Vital Signs

Summer 2011


Preparing our graduates to meet society's needs

Dear friends and colleagues,

Dr. Gerhardt G. SchurigLast month, I had the honor of leading commencement activities for the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2011. On Saturday, May 14, the college awarded diplomas to 85 new veterinarians. It was a great privilege to pay tribute to another VMRCVM class as it took the Veterinarian's Oath and became doctors of veterinary medicine. As always, I very much enjoyed greeting and talking with the family, friends, and loved ones who provided moral support and helped our graduates through arduous and intense years of veterinary medical education.

The VMRCVM Class of 2011 has now set out on disparate paths across an ever-changing professional landscape. Our graduates have already begun filling critical societal needs in small, large, and mixed animal practice, working for government agencies and corporations, and undertaking internships that will eventually lead to board certification and specialty practice. Some of them may eventually enter academia and, one day, lead the educational efforts of veterinary medicine.

Recently, I was asked by a reporter what my first job was following my graduation. I replied, to the surprise of some, that I worked three jobs simultaneously when I first became a veterinarian. Very early in the morning, I worked as a meat inspector at a small slaughterhouse. I had a day job as an instructor in physiology at a university and a night job, starting at 9 p.m. until 5 a.m., as an emergency clinician at a small animal practice. Now that our graduates have left the college, they may find that their work life is equally demanding or that their skills are similarly pressed into multiple areas of service. As they grow into seasoned professionals, one thing I will always be sure of is that the faculty at our college has given the graduates the best possible training and preparation to succeed.

Summer is unfolding in Blacksburg, and we are preparing for the arrival of the Class of 2015. When the incoming students arrive and when I next write to you in the fall, the next phase of our college's physical transformation will have moved forward. The new students will arrive to find the Infectious Disease Research Facility nearing completion and the Veterinary Medical Instruction Addition under construction. Like our graduates, our college continues to adapt to meet evolving demands of society and the marketplace.

I hope to speak with many of you over the coming months. I will begin my term as president of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) in July and look forward to bringing continued prominence to our college by highlighting our many collaborative successes and innovations as part of a national discussion on veterinary education and its future.

Best regards,

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

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In This Issue

 

 

Featured Stories


Board of Visitors gives go-ahead to new VMRCVM department

Department of Population Health Sciences

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors gave final approval to establish the new Department of Population Health Sciences within the VMRCVM that will house the university's Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors gave final approval at their meeting this week to establishing a new department within the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine that will house the university's Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program.

At their June 6 meeting, the board approved a plan that details the role of the Department of Population Health Sciences within the veterinary college. The department organizes and administers the public health program and engages in research and outreach initiatives related to human and animal health.

The fourth academic department within the veterinary college, the new department facilitates the process toward accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health, provides accountability and budget oversight for the public health program, and partners with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in offering the MPH degree.

"We are very pleased with the Board of Visitor's decision as it confirms our approach to working across disciplines to provide new solutions to problems facing animal and public health," said Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine board of directors. "The new department will continue to fuse efforts of veterinarians, physicians, and other health professionals in addressing state, national, and global public health challenges consistent with the 'one health' approach endorsed by the AMA and the AVMA."

Virginia Tech launched the new Master of Public Health program last fall in response to a critical shortage of trained public health professionals in the United States and, in particular, Southwest and Southside Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. The 42-credit professional degree program offers concentrations in public health education and infectious disease and was developed in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

The program is designed to accommodate full-time students, working mid-career professionals, and simultaneous degree students with a combination of daytime, evening, and online course offerings.

Last fall's inaugural class was comprised of 36 students who brought a wealth of experience from public health and from disciplines in biology, food science, medicine, nursing, nutrition, psychology, recreational sports, sociology and veterinary medicine.

The curriculum includes biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, public health administration, and health behavior, as well as specific courses in the areas of public health education and infectious disease.

Dr. François Elvinger, a professor previously in the veterinary college's Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, is acting as interim chair of the new department. Dr. Kerry Redican, a professor who joined the veterinary college from the School of Education, co-directs the Public Health Program, and Susan West Marmagas serves as assistant director. Dr. Kathy Hosig, a public health nutritionist, has joined the public health education group, and the department is currently recruiting additional faculty in infectious disease.

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Delegation holds high-level meetings in Chile

chile photo

(front row, left to right) Dr. John E. Dooley, Vice President for Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, Dr. María Elena Boisier, president of Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), and Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig, dean of the college. (back row, left to right) Dr. Samuel Cook, associate professor of sociology at Virginia Tech, and Dr. Phil Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics at the college.

College leaders held high-level meetings in Chile last month as part of VMRCVM's ongoing international outreach. From May 17 to 23, Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the college, Dr. Valerie Ragan, director of the college's Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Phil Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics at the college, visited the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) in Valdivia.

Dr. John E. Dooley, Vice President for Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, led the delegation, which included representatives from most Virginia Tech colleges and sought to expand educational, research, and student exchanges between the two institutions. The group was joined by Shelly Duke, vice rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and chair of the EMC Council.

The VMRCVM and UACh discussed options for expanding their long and successful history of collaboration. One goal of future collaboration is to develop complementary programs that take advantage of the unique strengths of each institution.

The Chileans have placed a high national priority on higher education, and this resonates throughout the university. Individual and small group meetings were aimed at enhancing student exchanges in both directions to enable students from both institutions to benefit from exposure to programs, procedures, or other aspects of veterinary medicine.

chile photo

A delegation of representatives from the college and Virginia Tech held high-level meetings at the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) in Valdivia, Chile.

Ragan met with administrators from the college of veterinary medicine to promote the ability of DVM students to spend an international clerkship at their university. She discussed the standards and content of this clerkship in order to help develop a rigorous program.

Duke, who has a long history of supporting the college through her roles on the EMC Council and the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, joined the trip to personally be informed about this aspect of Virginia Tech's Center for Science and Global Sustainability.

Research collaborations between faculty members of the two institutions were also discussed. Ongoing research in rare breed conservation led to an invitation from UACh for Sponenberg to participate in their newly proposed Centro de Recursos Genéticos (Center for Genetic Resources) for work on a variety of local and adapted breeds of livestock. A variety of other research collaborations are possible, with ongoing discussions between faculty at VMRCVM and in Chile.

Opportunities and avenues for team-teaching a few courses (Domestication among them) were also explored, with future offerings likely. The interest is in some courses that are taught in English, as well as some that are taught in Spanish. During the trip, Sponenberg gave a lecture on equine coat color genetics to the third year veterinary students enrolled in a genetics course.

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Dr. Bess J. Pierce supports military working dogs

Dr. Bess J. Pierce

Dr. Bess J. Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, was officially promoted to Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Veterinary Corps on Sept. 29, 2010.

Providing service and care for working dogs is crucial to the overall success of the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Veterinary Service (DODMWDVS), and Dr. Bess J. Pierce of Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine plays an integral role in the Service's success.

Pierce, an associate professor in the college's Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, also serves in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps. Last summer, she worked as interim director of the service, which is located at the Holland Military Working Dog Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Among the service's success stories during Pierce's stay in Texas was Brik, a nine-year-old male German shepherd trained in explosives detection.

Brik was referred to the DODMWDVS for treatment of cancer. His referring veterinarian detected a soft tissue tumor in the large weight bearing pad of his right rear foot in late March 2010. At the hospital, Brik underwent a CT scan, ultrasound, radiographs, and a variety of blood work to determine his best treatment course.

Brik lived in ICU for several weeks, where he received 15 treatments of radiation therapy to his hind leg. A follow-up CT scan was administered one month after treatment, and the tumor seemed to have cleared. Brik began rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, a small area of the tumor returned approximately three months later, and surgery was required for treatment. According to Pierce, the surgery was a success, and Brik's condition began to improve.

Once Brik's condition was stable, his charming personality began to emerge, inevitably capturing the affection of everyone he met. Ultimately, Brik was retired from active service. However, one civilian hospital handler in particular formed a very close bond with Brik and couldn't help but to adopt him. He is now happy and healthy at home with a compassionate owner.

Pierce worked closely with Brik as a member of the Holland Military Working Dog Hospital and helped guide this hero back to health. "Brik was a challenging case that required extensive treatment," said Pierce. "Once he was stable, everyone fell in love with him. He was such a ham."

During her time in San Antonio, Pierce had the opportunity to help other dogs returning from the front lines of duty. She resided in Texas from April until the beginning of October 2010, mobilized on active duty. There she served as the interim director of the DODMWDVS and back-filled for the Chief of Medicine who was forward deployed.

Last summer, Pierce received notification of selection to Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Veterinary Corps, and she was officially promoted on Sept. 29, 2010.

"It was really an honor," Pierce said. "It was an accumulation of support of a lot of people along the way."

As a civilian veterinarian, Pierce works at the college's Veterinary Teaching Hospital Community Practice in Blacksburg, where she has long supported and treated service dogs. Pierce serves the law enforcement working dog community and focuses on the bond between humans and working dogs.

"It is an honor to provide services and offer the highest quality care to the working dog population," said Pierce. "Keeping a dog healthy is critical to their service and contributes to the bond between the handler and canine partner."

Pierce graduated from Auburn University in 1992 and served on active military duty for 15 years, traveling the world practicing veterinary medicine. She left active duty to accept her position at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and is currently assigned as the Reserve director of the DODMWDVS.

At the veterinary college, Pierce trains fourth year students in everyday procedures seen in routine small animal practice. The program offers full care to local clients.

Written by Rachel McDonnell of Virginia Beach, Va., a graduate student in the Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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College receives Stamps Foundation grant

VMRCVM recently received a very generous grant from the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation. The gift, in the amount of $414,430, will support graduate studies in the area of biomedical and veterinary sciences.

"It is exciting and encouraging to work with organizations such as the Stamps Foundation that are dedicated to advancing our community of outstanding students, faculty members, and researchers," said Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the college. "We look forward to continuing to explore partnerships with organizations that share and can support our college's goals."

Inspired by the impact that their university experiences have had on their lives, E. Roe Stamps IV and his wife, Penny, have chosen to support exceptional students in their pursuit of higher education. The Stamps Family Foundation works with great universities to create programs offering enriched educational experiences.

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Development news: Bill and Rita Thornton's gift

Bill and Rita Thornton, of Blacksburg, are animal lovers and have been fans, supporters, and promoters of the college. Bill is a 1956 graduate in Ag Economics who was in the real estate business in Northern Virginia, and he has been a loyal supporter of Virginia Tech Athletics. Their grandson is presently a student at Virginia Tech in aerospace and ocean engineering.

In December of 1993, they gave a hunting property in Ellett Valley with life estate to the college to benefit research in memory of his father, Samuel Howard Thornton. They have followed with interest the college's increasing research advances. Upon learning more about our translational and regenerative medicine initiatives, they became very excited about the potential for advances and need for new space. They chose to move forward their gift by spending the last two years negotiating a sale of the property so that the current value of $240,000 could become available for construction.

We are very appreciative of their support and look forward to them choosing a naming opportunity.

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Awards & Honors


Faculty promotions

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved promotions, tenure, and continued appointments at its June 6 meeting. Congratulations to the following VMRCVM faculty members who were among those promoted, effective July 1.

Promotion to professor     Promotion to associate professor with tenure
Dr. F William Pierson
Dr. F. William Pierson
Hospital Director
      Dr. David Grant
Dr. David Grant
Small Animal Internal Medicine
    Dr. Linda Dahlgren
Dr. Linda Dahlgren
Large Animal Surgery

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Drs. Troy, Pleasant, and Rossmeisl receive awards

Congratulations to the recipients of faculty awards presented at a pre-graduation reception held on Friday, May 9.

Each year, the college selects recipients from both clinical departments to receive the Virginia M. and Edward E. Thompson Award. These awards recognize outstanding contributions in humanitarian values, professional standards, and demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and public service.

This year, from the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Dr. John H. Rossmeisl, Jr., associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery, received the award. This year’s recipient from the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences was Dr. Robert S. Pleasant, associate professor of Equine Field Service and Equine Extension and director of the Equine Podiatry Unit.

Also awarded on May 9 was the Bayer Animal Health Faculty Recognition Award from the Class of 2011, given to Dr. Gregory C. Troy, the Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey Taylor Mahin professor of internal medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. This award is presented by each graduating class to a faculty member in recognition of his or her commitment to teaching and in recognition of the impact good teachers have on the career of the veterinarians they train.

Bayer Animal Health Faculty Recognition Award
Dr. Gregory C. Troy
Dr. Gregory C. Troy
Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey Taylor Mahin Professor
Internal Medicine
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Virginia M. and Edward E. Thompson Award
Dr. John H. Rossmeisl, Jr.
Dr. John H. Rossmeisl, Jr.
Associate Professor
Neurology, Neurosurgery
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences
 
      Dr. Robert S. Pleasant
Dr. Robert S. Pleasant
Associate Professor
Equine Field Service, Equine Extension
Director, Equine Podiatry Unit
Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences

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Awards & Accolades Roundup

Hedie Bustamante, Phd candidate in the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology, was awarded first prize in the graduate student poster contest during the National Capital Area Chapter of the Society of Toxicology meeting held on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., on April 19.

Dr. David Caudell, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, was selected as Virginia Tech's Scholar of the Week for the week beginning May 9.

Dr. Marion Ehrich, professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology, will consult on a liver toxin research project funded by EPA STAR award.

Dr. Aaron S. Lucas ('10), PhD candidate in parasitology, has been selected as the recipient of the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP) Intervet/Schering-Plough outstanding graduate student award. As part of the award, Lucas will have the opportunity to give a 30-minute presentation outlining his research at this year's AAVP meeting in St. Louis.

Drs. Valerie Ragan, Steve Sundlof, and Gary Vroegindewey, of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, participated in University of Maryland's Maryland Day 2011 Open House at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources held on April 30. It is estimated that over 50,000 guests attend the Maryland Day event.

Amanda Ratcliffe, support technician in the Equine Field Service, was chosen as VMRCVM's Staff Member of the Month for June 2011.

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, professor of aquatic medicine in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, served as scientific editor of the recent What's New @ ILAR e-newsletter of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) Journal.

Dr. Gary Vroegindewey, director of global health initiatives at the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, recently delivered a talk on Social Media in Disasters at the 17th World Congress of Disaster & Emergency Medicine in Beijing.

Barbara Wise, laboratory specialist, was chosen as VMRCVM's Staff Member of the Month for May 2011.

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Alumni Spotlight

VMRCVM classmates, VVMA & MVMA leaders: 25 years later

Drs. John Kable and Claudia True

Dr. John Kable ('86) and Dr. Claudia True ('86) are simultaneously leading the two state supporting veterinary medical associations. Kable is president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association and True is president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association.

For the first time in VMRCVM's history, two former college classmates—Drs. Claudia True and John Kable of the Class of '86—are simultaneously leading the two state supporting veterinary medical associations. Kable was sworn in as president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association last summer, and True became the president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association in February.

Both Kable and True say that their experiences at the college prepared them for these leadership roles.

True, originally from Fairfax, Va., remembers how her class worked well together during the early years of the college.

"There were high hopes; there was 'a newness' about our college," she shared. True jokes about how some of her classmates used to carry Maalox bottles during exam time. "We had a good variety of faculty that taught us to think broadly, and we were well trained in developing differential diagnoses."

True now resides and works in Ashland, Va., and practices at the eight-doctor Woodside Equine Clinic. She points out that the profession has changed noticeably since she was at VMRCVM. "People are more accepting of women as practitioners now, especially in equine medicine."

As for her alma mater, the new admissions interview process and increased visibility of VMRCVM on a national level excites her. "I like where the vet school is going."

Since beginning her term as the VVMA president, the most rewarding part for her has been "the camaraderie with the other veterinarians who want to make a difference." On November 11, her class will have its 25th reunion during the inaugural Potomac Regional Veterinary Conference in Washington, D.C. True's message to her 1986 classmates on their upcoming 25th reunion: "You better show up!"

Fellow classmate Kable grew up and practices veterinary medicine in Westminster, Md., where he is co-owner of the 10-doctor, two-location, Airpark Animal Hospital. Kable remembers the VMRCVM as a "very close-knit group of students and faculty coming in from everywhere. We had to make due with limited facilities back then."

Kable recalled a funny story, "The Root Hog or Die Party was the first party of the school year to initiate the new class. The upper classes, arranged for a local farmer to drop water balloons down on us in a field, from his ultra light!"

He remembers "Bimbo Welker teaching fencepost diagnoses—20 problems you should be able to identify without climbing over the fence." He added, "we had a dedicated group of faculty that overcame our limited facilities by incredible sharing of knowledge on their part."

Kable is most excited now about the growth of VMRCVM, notably the Infectious Disease Research Facility and instructional addition. Serving as MVMA leader has been rewarding, he shared, especially being able to meet and spend time with other veterinarians of various disciplines in our profession. "It broadens your horizons."

Kable's message to his classmates about the upcoming 25th reunion, "We have to get together; we should take the opportunity to see each other while we can."

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VMRCVM Alumni Society welcomes the Class of 2011

Commencement activities for the VMRCVM class of 2011 were held on Saturday, May 14. Diplomas were awarded to 85 veterinarians, making them the newest members of the VMRCVM Alumni Society.

Special guests at the graduation ceremony included Dr. Greg Hammer, past-president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Maureen Noftsinger ('01), 2011 Outstanding Young Alumna, Dr. Claudia True ('86), president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. John Kable ('86), president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. John Brooks, District II representative to the AVMA, and Dr. Siba Samal, associate dean of the college's Maryland campus.

Dr. David Grant, associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, was selected by the graduating class to deliver the keynote speech. Dr. Nathaniel Burke, the valedictorian of the class of 2011, was awarded the Richard B. Talbot Award.

Dr. Grant's keynote speech
View a video of
Dr. Grant's keynote speech.
 
      Veterinarian's Oath
View a video of the
Class of 2011 taking
the veterinarian's oath.
    Graduation photo gallery
View a graduation
photo gallery
.
 

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VMRCVM Engagement

VMRCVM teams contribute to success of Virginia Tech's "Relay for Life"

Two teams from VMRCVM participated in Virginia Tech's "Relay For Life" held Friday, April 22, on the university's drillfield. The 28 team members, including Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences (BMVS) graduate students, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students, and staff, raised more than $9,500 to support cancer research.

The collective Virginia Tech effort included 622 teams, 5959 participants, and more than $627,000 raised for the battle against cancer. Virginia Tech is currently ranked the No. 1 university in terms of online fundraising, according to American Cancer Society reports.

Relay for Life Relay for Life Relay for Life
Relay for Life Relay for Life Relay for Life

View a video and read the full press release about Virginia Tech's 2011 Relay for Life event.

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