Dear friends and colleagues,
I wish you a safe, happy, and restful season and thank you for your hard work this past year. I realize that the extra effort has not always been easy, but thanks to you, 2011 has been an extremely successful year for VMRCVM. Your efforts have created a groundswell of goodwill for the college that is having many direct benefits for our programs and aspirations. Let me name some examples and some of the results:
The college has experienced many positive outcomes from these efforts. The $10.5 million, 16,000-square foot Infectious Disease Research Facility opened this November and includes laboratory and support space to accelerate translational medicine research. Construction crews have also made significant progress on the $14.1 million, 30,000-square-foot Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition, which broke ground this summer. This new building will provide instructional space for a state-of-the art clinical techniques laboratory for third-year veterinary students and will also provide new faculty offices, student seminar space, and small conference areas. It will be the first CVM building with "Hokie Stone." In addition, efforts to develop our new Translational Medicine Building in cooperation with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Science have moved forward with the launch of a feasibility study.
We received more admissions applications this year than in the previous year. Although most colleges are experiencing no gains or even declines in the number of applications, our numbers continue to rise. Starting next fall, up to six seats per class will now be available for West Virginia residents under a new agreement.
The college continues to grow and expand in other ways, too. We received more than $6 million in external funding in 2010, and the Veterinary Teaching Hospital experienced a 10 percent increase in case load in FY 2011. The Campaign for Virginia Tech ended on a high note, with the college exceeding its goal by raising more than $34 million since July 2003 and practitioners more readily sharing client prospects with us. As part of the campaign, the EMC also raised more than $24 million in donations and bequests. In response to requests from referring veterinarians, two oncology positions are now being advertised for service to begin in 2012-13. In general, we have started an aggressive faculty hiring plan.
Our faculty members have remained engaged in the profession. The successful Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference on Nov. 11-13, 2011 in Washington, D.C., was the first joint meeting for the college and the Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and District of Columbia veterinary medical associations. Future annual meetings will be held in Northern Virginia in 2012, at the Greenbrier in West Virginia in 2013, and in Baltimore in 2014. What's more, faculty members in the Center for Corporate and Public Veterinary Medicine have been asked to chair the American Association of Veterinary Medicine Colleges Internal Affairs Committee, to organize the first-ever veterinary participation in the World Veterinary Disaster Conference, and to present at the NATO Weapons of Mass Destruction Forensics Conference. Dr. Rene Carlson, president of the American Association of Veterinary Medicine, applauded the center's leadership in training students and graduate veterinarians.
Finally, our college continues to receive increased visibility through positive media placements in local, regional, and national print and broadcast outlets. This publicity is part of our overall marketing outreach and has helped bring VMRCVM to the attention of prospective students, faculty, and donors.
I wish you a happy, safe, and restful holiday season.
Gerhardt G. Schurig, DVM, Ph.D.
Translational medicine turns innovations in the life sciences into clinical solutions
VMRCVM expands education opportunities for veterinarians
Mentor workshop brings together current and future veterinarians
Virginia Tech open house visitors learn about regenerative medicine, tour VMRCVM
College Park campus expands partnership with USAHA and AAVLD
Development news: Campaign for Virginia Tech finale
Welcome to the College
Dr. Katie Boes joins college as instructor of clinical pathology
Dr. Earl Gaughan joins college as clinical professor of large animal surgery
Dr. Dana Neelis joins college as small animal radiologist
Awards & Honors
VMRCVM faculty take leadership roles in American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
CPCVM receives grant to expand work in the Caucasus
Awards & Accolades Roundup
Holiday spirit at VMRCVM
Holiday photo gallery
Faculty members in several Virginia Tech colleges, including VMRCVM, have been tearing down academic boundaries and speeding up the rate that basic molecular research turns into practical biomedical advances, all in the name of "translational medicine."
Dr. John Rossmeisl, associate professor of small animal clinical sciences at VMRCVM, is one of these faculty members. He has partnered with Wake Forest University to develop improved therapeutic approaches for managing gliomas. These serious forms of brain tumors gained notoriety following the death of Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy in 2009 and are the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men under 40 and for women under 20.
"We are developing technology that destroys these types of brain tumors and opens up the blood-brain barrier so that we can get life-saving drugs to the brain in both dogs and humans," said Rossmeisl, who explained that both species demonstrate similar clinical signs and pathobiology but that the tumors occur three times more often in dogs than in people.
Like other translational medicine projects, this research focuses on turning the biological discoveries of scientists and clinical researchers into clinical solutions for patients, whether humans or animals. Faculty members in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Science are also working in the field of translational medicine.
Virginia Tech is developing plans for a Translational Medicine Building, which will include an expansion of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital as well as research laboratories and training spaces for interdisciplinary research among these three colleges. The feasibility study should be complete in May of 2012.
Rossmeisl and his colleagues have identified two novel receptors that are present only in cancer cells and not normal brain cells. "These receptors offer unique targets for delivery in molecular toxins to the brain cancer cells to kill them without harming the normal brain," he added.
He is working with Dr. Rafael Davalos, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering, on electroporation – or the use of electrical fields to increase the permeability of cell membranes to deliver medication past the blood-brain barrier.
Rossmeisl is also investigating improved approaches for delivering radiation therapy for other forms of brain cancer in dogs. Although the veterinary standard calls for fractional radiotherapy delivered with a linear accelerator, Rossmeisl hopes to perfect the use of stereotactic radiosurgery, also known as the "gamma knife." The gamma knife technology delivers a beam of cancer-killing radiation with pinpoint accuracy and only takes one session over a few hours, as opposed to multiple sessions over several weeks.
Dr. David Gerrard, professor and head of the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and his colleagues Jeffery Escobar, assistant professor of animal and poultry sciences, and Jason Scheffler, research assistant professor, are leading a translational project that has found a possible animal model to study childhood obesity.
"In a 16-week study, we fed pigs for the first six to eight weeks on a high-fat and high-sugar diet and then tested their ability to clear glucose from their blood," Gerrard said. "We found that pigs on this high-energy diet had difficulty processing the glucose. In other words, when students gave these pigs an insulin challenge, they presented signs hallmark of diabetes at a very early age, synonymous with childhood age in humans."
According to Gerrard, the project provides a model to study childhood obesity. This topic has received significant attention in recent years because of increasing prevalence of and obesity in children across the globe. "Unfortunately, traditional rodent-based models fall short as a useful model for studying this malady. Pigs, on the other hand, easily translate into this and other human health applications," he said.
Dr. Carla Finkielstein, associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, has focused her research on how changes in circadian rhythms and the cell cycle may contribute to the development of breast cancer in women. This translational research aims to help medical professionals treat tumors more effectively by searching for clues about the best time to administer medication.
"A fundamental feature of all living organisms is the presence of two, 24-hour oscillating cyclic systems," Finkielstein said. "My laboratory investigates some of the basic mechanisms that regulate cell cycle transitions, the contribution of environmental cues to ensure timely progression throughout it, and how both cycles are interlocked at the molecular level."
The research addresses how these cyclical systems affect metabolism and act in cell-fate decisions. Finkielstein has not only taken her discoveries to the public through cancer-related education programs and service on the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation board of directors but also brought cancer survivors and advocates to her laboratory so that her research team understands the human element of their work.
Dr. Kelly Gottschalk, president of the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine and active member of Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, is a dedicated and enthusiastic veterinary professional who values the importance of veterinary education.
In 2001, Gottschalk and her husband, Dr. Mark Gottschalk, founded the Wellesley Animal Hospital in Richmond, Va. The hospital's mission is to provide top-quality medical and clinical care to small animals while also delivering exceptional customer service to the animals' owners.
To fulfill their mission, the Gottschalks strive to employ highly educated veterinarians. They believe that education should be a lifelong endeavor for veterinarians to ensure quality performance and treatment of animals.
Thanks to expanded continuing education opportunities coordinated by VMRCVM, the Gottschalks can better uphold their goal to employ well-trained veterinarians.
The veterinary college provides contact hours of continuing education to local and regional veterinary practitioners through their partnership with veterinary medical associations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
The program offers educational seminars for veterinarians, giving them the opportunity to become acquainted with the latest diagnostic and therapeutic techniques available in veterinary medicine. The veterinary college provides faculty members as the honorary speakers of these programs around the region, free of cost, for both small and large animal veterinarians.
"Practitioners always enjoy reconnecting with the college," said Dr. Kelly Gottschalk after an event with the Central Virginia Veterinary Medical Association in Richmond. "It doesn't matter where you went to veterinary school; a lasting community is created just by the experiences we all shared."
Contact hours of continuing education are critical to practicing veterinarians in order to stay current with veterinary techniques and information. The college's faculty members are committed to delivering the most personal and thorough education experiences possible.
"This is a win-win situation," said Dr. Bill Pierson, director of the college's Veterinary Teaching Hospital. "In a time when it is difficult for practice owners and their associates to attend many larger meetings, the college has the opportunity to meet the need for CE and rebrand itself as a service-oriented organization."
Outreach for the program has primarily taken place within the college's immediate referral base. In the past few months, however, the program began expanding regionally. These programs enhance relevance of the college and strengthen relationships with practitioners across the region.
In order for veterinarians to maintain their licensure in Virginia, they are required to have at least 15 contact hours of continuing education per year. The veterinary college offers its services for free to assist veterinarians in achieving these requirements. Program topics are adjusted to cater to the interests and subject matter requested by the hosting Veterinary Medical Association to ensure a relevant and beneficial program.
By the end of this year, the college will have delivered more than 20 continuing education programs.
Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the college, continues to explore ways to re-engage the college with practitioners throughout the region and expand these opportunities. The college participated in the Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference in Washington, D.C. in mid-November, which was a huge success with more than 200 attendees. The college provided seven faculty members who spoke at the program, including Pierson.
Learn more about continuing education opportunities.
VMRCVM, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, and the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association sponsored an annual mentor workshop that brought 64 veterinarians and 148 veterinary students to the veterinary college's Blacksburg campus on Oct. 13-14.
"Pairing a student with a practicing veterinarian helps the student explore their expected career path," said Robin Schmitz, executive director of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association. "It may also help a student decide that they may want to explore a different aspect of veterinary medicine."
Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, associate dean for professional programs at the veterinary college, said that the college appreciates the time and efforts mentors contribute to the program. "We know our students benefit greatly from the conversations they have at the mentor workshop as well as their ongoing relationships with their mentor," Hodgson said. "This program adds another valuable facet to our students' journey to becoming a veterinarian."
During the mentor workshop, veterinarians representing a wide variety of private and public practices, industry, and academia meet students paired with them based on area of interest and location.
"Most mentors let their students ask the questions," Schmitz said. "They range from how to balance work and family to how to negotiate a position with a potential employer.
These conversations continue after the workshop for many of the participants, and some of them even schedule visits at the mentor's practice or at veterinary conferences. In total, 143 veterinarians and 347 veterinary students participate in the program. Many, but not all, of the mentors are VMRCVM alumni.
According to Schmitz, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and the Maryland Medical Veterinary Association ask their members to volunteer their time for the program. Others hear about the program from their colleagues and ask to sign up. "Members or not, all veterinarians are welcome to participate," she added.
The mentor program, which was one of the first successful such programs, has been a model for similar programs in other states.
The wonder of regenerative medicine, which opens up the possibility of growing tissues and organs in the laboratory to repair or replace damaged tissues in living patients, generated buzz at the VMRCVM campus at Virginia Tech on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Dr. Will Eyestone, research associate professor of large animal clinical sciences in the veterinary college, gave two presentations about the college's partnership with Wake Forest University that will help facilitate the application of cutting-edge regenerative treatments on both human and animal patients. The lectures were part of the University Open House, which brought thousands to Virginia Tech's campus to learn about the wide range of work at the university and close the Campaign for Virginia Tech.
In January, the college announced both this partnership and the establishment of the Virginia Tech/Wake Forest Center for Veterinary Regenerative Medicine. "Regenerative medicine" refers to the creation of tissues and organs in the laboratory that can be used to repair or replace damaged tissues in living patients and the use of cell therapies to restore the function or organs and tissues.
As a result of a partnership with the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine (CPCVM) on the Maryland campus of the VMRCVM, the United States Animal Health Association (USAHA) and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) organizations provided funding for veterinary students to travel to the annual USAHA/AAVLD meeting in Buffalo, N.Y. in October 2011. Hills Pet Nutrition provided additional funding for travel for VMRCVM students. Last year, four VMRCVM first-year students attended the annual joint USAHA/AAVLD meeting in Minneapolis in November accompanied by Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the CPCVM.
This year, the CPCVM coordinated veterinary student attendance from veterinary schools across the country. Twelve students from six veterinary schools attended the meeting, including seven students from VMRCVM, accompanied by Ragan. USAHA and AAVLD hosted the first veterinary student luncheon at the meeting, attended by the executive board members of both organizations. The students were formally welcomed, were given an overview of both organizations, and shared an informal lunch and discussion with the leadership of both organizations.
More than 1,000 animal health officials attended the meeting, including a large number of international guests. In addition to networking with leading animal health and laboratory officials, the students were able to hear cutting-edge lectures on challenges and research related to current animal diseases and issues of concern to veterinarians in public practice.
The organizations also provided funding to the CPCVM to hire a student part time to provide administrative support to further the partnership which was created to provide mentoring, education, and networking opportunities for veterinarians and veterinary students. The CPCVM has hired Arielle Higgins, a pre-veterinary student at the University of Maryland, to assist in expanding the partnership.
On Nov. 12, Virginia Tech announced that it had exceeded the $1 billion goal of The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, an eight-year fundraising initiative that was supported by nearly 170,000 contributors.
The most ambitious campaign in university history - which began July 1, 2003, and ran through June 30, 2011 - raised $1.11 billion in outright gifts, pledge payments, or commitments of future support. VMRCVM also surpassed its goal of $31.2 million by raising $34,023,007.
The amount raised in the more recent campaign was announced at a closing ceremony attended by approximately 1,000 of the university's most generous supporters. It was the last of dozens of events held on campus, coming hours after Virginia Tech for the first time in memory held a university-wide open house, during which members of the public toured numerous facilities and attended special presentations by faculty, staff, and students.
Thanks to our supporters who continue to help us grow and plan for the future. Support for the college was allocated in the following areas:
|Translational Medicine Complex||$ 1,370,051|
|Future Designation||$ 416,455|
|Emerging Priorities||$ 29,220|
|Campaign Total||$ 34,023,007|
Dr. Katie Boes, of Laurel, Md., has joined VMRCVM as a clinical instructor of clinical pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. Boes comes to the college from Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, where she completed her residency in clinical pathology in July.
Boes began her position at the college on Oct. 10. In her new role, Boes will provide primary clinical service support throughout the year in addition to supervising and teaching both veterinary students and residents in training seminars as well as laboratory sessions.
Dr. Earl Gaughan of Sedalia, Colo., has joined VMRCVM as a clinical professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. Gaughan previously worked as a staff surgeon for the Littleton Equine Medical Center in Littleton, Colo.
Gaughan began his position with the veterinary college on Sept. 22. In his new role, Gaughan provides client service, patient care, and instruction of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students and residents in several areas, including equine surgery and lameness.
Dr. Dana Neelis of St. Ignace, Mich., has joined VMRCVM as an assistant professor of radiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. Neelis comes to the college from Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, where she completed her residency in diagnostic imaging this past summer.
Neelis began her position at the veterinary college on Oct. 3. In her new role, Neelis will provide diagnostic imaging support for both large and small animals in the college's Veterinary Teaching Hospital and teach an advanced imaging course.
Two VMRCVM faculty members have been elected to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine's (ACVIM) Board of Regents.
Dr. Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, began a term as president-elect of the board this year after previously serving as vice president. In June, she will become ACVIM president and later serve terms as chairwoman of the board and past chairwoman of the board.
"Dr. Maxwell has been a long term servant and contributor to the ACVIM," said Dr. David Hodgson, professor and head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. "Her recent election as president-elect of this august body is testament to her commitment to the specialty college and the esteem with which she is regarded by her professional colleagues."
Buechner-Maxwell's research program focuses on chronic airway disease of horses, most recently on the evaluation of equine lymphocyte function and regulation of lymphocyte mediated pulmonary inflammation. Her laboratory searches for the molecular basis for diseases affecting horses, such as equine heaves, as well as natural and cost effective treatment for horses that may eventually translate into treatments for similar human diseases, such as asthma.
After earning her DVM from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1987, Buechner-Maxwell was an instructor of equine internal medicine and a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral research fellow for the division of pulmonary medicine in the Internal Medicine Department at the University of Michigan. She joined the veterinary college's faculty in 1987 and has achieved Diplomate status with the ACVIM.
Dr. Jonathan Abbott, associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, was also elected president of the specialty of cardiology. Abbott's research deals with the echocardiographic assessment of cardiac disease, feline myocardial disease, and the pharmacotherapy of heart failure.
After earning his DVM from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, in 1989, Abbott completed residency training in veterinary cardiology at the University of Florida and at North Carolina State University. He held several academic and industry positions before joining the veterinary college's faculty in 2000. Abbott is board certified in cardiology by the ACVIM.
The Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine (CPCVM) on the College Park campus of the VMRCVM has received a grant for $171,000 from the USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service, Office of Capacity Building and Development to continue providing technical assistance to the USDA Caucasus Animal Health Programs through 2013. This is an expansion of a grant the CPCVM received in 2010 for $28,662.
As part of this agreement, the CPCVM is providing the Government of the Republic of Armenia with technical assistance to support animal health capacity building in the country. The CPCVM will be assisting the Ministry of Agriculture in Armenia in development of the new government organizations and with veterinary infrastructure, capacity building, and disease control and eradication program development. The grant includes funding for veterinary student travel to assist with the project, and it is anticipated that senior veterinary students interested in public practice will be able to gain educational experience as part of the project. Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the CPCVM, traveled to Armenia in October to develop work plans for future activities. While in Armenia, Ragan met with USDA officials and several Armenian deputy ministers and other Armenian animal health officials.
Dr. S. Ansar Ahmed, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was one of 10 scientists invited nationally to give a talk at the 2011 American Physiological Society in Jackson, Miss.
Dr. Jennifer Barrett, assistant professor of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Dr. Linda Dahlgren, associate professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Dr. Earl Gaughan, professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Dr. Otto Lanz, associate professor of surgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Dr. Kenneth Sullins, professor of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Dr. Nathaniel White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, and Dr. Robin Fontenot, large animal surgery resident in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, attended and presented at the American College of Veterinary Surgeons Symposium in Chicago.
Dr. Anthony Blikslager ('89) recently received the 2011 Merial Applied Equine Research Award during the opening ceremony of the 2011 Congress of the World Equine Veterinary Association.
Dr. Bonnie Brenseke, Ph.D. candidate and anatomic pathology resident in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, presented a poster at the concurrent American College of Veterinary Pathologists and American Society for Veterinary Clinical Pathology in Nashville, Tenn. and was awarded the Society of Toxicologic Pathology Student Speaker Award.
Dawn Field, educational support specialist in the Office of Academic Affairs, was chosen as VMRCVM's Staff Member of the Month for December 2011.
Dr. Earl Gaughan, professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Dr. Scott Pleasant, associate professor of Equine Field Service in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and director of the VTH Equine Podiatry Unit, Dr. Jennifer Barrett, assistant professor of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, and Travis Burns, farrier in the VTH Equine Podiatry Unit, presented a seminar on "New Approaches in Equine Lameness and Podiatry" at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Va.
Dr. Julie Green, research assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, gave two presentations on standardized terminology at the AVMA Convention held in St. Louis.
Jose Jimenez, MPH candidate in the Public Health program, was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army in a special ceremony at Virgina Tech's War Memorial.
Dr. Michael Leib, C.R. Roberts Professor of Small Animal Medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, presented a continuing education course at the Tidewater Veterinary Academy in Virginia Beach, Va.
Susan West Marmagas, MPH, associate professor of public health practice in the Department of Population Health Sciences and assistant director of Virginia Tech's Public Health Program, was elected the 2012 chair of the American Public Health Association Executive Board of Directors.
Dr. Lisa Metcalf ('88) was recently inducted into the American Association for Equine Practitioners Board of Directors.
Dr. Suzanne Santamaria, veterinary terminologist in the Veterinary Medical Informatics Laboratory, gave a presentation on the Animal Names Subset of SNOMED-CT and sat on a panel discussion of standardized terminology in veterinary medicine at the AVMA Convention held in St. Louis.
Betsy Schroeder, MPH, a DVM/Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, will compete on the TV show "Jeopardy" on Monday, Jan. 16.
Barbara Wheeler, clinical laboratory scientist in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital Diagnostic Services, was chosen as VMRCVM's Staff Member of the Month for November 2011.
Dr. Katie Wilson, clinical assistant professor of large animal medicine in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Dr. Scott Wilson, Equine Field Service resident in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Dr. Jenn Larson, Equine Field Service resident in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, and Dr. Celeste Blumerich, large animal medicine resident in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, served as show veterinarians for the Virginia Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association Alpaca Expo in Richmond, Va.
Dr. Kurt Zimmerman, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Dr. Suzanne Santamaria, veterinary terminologist in the Veterinary Medical Informatics Laboratory, published an article "Uses of informatics to solve real world problems in veterinary medicine" in the Summer edition of the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.
Our college community has been filled with holiday spirit this season. VMRCVM employees once again helped to make the holidays a little brighter for a local family through the annual Adopt-a-Family program. Organizers identified a family who would benefit from the program through New River Community Action, raised over $450, and volunteers shopped for and wrapped presents for delivery.
Many thanks to all the pets who brought their owners to the VMRCVM's annual pet portraits with Santa event on Sunday, Nov. 27. The program was presented by the college's Omega Tau Sigma service fraternity, a veterinary student organization that provides a variety of community services.
Happy Holidays from the VMRCVM family!
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