 others through remote viewing at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia and the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center in College Park, Maryland. The conference offered continuing education and a chance for small animal veterinarians to catch up with one another. View a Facebook photo gallery from the conference.

Alumni connect with college at AVMA Convention in San Antonio

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine had a strong showing at the American Veterinary Medical Association Convention in San Antonio, Texas in early August. The college sponsored a booth at the convention that provided information about the college for alumni and friends. In addition, Cyril Clarke, dean of the veterinary college, spoke at a college alumni reception on Aug. 8. Members of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association’s San Antonio chapter also had an opportunity to reconnect with their alma mater at a meet-up. Pictured (left to right): Lauren Maxey (DVM ’13), Dean Cyril Clarke, and Regina Liskey (DVM ’13) at the college’s AVMA booth.

Class of 2011 returns to alma mater for five-year reunion

The college’s DVM Class of 2011 returned to Blacksburg for a five-year reunion. Faculty members Phil Sponenberg, Jennifer Hodgson, and Dave Hodgson stopped by for a visit, and breakfast was served following a welcome from Dean Cyril Clarke at the Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition. Carling Sitterley, assistant director of admissions and student programs, provided a tour of the college. The group then boarded a van for Chateau Morrisette winery in Floyd, Virginia, to enjoy a beach festival.

Virginia Tech Police K-9 makes a stop at Small Animal Community Practice

Virginia Tech Police K-9 Nero, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois explosive detection dog, recently visited the college’s Small Animal Community Practice with his handler, Virginia Tech Police Officer Austin Sumners. Nero underwent a minimally invasive laparoscopic gastropexy procedure, which is performed to prevent bloat in giant-breed, deep-chested, and very active dogs. Fourth-year vet student Alyssa Tuccillo of Freehold, New Jersey, enjoyed her first experience working with a K-9 officer and described Nero as a good patient and an energetic boy. Learn more about Nero, Officer Sumners, and how the Virginia Tech Police K-9 teams help to maintain a safe and secure campus.

VVMA’s Power of 10 Leadership Program visits the college

During the Small Animal Summer Conference for Veterinarians on Aug. 19, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) hosted its Power of 10 program, which is designed to cultivate leadership capacity in recent graduates. Attendees of the program included (pictured left to right) Brian Neumann (DVM ’14), Patricia Haskins, Kimberly McGrath (DVM ’12), Lauren Maxey (DVM ’13), Catherine Malehorn, Carling Sitterley (DVM ’14, MPH ’15), Melissa Derbin, Talya George (associate director of VVMA), Heather Brookshire, Matt Galati, and Angela Kargus.

Awards & Activities

Courtney Snead and Dean Cyril Clarke

Courtney Snead named August Staff Member of the Month

Courtney Snead, who joined the veterinary college as a lab and research specialist in 2013, continuously goes above and beyond in performing her job duties. Her nominator described how Snead has also “demonstrated remarkable professionalism and care for the success of students in their studies…”

For example, when veterinary students expressed concern over obtaining additional laboratory time to review course material for their final exam, Snead “took the initiative and on her own time, came in on Mother’s Day in order to set up and oversee a review session for the students in toxicology.” Snead’s exemplary dedication does not go unnoticed, and most importantly, her hard work enhances the experiences of all those she encounters.

Read more about the Staff Members of the Month.

More Awards & Activities

Irving “Coy” Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received an external travel award from the American Association of Immunologists to attend the 2016 International Congress of Immunology in Melbourne, Australia on Aug. 21-26. He was also named chair of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Concurrent Oral Session at the Mucosal Immunology Course & Symposium (MICS 2016) international conference in Toronto, Canada on July 27-30.

Allen, IC. “Irak-M Splice Variant Attenuates Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Colitis Associated Tumorigenesis.” Oral presentation. Mucosal Immunology Course & Symposium (MICS 2016). Toronto, Canada. July 27-30, 2016.

Allen, IC. “Caspase-11 Modulates Inflammation and Attenuates Toxoplasma gondii Pathogenesis.” Oral presentation. International Congress of Immunology 2016. Melbourne, Australia. Aug. 21-26, 2016.

McDaniel DK, Eden K, Ringel VM, Allen IC. “Emerging Roles for Noncanonical NF-κB Signaling in the Modulation of Inflammatory Bowel Disease Pathobiology.” Inflammatory Bowel Disease. September 2016; 22(9):2265-79.

Wang H, Gao K, Wen K, Allen IC, Li G, Zhang W, Kocher J, Yang X, Giri-Rachman E, Li GH, Clark-Deener S, Yuan L. “Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG modulates innate signaling pathway and cytokine responses to rotavirus vaccine in intestinal mononuclear cells of gnotobiotic pigs transplanted with human gut microbiota.” BMC Microbiology. 2016 Jun 14;16(1):109. doi: 10.1186/s12866-016-0727-2. PMID: 27301272.

Thomas Brickler, Sheryl Coutermarsh-Ott, Armand L. Meza, Angela M. Ives, Andrea Bertke, Denis Gris, Theus, MH and Allen, IC. “NLRX1 attenuates damage following traumatic brain injury through negatively regulating NF-κB signaling.” Poster presentation. International Congress of Immunology 2016. Melbourne, Australia. Aug. 21-26, 2016.

Sherrie Clark, associate professor of theriogenology in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, and Terry Swecker, director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and professor of production management medicine, provided continuing education at the American Association of Bovine Practitioners’ embryo transfer seminar in Blacksburg. This is the second year in a row that Virginia Tech has hosted the three-day seminar with speakers from both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the veterinary college.

Coutermarsh-Ott SL, Doran JT, Campbell C, Williams TM, Lindsay DS, Allen IC. “Caspase-11 Modulates Inflammation and Attenuates Toxoplasma gondii Pathogenesis.” Mediators of Inflammation. 2016;2016:9848263. doi: 10.1155/2016/9848263. Epub 2016 June 9. PMID: 27378827.

Marion Ehrich, professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, is serving on a National Institutes of Health Study Section for the Superfund program projects grants being reviewed between August and October 2016. She was also part of the development team for the Toxicology Education Fund’s YouTube video, Toxicology Today. Ehrich is also a historian and eminent toxicologist with a lecture for the Society of Toxicology posted on its website.

Bill Huckle, associate professor of cell biology and pharmacology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has published an interview with P. Kay Lund, director of the National Institutes of Health’s Biomedical Workforce Initiative, which is comprehensively assessing training experiences and career fates of doctoral students and post-docs in the life sciences. In the interview, conducted on behalf of the North American Vascular Biology Organization, Lund describes strategies that trainees can employ to make informed choices about their career paths, as well as ways in which mentors can participate in the efforts of the Workforce Initiative.

Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, and Gerhardt Schurig, professor and former dean, traveled to Bozeman, Montana to meet with the veterinarians and managers for Turner Enterprises. The purpose of the visit was to assess in the field Turner’s bison operations and brucellosis vaccination protocols and discuss potentially partnering on a project to assess the possibility of maximizing vaccination protocols in bison.

Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, also conducted a one day mini-workshop on career transitioning and public practice opportunities at the American Veterinary Medical Association convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Nathaniel Tablante, professor and Extension poultry veterinarian at the University of Maryland at College Park, and Bill Pierson, professor of biosecurity and infection control in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, co-hosted a symposium on “Emerging and Re-emerging Zoonotic Diseases” on Aug. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP) which is traditionally held in conjunction with the AVMA annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Tablante and Pierson also served as moderators and speakers at the same symposium. Tablante gave a presentation on “Communicating Science-Based Information to Non-Scientists,” while Pierson spoke on “The interface between public health and commercial poultry production: a view of things to come.” Tablante also gave a talk on “Preventing Outbreaks of Avian Influenza Through Timely Dissemination of Practical Science-Based Information” at an AAAP scientific session on Aug. 8. 

Upcoming Events

September 16–17, 2016VA-MD Vet Med Homecoming & Reunion for the Class of 1996
VA-MD Vet Med, Blacksburg, VA
October 6, 2016 at 4 p.m. — “The Dolly Experiment: The First 20 Years” featuring Sir Ian Wilmut
The Lyric Theatre, Blacksburg, VA
October 13–14, 2016 — Mentor Weekend
VA-MD Vet Med, Blacksburg, VA
October 28–29, 2016Reunion for the Classes of 1986, 1991, & 2001
Mountain Lake Lodge, Pembroke, VA
November 4–6, 2016Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference
Washington, D.C.

Credits

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: Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Jeremy McGovern (American Farriers Journal), Sharon Peart, Michael Sutphin
  • Photography: Lynn Blevins, Cyndi Booth, Alison Elward, Kelsey Foster, Gloria Kang, Nikolai Kolupaev, Jeremy McGovern (American Farriers Journal), Sharon Peart, Meagan Quesenberry, Michael Sutphin, Helen Zhang
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