December 2009


A look back at 2009

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It’s hard to believe another year is coming to a close! This year has been full of activity and success for the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. While there is no way I could possibly share all the many achievements and events of the past year, there are a few I wish to share as I look back on 2009 and look ahead to 2010.

The year began with Dr. Bonnie Smith, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, receiving the national Carl J. Norden-Pfizer Distinguished Teaching Award, honoring her as the best among the thousands of veterinary professors in the country. I am proud of her recognition, and I am proud of what this award says for the overall quality of instruction here in the college.

The addition of Dr. Valerie Ragan as the director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine on our University of Maryland-College Park campus has brought further awareness to the center. I look forward to working with her and Drs. Siba Samal and Bettye Walters to continue to strengthen this important resource for our college and for all of veterinary medicine.

This year brought a new opportunity for the veterinary college through a Memorandum of Agreement with the American University of Antigua. This partnership will open up the possibility for us to accept transfer students into our fourth semester. This will increase the diversity of our class, fill seats left open by attrition, and help maintain revenue for our college.

In October, we marked the 25th anniversary of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. I was pleased to join President Charles Steger, EMC Council Chairperson Shelley Duke, and others to celebrate this quarter century achievement in superior equine health care. Just a few days after the EMC celebration, the veterinary college celebrated another achievement: dedicating the Virginia Law Enforcement K-9 Memorial. We are honored to be home to this lasting tribute to the sacrifices these animals have made to protect all citizens of the commonwealth.

We have also continued to make progress on the construction of our new Instructional Building and Infectious Disease Research Building. We plan to break ground on both of these buildings in the coming year.

The New Year will bring many opportunities and a few changes to our college. One such change will temporarily affect our communication program. As many of you may remember, Jeffrey Douglas left the college in August after 25 years as the director of the Office of Public Relations Coordinator. At the end of the year, Christy Jackson, who became interim director of the office, will also be leaving the college to accept a new job at her alma mater, Radford University. While we search for a replacement, there may be a disruption in the regular production of Vital Signs. In addition, with budgetary and staffing considerations in mind, a new edition of VM Magazine will not be published until the spring of 2010.

For updated news and activities during this time, please visit our website www.vetmed.vt.edu.

Thank you in advance for your patience during this period of transition and for your continued support of our college.

With best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year,

Gerhardt G. Schurig, DVM, Ph.D.
Dean
 


In This Issue

 

 

Featured Stories


National Institutes of Health grant to study nanoscale optical fibers to detect bioterrorist agents awarded to veterinary college

Dr. Thomas Inzana

Dr. Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop nanoscale optical fiber biosensor tests for detection of category A and B select agents.

In an age when bacterial agents may be intentionally released as method of terrorist attack, there is an increased need for quick diagnostic methods that require limited resources and personnel. Dr. Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop such a diagnostic test. He and his co-investigators, Drs. James Heflin, a professor in the Department of Physics in the university’s College of Science, and Abey Bandara, a research assistant professor in the veterinary college, are working to develop nanoscale optical fiber biosensor tests, or assays, for detection of Francisella tularensis, Burkholderia mallei, and B. pseudomallei.

Currently, testing involves either the use of cultures in Biosecurity Level-3(BSL-3) laboratories or, since most facilities do not have BSL-3 capabilities, serology or antibody-based testing. Both require extensive materials and training, and the results can take days or weeks.

“This assay will be rugged, portable, inexpensive, and rapid,” said Inzana, who is also the associate vice president for research programs at the university. “All of these are critical to minimizing the affect on an intentionally introduced biological weapon.”

The increased speed of detection allowed by this new, optical fiber assay will also increase the speed of treatment for those affected, according to Inzana.

The optical fiber is coated with antibodies or DNA that will bind to antigens or DNA in the specimen. When this happens, the light that normally passes through the fiber will be decreased, indicating the presence of a biological agent.

According to Inzana, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Antigens are more abundant and closer to the surface of the agent, but aren’t always very specific. DNA, however, is very specific, but is less plentiful and resides deep within the cell.

Inzana and his co-investigators are currently developing assays using both, with the plan to increase their sensitivity and specificity to make them viable options for detection of a variety of biological agents. They have had previous experiences using a similar assay to detect the presence of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

“This is very much an interdisciplinary project,” said Inzana, “with each of us reliant upon the other.”

Inzana earned his bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Georgia, his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and was a post doctoral fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine. He was an assistant professor at Washington State University before joining the faculty of Virginia Tech. During his career, Inzana has also served as a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and SUNY at Buffalo School of Medicine. His research interests are the development of improved vaccines and diagnostic tests for bacterial pathogens and biowarfare agents, investigation of the molecular basis of capsules and lipopolysaccharides in bacterial virulence, and the host immune response to bacterial pathogens. Inzana and colleagues developed a live attenuated vaccine for swine pleuropneumonia, which is commercially available from Boehringer-Ingelheim Vetmedica as APP-ALC, to control disease due to Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae.

His current research focuses on understanding the role of bacterial virulence factors in pathogenesis and host response, and the development of subunit and live vaccines to prevent tularemia and glanders due to the select agents Francisella tularensis and Burkholderia mallei, respectively. His research group is investigating the in vivo development and function of Histophilus somni biofilm formation in the bovine host during pneumonia, myocarditis, and other systemic infections to develop new treatments to prevent biofilm formation, and as a model to study human biofilm infections.

Inzana is board certified by the American Board of Medical Microbiology and Public Health and is a Fellow of the American Academy for Microbiology. He is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases, and the International Endotoxin and Innate Immunity Society.

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Schurig reappointed to deanship

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig has recently been reappointed dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig has recently been reappointed dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. The announcement comes after an extensive review process of his deanship since his original appointment in 2004.

“[I] commended [Schurig] for his outstanding leadership of a very complex organization, specifically with regard to reaccreditation, new partnerships, and capital projects during some very difficult financial times,” wrote Virginia Tech Provost Mark McNamee in a letter announcing Schurig’s reappointment. “I look forward to seeing his vision for the next five years take shape, including further enhancing the visibility of the college’s clinical operations.”

The detailed review involved an anonymous survey sent to administrators, faculty, staff, students, and external stakeholders; optional, confidential interviews with the dean’s direct reports; and additional confidential conversations with any others who desired to speak to the review committee.

The next review will take place in 2014.

Schurig joined the college's faculty in 1978 as assistant professor of veterinary science and moved through the ranks to become professor and head of the Department of Veterinary Biosciences in 1984. In 1987, he was named director of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases, a position he held until 1994. In 1996, he assumed duties as director of the college's International Program and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Veterinary Education in Management and Public Health. In 2001, he was named the college's associate dean for research and graduate studies. In July 2003, he became interim director of the university's new Institute for Biomedical and Public Health Sciences.

He is considered one of the world’s leading brucellosis researchers and he led a research effort that culminated in the development of the RB-51 brucellosis vaccine, which is now widely used around the world to control this zoonotic infectious disease.

Schurig, who holds three patents, has presented keynote talks and seminars throughout the world and has published more than 90 papers in peer-reviewed journals. He is a member of numerous professional societies, among them the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of Veterinary Immunologists, and the American Society for Microbiology, and has served on many national and international committees. He also has received a number of major teaching and research awards, including the 1986 Beecham Award for Research Excellence.

A native of Chile, Schurig studied chemical engineering for one year at the University of Concepcion before transferring to the University of Chile to major in veterinary medicine and earn his DVM degree. He conducted graduate work at Cornell University, where he earned master's and Ph.D. degrees in immunology and pathogenic bacteriology. He spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Veterinary Science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison before joining the faculty at Virginia Tech.

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The power of giving: Knipling and Taylor help the college and the profession

Drs. Knipling and Taylor

Drs. Gary Knipling (left) and Locke “Joe” Taylor (right) have both made generous pledges toward the veterinary college’s translational medicine building, though both attended the University of Georgia’s college of veterinary medicine.

Given the opportunity Drs. Gary Knipling and Locke “Joe” Taylor probably would have attended the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

They both grew up in the commonwealth and earned their bachelor’s in animal science at Virginia Tech with an eye toward becoming veterinarians.

But that was in the mid-1960s, more than a decade before VMRCVM was founded. So Taylor and Knipling earned their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees at the University of Georgia, both in the class of 1969, under a program that allowed some Virginians to pay in-state tuition.

Though they had to leave their home state to complete their educations, both returned to Virginia to set up successful veterinary practices.

And while they technically are not alumni, they have donated generously to VMRCVM and are encouraging others to do the same as volunteers within the Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future.

One of VMRCVM’s major goals in that campaign is to fund a new translational medicine building. Taylor and Knipling have both made generous pledges toward that project.

“I loved my four years at Virginia Tech and I still consider Tech my favorite alma mater, although I’m proud to have graduated from the University of Georgia,” says Knipling, who lives in Fairfax County and is associated with two animal hospitals in Woodbridge and one in Alexandria.

“I think all veterinarians in the state of Virginia are so fortunate to have the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine nearby,” he adds. “There’s a great connection, even for veterinarians who graduated from schools other than Tech.”

Taylor lives in Glen Allen and employs two VMRCVM graduates at his Richmond practice. He remembers wishing to be a veterinarian even as a very young child. He says he feels extremely lucky to have realized his dream and gives a lot of credit for that to his wife, Becky, whose support allowed him to finish school and start a practice while raising three young children.

Taylor credits O.W. McClung, a veterinarian who gave him a job at age 13, with being a mentor. McClung used to say that doctors have a responsibility to help their profession as well as their patients, Taylor recalls.

Judging from their support of veterinary education at VMRCVM, both Taylor and Knipling are living up to that responsibility admirably.

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Roundtable discussion aids the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine assessment process

CPCVM roundtable

The Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine recently hosted a roundtable discussion on different perspectives regarding the skills and abilities needed for veterinarians in public and corporate practice in the future.

“Emotional intelligence”, “professional agility”, “life-long learning”, “critical scientific thinking”, and “problem-solving approach”—These were some of the common themes identified across government agency and corporate veterinary medicine partners in a discussion about skills valued in today’s veterinarians in public practice. Veterinarians from a broad range of public service and the corporate sector were recently invited to the veterinary college’s Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine (CPCVM) to discuss their perspectives regarding the skills and abilities needed for veterinarians in public and corporate practice in the future.

Participating veterinarians represented the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, the Department of Homeland Security and the Food and Drug Administration. Numerous agencies within USDA were also represented, including the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Veterinary Services, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Also participating was a veterinarian who is currently the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, the Virginia Public Health Veterinarian, veterinarians from Hills and Covance representing industry, and a veterinarian currently in graduate school, who is transitioning from private practice. Drs. Kevin Pelzer, associate professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), and Francois Elvinger, professor, DLACS, from the college’s Blacksburg campus, joined by video conference, and two former public and corporate track students also participated.

The roundtable discussion was one of several initiatives underway to assess the current function and role of the center, as well as the future needs and demands of public and corporate veterinary medicine. In addition to the roundtable, an advisory committee has been assembled to assist the center in future plans and decisions. The center is also assessing the current status of former students through an online survey.

In addition to undergoing an assessment process, the CPCVM is developing partnerships for future activities, as well as increasing the awareness of the center and its value.

“We are energized by the tremendous support and participation we have received in our efforts thus far. The potential for the CPCVM is tremendous, and we have ambitious plans,” says Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the center. We are moving forward in a step-wise, deliberate fashion as resources and time allow, and look forward to updating folks as we start putting our plans in place.”

Ragan invites those with ideas, comments, or feedback to contact her at vragan@umd.edu.

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News in Brief


In memoriam: George W. “Bill” Humphrey ‘10

George W. “Bill” Humphrey

George W. “Bill” Humphrey, of Varina, Va., died Saturday, December 26, 2009 at the age of 24.

George W. “Bill” Humphrey, of Varina, Va., died Saturday, December 26, 2009 at the age of 24. He was a member of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2010, and he graduated magna cum laude in 2006 from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree.

He is survived by his parents, Regina and James "Burke" Humphrey of Varina; two sisters, Christina and Phyllis Humphrey; two brothers, Jim Humphrey and his wife, Angel, and Nelson Humphrey; his grandparents, Phyllis and Reginald Nelson and June and Willard Gilley; two nephews, Andrew and Matthew Humphrey; three aunts, Phyllis Schmick and her husband, Jonathan, Sara Nelson, and Kathryn Carroll; one uncle, Reginald "Bill" Nelson and his wife, Lynnette; and six cousins.

Funeral services were held on Tuesday, December 29, 2009.

The family suggests memorial gifts be made to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (C/O Development Office, Virginia Tech, Duck Pond Drive, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061) or the Richmond SPCA (C/O Robins-Starr Humane Center, 2519 Hermitage Road, Richmond, VA 23220).

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Ireen Dryburgh-Barry

Ireen Dryburgh-Barry passed away Saturday, December 26, 2009.

In memoriam: Ireen Dryburgh-Barry

Ireen Dryburgh-Barry, a longtime employee on the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's University of Maryland-College Park campus, passed away Saturday, December 26, 2009.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Updated information will be added to this edition of Vital Signs as it becomes available.

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Dr. Nathaniel White inducted 2010 AAEP president

Dr. Nathaniel White II

Dr. Nathaniel White II, the Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, was recently inducted as the president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Dr. Nathaniel White II, the Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, was recently inducted as the president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). He will serve in this capacity until early December 2010.

In addition to being a well-known researcher and surgeon, White is a world-renowned expert in colic. He has authored several books on the topic, including two editions of Equine Acute Abdomen, as well as the Handbook of Equine Colic. He has been a director for the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) Veterinary Symposium since 1997, and is a past president of the ACVS and of the ACVS Research and Education Foundation. White’s research interests include pathophysiology of ischemia-reperfusion, epidemiology of colic, abdominal and orthopedic surgery, and treatment of orthopedic diseases.

In 2006, White organized an Equine Research Summit as part of the AAEP’s effort to promote equine research. He was awarded the 2004 AAEP Distinguished Service Award for his numerous contributions to the organization. He is a member of the AAEP, the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The AAEP, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. The nearly 10,000 members of the organization reach more than 5 million horse owners. AAEP members benefit from the organization’s continuing education, research, equine welfare efforts, and industry relations.

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Claire Simeone ’11 wins International Experiences Speech Competition

Claire Simeone

Claire Simeone ‘11 recently won the International Experiences Speech Competition sponsored by the Virginia Tech chapter of Phi Beta Delta.

Claire Simeone ‘11, a public and corporate track student, recently won the International Experiences Speech Competition sponsored by the Virginia Tech chapter of Phi Beta Delta. Simeone’s presentation focused on her experiences this summer at the Universidad Austral de Chile.

Read more about Simeone's accomplishment.

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From the inside out: Diagnostic imaging guides treatment and research

diagnostic imaging

Dr. Kent Scarratt (right), an associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, and a team of clinicians and students position a goat in the CT scanner.

A radiologist and fourth-year veterinary medicine students gather around a computer monitor, staring at a Computer Tomography (CT) 3-D image of a heart. The doctor studies the image, pointing out the anomalies to the students. Down the hall, a surgeon awaits the image’s interpretation. What the radiologist finds will guide his surgical procedure. During it all, the patient lies on the table under sedation.

Learn more by visiting the current Virginia Tech Spotlight on Innovation.

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Equine Field Services hosts holiday open house

EFS holiday open house

The Equine Field Services group recently hosted over 150 clients for a holiday open house.

The Equine Field Services group recently hosted over 150 clients for a holiday open house. The event was held to thank individuals for their business and to provide more information on the services EFS offers, both on-the-farm and in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Attendees enjoyed refreshments, won door prizes, and heard from veterinarians in EFS and others in the college.

See photos from the event.

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College continues adopt-a-family tradition

adopt-a-family gifts

Keeping with a well-established tradition, employees of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine are once again helping to make the holidays a little brighter for a local family.

Keeping with a well-established tradition, employees of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine are once again helping to make the holidays a little brighter for a local family.

As is also traditional, the program organizers looked to New River Community Action to help identify who would benefit from the program. The chosen family had two parents, whose jobs had been eliminated in the recession, and three children, ranging in age from seven months to thirteen years.

In addition to raising over $700, volunteers also shopped for and wrapped presents for delivery.

“This program has become an important tradition for our college community,” said Terry Lawrence, the college’s medical illustrator, who has helped coordinate the program since its inception. “From providing donations to doing the work, there are a lot of people who participate in this and I think it’s a special thing for us to do.”

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There’s still time in 2009

The Campaign for Virginia Tech

There is still time to remember the college with a gift of cash or appreciated securities in 2009.

The need for private support of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary is great throughout the year. However, there is still time to remember the college with a gift of cash or appreciated securities in 2009. These gifts can provide significant tax benefits as long as the specific deadlines are met. The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future has created a special webpage to provide all the information you may need to complete a successful year end gift.

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Follow the VMRCVM on Facebook

find us on facebookHave a Facebook account? Become a fan of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine! Stay up-to-date on the news of the college, see pictures from events, and connect with classmates. Join us today!

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Important notice to all alumni using vt.edu e-mail accounts

The Virginia Tech Alumni Association is pleased to announce the university’s expanding features for all Virginia Tech alumni free e-mail accounts (e.g. PID@vt.edu).

These exciting new features are scheduled for conversion from the local Virginia Tech e-mail system to Google e-mail service soon. The expanded features from Google include larger storage space, virus scanning and spam filtering capabilities, IM/Chat service (Google Talk), personalized webpages, and more.

There will be no change in e-mail addresses as they currently appear; however, each account holder must register and move their information to the new service. Instructions will be provided by e-mail on how to move your e-mail messages, files, and contacts from your current PID@vt.edu mailbox to the PID@vt.edu mailbox in the new Google system.

This change will not affect any active Virginia Tech affiliates such as faculty and staff (including retirees) or enrolled students, who happen to be alumni of Virginia Tech.

Once the conversion is ready to take place, users will be notified with the timeline and instructions on how to begin the necessary transition.

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