Vital Signs: April 2014
Vol. 3, Issue 4
DVM Curriculum Revision
Dear friends and colleagues,
In the spring of 2013, a faculty working group started a comprehensive review of the DVM curriculum, with the goal of developing a proposal for revision. This review is necessary to meet accreditation standards but, more importantly, it will provide an opportunity for the college to consider whether there is a need to update the curriculum and incorporate emerging trends in veterinary and medical education.
After a series of facilitated workshops, the working group drafted a set of principles to guide the curricular development process. These principles prioritized the educational needs of our students, relative to other missions of the college, and laid out an evidence-based framework for promoting integration of subject matter, experiential (minds-on, hands-on) education, and significant opportunity for students to specialize in areas of individual interest. These principles are consistent with the recommendations of several strategic planning initiatives accomplished at the national level in recent years.
Using the guiding principles as a basis for further deliberations, the working group developed a proposed curricular model that has a number of interesting and innovative elements:
- Integration of basic and clinical sciences
- Emphasis placed on outcomes assessment, including the evaluation of clinical competency
- Team-based learning in the first two years
- Earlier exposure of students to experiential learning in clinical and diagnostic settings
This proposed model has been presented to faculty at the department level. Two town hall meetings, scheduled for later this month and in May, will provide another opportunity for faculty to review and shape the final proposal. I anticipate also that feedback will be sought from students, staff, and veterinary practitioners (private, public, and corporate).
I am well aware that comprehensive revision of the curriculum is not easily accomplished. I believe it was Woodrow Wilson who said, “It is easier to change the location of a cemetery, than to change the school curriculum.” Considering the priority placed on education of our students, I am confident that our faculty will go the extra mile in reviewing and supporting proposed changes that advance student learning and sustain our college’s reputation for educational excellence.
Dr. Cyril Clarke, Dean
- Annual Open House set for April 12
- Diversity on the rise at the college
- Behind the scenes: Staff members excel in fast-paced diagnostic laboratory
- Students to host dog wash, Easter egg hunt on April 19
- Development news: Donor’s legacy lives on with more than $1.25 million endowment
Around the College
- Students recognized for hard work at Spring Awards Luncheon
- Friend of the college raises $3,600 in honor of police K-9
- Dog walks again after physical rehabilitation, acupuncture
- Deans’ Forum for Global Engagement showcases college faculty, students
- College hosts 25th Annual Research Symposium
- Chief U.S. veterinarian makes a return visit to the college
- Matthew Putnam aids in care and release of screech owl
- Sara Waltz reflects on SAVMA Symposium experience
- Graduate students and faculty present One Health successes at AAVMC Conference
Awards & Activities
- Dr. John Rossmeisl honored with Zoetis Award for Research Excellence
- Dr. Siba Samal elected to the American Academy of Microbiology
- Ashley Francis named graduate representative to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors
- Monica Motley named Featured Graduate Diversity Scholar
- American Association of Immunologists honors Coy Allen
- More Awards & Accolades
The veterinary college will open its doors to the public during an Annual Open House on Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors will have a chance to learn about veterinary medicine and the college through tours, demonstrations, and lectures.
The Open House will take place on the college’s Blacksburg campus and will feature guided tours of its 270,000-square-foot complex, which includes the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition. Students will lead hour-long tours beginning at 11 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
The family-friendly event will also feature activities designed expressly for children such as face painting, a wildlife exhibit, an anatomy lesson with a painted horse, and a demonstration on how to safely approach and interact with dogs. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students will offer special tours for elementary-age children. Third-year students will also help “surgically repair” any stuffed animals that children bring to the Open House during a Teddy Bear Repair Clinic, open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech is doing its part to contribute to the diversity of the veterinary profession.
“The number of diverse students in our community has significantly increased over the past two years,” noted Dr. Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services. “This is the result of a focused recruitment effort, as well as a welcoming environment.”
Since 2012, the college has seen just over a 50 percent diversity increase in its student population including African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Latino students, as well as those who identify as gay. In a field that has most recently been dominated by female students, the college has also had successes in male student recruitment and retention.
“We’re very excited about this trend that is creating an enriched learning environment for our students,” said Pelzer. “Our student culture is changing to mirror society and its needs.”
When a 15-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse named Coco came to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital last year, Dr. Katie Wilson knew the answer to her sudden lethargy was just down the hall. The horse’s owners brought her in because of suspected bleeding, but Wilson, a clinical assistant professor of large animal medicine in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, suspected that a toxic substance was to blame.
Virginia Tech Animal Laboratory Services, a full-service veterinary diagnostic laboratory housed at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, had the answer. Wilted red maple leaves, if ingested, are poisonous to horses as they damage the horse’s red blood cells, resulting in severe anemia, possible kidney damage, and, in severe cases, death.
Identifying specific changes to the red blood cells in the horse is the key to the diagnosis, but requires a skilled set of eyes to review a blood smear from the patient. This is where laboratory professionals play an essential role in veterinary medicine, providing accurate results in a timely fashion. In Coco’s case, thanks to a correct and fast diagnosis, Wilson was able to successfully treat her and send her home in much better shape.
The diagnostic lab conducts over 100,000 tests each year for veterinarians at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and other veterinary hospitals throughout the region. This month, the college is celebrating Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (April 20-26) to recognize the important role of the laboratory technologists and technicians performing these tests day in and day out.
Community members will have opportunities to bring their dogs to a dog wash and their children to an Easter egg hunt in two, family-friendly activities sponsored by veterinary students on Saturday, April 19. Both events, held at the veterinary college’s Blacksburg campus on 245 Duck Pond Drive, are open to the public.
Presented by the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Class of 2017, the Community Dog Wash will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the rear of the veterinary college complex, on the side closest to Southgate Drive. Signs on Southgate Drive and Duck Pond Drive will guide participants to the event, and ample parking will be provided. The cost of the dog wash is $10, and for an additional $5, customers can have their dogs’ nails trimmed and ears cleaned.
Omega Tau Sigma, a veterinary service fraternity, will host the Easter egg hunt promptly at 10 a.m. on the same day. This free event will feature live bunnies courtesy of Field of Daisies Rabbit Rescue. The event will include games, balloon animals, a rabbit handling and care demonstration, and informal photos with the Easter bunny. Participating children only need to bring a basket or other container to hold any eggs they may find.
In February of 2000, a simple phone call started a relationship that has yielded a little more than $1.25 million for student scholarships over the past 14 years. In that call, an attorney requested information about setting up a possible gift from an anonymous donor to benefit veterinary students.
A partial distribution in 2005 from the estate of Darlene Dill, a business owner in Northern Virginia and a dedicated pet owner, initiated endowments for the Darlene R. Dill DVM and Ph.D. Scholarships.
Ms. Dill had a long history with the college. In February of 2002, her Rottweiler, Tyler, was referred for back surgery by Dr. Mary Ellen Brown (DVM ’89) of Warren County Veterinary Clinic. She had previously been a client from referrals by Dr. Cynthia DeMarco of Smith Mt. Lake Animal Hospital in 1993 for her Rottie Shelly, in 1997 for her cat Shale, and in 1998 for Tyler.
Through these experiences, she became convinced that the world needed more veterinarians like those who cared for her pets locally and in our Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The legacy of her commitment to her pets and vets will live on.
Around the College
Awards & Activities
Dr. John Rossmeisl, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, received the prestigious Zoetis Award for Research Excellence at the college’s 25th Annual Research Symposium on Thursday, March 20.
Rossmeisl, who is also the neurology section chief at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, has an international reputation for his expertise in the clinical management and research of brain tumors in dogs.
“Dr. Rossmeisl’s research brings cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic technologies to our veterinary patients,” wrote Dr. Greg Daniel, head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, in his nomination letter. “In doing so, he is advancing both human and veterinary medical science.”
Established in 1985 as the Pfizer Award for Research Excellence, the Zoetis award is a nationally recognized honor for a faculty member at each veterinary school in the United States. The award seeks to “foster innovative research, on which the scientific advancement of the profession depends, by recognizing outstanding research effort and productivity.”
Dr. Siba Samal, associate dean of the college and chair of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland, has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. An internationally-renowned virologist, Samal will be recognized at the Academy Fellows Luncheon at the 114th American Society of Microbiology meeting in Boston, on Tuesday, May 20.
“Dr. Samal has contributed significantly to veterinary virology,” wrote Dr. X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology at Virginia Tech and a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology, in his nomination letter. “He identified a new group of aquatic viruses, determined the first complete genomic sequence for many important animal viruses, and developed Newcastle disease virus as a vector vaccine against human and animal pathogens.”
Members of the academy, known as Fellows, are elected through a highly selective, annual, peer-reviewed process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. The criteria for election to fellowship are scientific excellence, originality, and leadership; high ethical standards; and scholarly and creative achievement. Academy Fellows are eminent leaders in the field of microbiology and are relied upon for authoritative advice and information on critical issues in microbiology.
Ashley Francis, a master’s degree student in the college’s Master of Public Health program, was selected as the new graduate student representative to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. She will serve a one-year term as a liaison between the graduate student body and the board starting July 1.
Francis works as a graduate assistant in graduate student services with a focus on program planning and development for the Graduate Life Center. After receiving her undergraduate degree in human nutrition, foods, and exercise at Virginia Tech, Francis served as a health educator and outreach coordinator for the Richmond City Health District and taught high school biology, engineering for the future, and earth sciences for the Teach for America program in Gaston, N.C.In addition, Francis is a professional actress, performing in stage, television, short film, and commercial roles. Francis serves as a graduate honor system panelist and graduate representative to the Task Force for a Healthier Virginia Tech Community. She also volunteers at the LewisGale Hospital in Blacksburg and has been recognized by the United States Navy for her work in sexual assault prevention and response. She is also the recipient of a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.
The Virginia Tech Office of Graduate Recruiting and Diversity Initiatives has recognized Monica Motley, MPH/Ph.D. dual degree student, as a Graduate Diversity Scholar.
Diversity scholars are graduate students who specialize in, and advocate for, the awareness, knowledge, and skills associated with diversity and inclusion in the graduate school and greater community. The goal of the diversity scholars program is to generate dialogue, provide advocacy, and implement change to lead to a more diverse and inclusive experience for all graduate students, staff, faculty, and administrators.
Motley’s diversity scholar project “Utilizing a Collaborative Effort to Identify, Understand, and Prioritize LGBTQ Issues Within Virginia Tech” utilized a two-day workshop to develop an action-oriented strategic plan that uses collective input to identify prioritized problems, areas of interest, and potential initiatives to improve campus climate and environment for LGBTQ students, faculty, staff, and community members.
Dr. Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has received the 2014 Chambers-eBioscience Award from the American Association of Immunologists (AAI).
The award, which was established to honor the memory of AAI member Dr. Cynthia Chambers, is intended to advance the career of an early-career scientist who attends the AAI annual meeting and presents an outstanding abstract in the area of cancer biology. Allen will receive the $1,000 cash award and certificate during the AAI annual meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa., on May 3.
Allen, who joined the college’s growing team of inflammatory disease researchers last year, conducts research on the role of inflammation in cancer. In the early stages of cancer formation, increased inflammation creates a favorable microenvironment for tumor development, but as the tumor becomes more established and grows, the microenvironment surrounding it shifts to become more immunosuppressive. This results in a tumor growth that is left unchecked by the host immune system.
Allen’s laboratory studies a class of proteins called pattern recognition receptors that are critical in regulating this immune response. The specific research being honored by the AAI investigates how “Nod-like receptors,” a class of these receptors, protects against tumor formation through the negative regulation of two signaling pathways linked to diverse types of cancer.
Allen is collaborating on this project with Dr. Tanya LeRoith, assistant professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology; Dr. Nick Dervisis, assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences; and Dr. Josep Bassaganya-Riera of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.
Maria Romano, a second-year veterinary student and a senior delegate to the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA), was elected to the association’s Executive Board as the Global and Public Health Officer-elect during the SAVMA Symposium held at Colorado State University on March 20-22.
Jill Kormendy, administrative assistant for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, was named the April 2014 Staff Member of the Month. According to her nomination letter, Kormendy has done an excellent job over the years and is “dependable, well organized, even-tempered, and deals with other staff and clients extremely well.” Recently, Kormendy helped the Veterinary Teaching Hospital switch over to the Time Clock Plus system, which she now manages for the hospital.
Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, traveled to Merial headquarters in Duluth, Ga., at the invitation of the director of Merial’s U.S. Region Veterinary Public Health division to discuss a potential rabies oral vaccine project in Maryland. Merial is interested in having a student from the veterinary college participate in the study.
Dr. Valerie Ragan was invited to serve on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) External Assessment team as part of the AVMA Strategic Planning Process.
Dr. Coy Allen, assistant professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Dr. Clay Caswell, assistant professor of bacteriology, presented at the inaugural Virginia Tech Microbiology Symposium on March 7. Several graduate students in the department also gave poster presentations. View a Facebook photo gallery of the Microbiology Symposium.
Several faculty members and graduate students participated in the Virginia Tech Deans’ Forum on Global Engagement on Thursday, March 27:
- Dr. Valerie Ragan served on the Global Trends panel and was the session chair for the Global Community breakout session and represented the college on the forum’s planning committee.
- Robert Fathke, third-year veterinary student, participated in a Global Trends Panel on Health. He also presented a poster on “Veterinary Capacity Building in Post-Conflict Liberia.”
- Dr. Kerry Redican, professor and associate director of the public health program, presented a poster on “Engaging Public Health Professionals in Malawi and Zambia through a Global Health Fellowship.”
Read more about Redican’s contributions to an exchange program in Malawi and Zambia.
- Catharine Cowan, a dual degree DVM/Ph.D. student and Stamps Foundation Scholar, presented a poster on “Life after the Ph.D.: Graduate Career Landscapes in Switzerland and the U.S.”
- Dr. Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology, presented a poster on “Development of a DNA-Based Nanoscale Optical Fiber Biosensor Assay to Detect Burcella species and Histophilus somni.”
- Dr. Phillip Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, presented a poster titled “Sustainable Livestock = Human Survival.”
- Dr. François Elvinger, professor and head of the Department of Population Health Sciences, gave a presentation on “Global Reach of One Health in the Virginia Tech Public Health Program.”
The Student Chapter of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians raised more than $250 to benefit the Montgomery County Friends of Animal Care and Control. Student organizers held a raffle for a homemade quilt embroidered with the college’s logo to raise the funds.
Dr. Valerie Ragan gave a presentation entitled “International One Health Challenges: The Hidden Complexities” at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges annual conference in Alexandria, Va.
Dr. Valerie Ragan traveled to Yangzhou, China, at the invitation of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Yangzhou University to give a presentation entitled “Brucellosis Eradication in the United States:
Lessons Learned and Considerations for Success.”
- April 8 — Equine Medical Center Tuesday Talk:
- “Advances in Holistic Equine Medicine: Ways to complement traditional medicine for your horse’s complete wellbeing”
Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center — Leesburg, VA
- April 12 — VA-MD Vet Med Open House
- VA-MD Vet Med Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 19 — OTS Community Easter Egg Hunt
- VA-MD Vet Med Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 19 — Community Dog Wash
- VA-MD Vet Med Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- April 26 — Spring Football Game / Pre-Game Tailgate
- VA-MD Vet Med Campus — Blacksburg, VA
- May 3 — Annual Bob Duncan Memorial 5K
- Virginia Tech cross country course — Blacksburg, VA
- May 16 — Commencement Ceremonies
- Blacksburg, VA
For More Upcoming Events…
Vital Signs is published throughout the year by the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Dean: Dr. Cyril R. Clarke
- Produced By: Office of Public Relations and Communications
- Director: Sherrie Whaley
- Content Editor: Michael Sutphin
- Web Editors: Alison Elward, Jesse Janowiak
- Contributors: Dannette Gomez Beane, Alison Elward, William Foy Sr., Frank Pearsall, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley
- Photography / Videography: Alison Elward, Doug Margulies, Michael Sutphin, Sherrie Whaley, Sara Waltz