Vital Signs
May 2006

Rolling On Through the Summer...

Dr. Gerhardt G. SchurigDear Friends and Colleagues,
With the pageantry and hoopla of commencement now ended, the university campus settled into its summer patterns, and many of us thinking about vacations, it would seem as if our college could be entering into some kind of summer-time lull.  

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, it is apparent to me that we are gathering momentum in many key areas; most notably, in our efforts to invite investment in the college's future from among our many friends in the private sector. We recently hosted many friends who were visiting the university as part of the "Women in Philanthropy" program.  

Later in June, we will convene a two-day "visioning" process for many senior stakeholders from the private sector. We will seek input and guidance from them on new initiatives we are undertaking, from capital project development to new programs like translational medicine that will ignite more success in our research enterprise.  

Soon after commencement I joined other Virginia Tech leaders at Riva San Vitale in Switzerland for a meeting with fellow deans to discuss activities for the coming year related to the university's developing international program. Our Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine Director Dr. Bettye Walters was also there in her capacity as the emerging leader of the college's international programs. I arrived back in Blacksburg just in time to travel to Washington to meet with our many friends and alumni at the D.C. Academy of Veterinary Medicine. Deans 

Our goal as a college is to become more immediate and more relevant in the lives of more and more people with each passing day. And with that in mind we are pleased to introduce a new column in this edition of Vital Signs: "The Veterinarian's Notebook." Some of you may remember this as the name of a similar program run by emeriti professor Dr. Kent Roberts in the early 1980's. We resurrect this program with the same goal in mind: to transmit new information about clinical veterinary medicine to practitioners in the field. Our first column is written by Dr. Jeri Jones, a veterinary radiologist in our Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS). Look for more of these columns in August 2006, when Vital Signs returns after a two-month hiatus.  

Our success in the future depends almost completely upon our ability to engage more fully with people, agencies and institutions from outside the college. Building these relationships will create powerful opportunities for collaboration, develop the resources necessary to foster our growth, and make sure that we are fully meeting the needs of all who depend upon us.  

Thanks to your interest and concern for our college and what it does, we are making progress.  


Gerhardt G. Schurig

VMRCVM Presents Tick-borne Infectious Diseases CE Seminar at University of Maryland, College Park

Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt Discusses Tick-borne Diseases Ninety four veterinarians, physicians and other professionals representing 45 practices and government agencies recently attended a continuing education program on tick-borne infectious diseases sponsored by the Maryland campus of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Held at the University's Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, the event featured Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Breitschwerdt is considered one of the world's leading experts on tickborne infectious diseases.
Breitschwerdt discussed tick-borne diseases including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and bartonellosis during two presentations entitled "Tick Transmitted Infectious Diseases: What You Don't Know Can Kill You or Your Patient" and "Bartonella: Comparative Medical Features of Canine and Human Bartonellosis."
The event "was a success by everyone's standards," said Dr. Katherine Feldman, assistant director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at the VMRCVM and chief organizer of the conference.
The event attracted registrants from private practice, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Maryland Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Dr. John Brooks, provided introductory comments and VMRCVM Director of Public Relations, Jeffrey Douglas, welcomed the group on behalf of VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig.
The event was sponsored by the VMRCVM's Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine and IDEXX Laboratories.

VMRCVM's 23rd Commencement Activities Held

23rd Commencement Activities The VMRCVM boosted its total number of DVM alumni to 1,934 when it graduated 85 new veterinarians with the class of 2006 on May 13.
The college also awarded eight Ph.D. degrees, 14 M.S. degrees and 12 Certificates of Residency during the ceremony. The VMRCVM has now awarded 254 Ph.D. and M.S. degrees.
Dr. Kevin Pelzer, associate professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), regaled the graduates with amusing stories and shared some "life" and professional advice with the graduates during keynote remarks.
Dr. Richard A. Hartigan, president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA), welcomed the new graduates into the profession on behalf of organized veterinary medicine and Dr. Cindy L. Burnsteel, president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), swore the new veterinarians into the profession through the administration of the "Veterinarian's Oath."
Neal K. Peckens, the valedictorian of the class of 2006, was honored with the presentation of the Richard B. Talbot Award, and Dr. Rhonda A. Rathgeber, was recognized as the 2006 Outstanding Young alumna.

Global Aquaculture Conference Slated for July

Dr. Stephen Smith Planning is underway to host the Sixth International Conference on Recirculating Aquaculture July 21-23 at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, according to Dr. Stephen Smith, professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences (DBSP), and one of the conference organizers.
Sponsored by Virginia Tech, the Aquacultural Engineering Society, Freshwater Institute, Virginia Sea Grant College Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the biennial confererence is considered one of the global aquaculture profession's leading conferences and trade shows, according to Dr. Smith.
Several hundred people are expected to attend the two day event, which will feature the presentation of more than 80 academic papers on the "challenges and breakthroughs" in the recirculating aquaculture industry.
Sessions will cover all aspects of finfish and shellfish production, including disease threats, production and emergency management systems and marketing.
Tours of the Virginia Tech Recirculating Aquaculture Center, an 11,000 foot facility that is considered one of the most technologically advanced university aquaculture facilities in the world, will also be offered.
For more information, see

VMRCVM Students Win Hill's Public Health Writing Award

Hill's Writing Competition Winners Three VMRCVM students studying the Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine track have earned third place honors in the 2006 "Hill's Pet Products Public Health Writing Competition."
Sarah Beck, Ashley Dietz and Melody Caldwell were recognized for the paper entitled "Four Legs and Two, Preparedness for You." The paper explored the importance of emergency and disaster planning that included provisions for companion animals as well as people and was initiated in a Veterinary Public Policy class, according to Dr. Ted Mashima, associate director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine and faculty advisor on the project.
The Hill's Public Health Writing competition is designed to stimulate interest in veterinary public health, encourage creative thinking and develop writing skills among veterinary students, according to Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, associate executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), which coordinates the program.
"Your demonstrated commitment to public health reflects well on the VMRCVM and the veterinary medical profession," wrote Maccabe in a congratulatory letter to the students.

Equine Medical Center Records Successful Year for Neonatal Foals

Dr. McKenzie Premature delivery is as big a problem with baby horses as it is with baby humans.
Fortunately, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) in Leesburg, Virginia specializes in providing neonatal intensive care for the fragile baby horses that have entered the world a bit too soon.
"It's been quite a successful year," said Dr. Martin Furr, the Adelaide C. Riggs Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and the clinical faculty member who coordinates the center's neonatal care service. "We've had a number of really intensive and atypical cases that have turned out okay."
About 60 foals have been admitted to the hospital for neonatal intensive care during the February to May 2006 foaling season that is just winding down, and about 80 percent have been successfully treated, Furr said.
The normal gestation period for a horse is about 345 days. But sometimes, as a result of placental infection or other causes not well understood, a foal is born too early. When that happens, serious medical complications may arise.
"Neonatal disease can range from minor to very severe," said Furr, who adds that the majority of the foals that present to the hospital for advanced care are about a month premature. "Most of the cases that come here are in the very severe category."
The premature foals are often suffering from respiratory problems and complications like infections and cardiac problems.
Treating a neonatal foal is an intensive process that involves around-the-clock care for anywhere from 10 to 14 days, said Furr. Medical therapy involves the administration of IV fluids, parenteral nutrition, antibiotics, oxygen, cardiac monitoring and other support therapy. And yes, it can be a very expensive process.
At EMC, the mothers are often admitted with the foal, so it is not unusual to see a concerned mother nuzzling a baby hooked up to an array of tubes and wires and electronic medical equipment.
The EMC has operated a very successful foal-watching program for about 15 years where community volunteers come in to sit with the foals, doing everything from cradling the tender neonates to assisting the nursing staff.
"Our neonatal intensive care service has been a real success story for us," said Dr. Nat White, the Jean Ellen duPont Shehan Professor and Director of the EMC. "We're very pleased to be able to provide this level of service for the regional horse community and we're very grateful to all of our volunteers."
Furr has also established a six-month post-DVM internship program that has attracted veterinarians from the United Kingdom, Finland, New Zealand, Australia and other countries who wish to learn more about neonatal foal intensive care programs.
Watching a healthy thoroughbred foal weighing 95 - 100 pounds stand for the first time is an exhilarating moment for many horse owners. Thanks to the advanced medical care available at the EMC, many equine "preemies" are not far behind.
Owned by Virginia Tech and operated as one of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's three campuses, the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is one of the world's leading university-affiliated equine hospitals.

VMRCVM Homecoming September 29-30

Alumni Enjoy Tailgate Festivities The VMRCVM Alumni Society's annual "Homecoming" event has been scheduled for the weekend of September 29-30, according to Director of Alumni Relations and Student Affairs Lynn Young. Classes celebrating anniversaries will include '86, '91, '96 and '01.
The weekend will include the Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech football game and a pre-game "Tailgate" will be held on the college grounds prior to the game.
Events get underway on Friday, the 29th, with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association's Mentor/Mentee Workshop, continuing education events. On Friday evening, an OctoberFest Event will be held at Mountain Lake.
Registration for the event is $60 and includes Friday and Saturday meals. Individual registration for the Friday night event is $40 and the Saturday Tailgate event is $35. Football tickets must be purchased separately and are $40. Guests may request one football ticket per person and tickets are extremely limited, so early registration is advised.
Alumni should contact Mountain Lake directly at 540-951-1819 to arrange lodging. Single rooms are available on Thursday or Friday, but a two-night minimum is required if the stay includes Saturday. Ask for the VMRCVM block of rooms.
Room rates for Thursday are $150-230 and room rates for Friday/Saturday are $185-265. Breakfast is included.
Please contact Director of Alumni Relations and Student Affairs Lynn Young at or 540-231-5809 if you have any questions or comments.

USDA-APHIS funds Public Practice Development Program on Maryland Campus

Dr. Linda Detwiler The college's historic strength in public practice training programs and close relationships with federal agencies in the greater Washington D.C. area continue to bear fruit.
A recent $204,000 grant provided by the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) will provide funding for the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland campus to assist the agency in identifying and training undergraduate, graduate, and veterinary students who are interested in various aspects of public practice.
Dr. Linda Detwiler, a senior USDA employee who is one of the nation's leading experts on Mad Cow Disease and other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE's), has been hired on the College Park campus to lead the effort.
Officials at the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) have recently expressed interest in establishing a similar program with the center, according to Dr. Bettye Walters, director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine.

Marie Suthers McCabe Leaves VMRCVM to Join Heifer International

Dr. Marie Suthers McCabe Participates in a Ceremony in India Dr. Marie Suthers McCabe, who established and has led the college's Center for Human Animal Relationships (CENTAUR), has accepted a position as Director of Community Education with Heifer International and will move to their national headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas this summer.
"Dr. Suthers McCabe has made important contributions to our college and the profession," said VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig. "While her departure is a loss for us, she will bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to Heifer International during an important time in their development."
Suthers McCabe established CENTAUR during her tenure at the college and has developed a number of programs that have helped scientists and lay people understand and celebrate the human-animal bond. She played an instrumental role in the development and operation of the college's Pet Loss Support Hotline and she has been extensively involved with the St. Francis of Assisi Service Dog Foundation, where she worked with their Prison Pup Program and others. Other areas of activity included Equine Assisted Therapy programs, the reduction of canine pain through Reiki, handler/animal relationships with canine explosive detection dogs, and others.
Heifer International is a 60-year old global organization which seeks to reduce poverty and hunger through the development of livestock-based and other sustainable development programs. Based in Little Rock and with installations around the world, Heifer employs hundreds of people.
"My job is to teach people about the root causes of hunger and poverty," said Dr. Suthers McCabe who will be primarily concentrating her efforts on building understanding for Heifer International programs and resource development in developed nations.
Dr. Suthers McCabe also served for two weeks at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City as a member of an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) VMAT team.
While working with the college, she served as president of the National Association of Human/Animal Bond Veterinarians. She was awarded the Virginia Distinguished Veterinarian Award from the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association in 2006. She was recently awarded the AVMA's "2005 Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award," the highest honor accorded within the veterinary profession for achievements in the area of the human/animal bond.
Most recently, Dr. Suthers McCabe helped lead a 12-person Anthrozoology Tour to India, where they critically examined the complex relationship that exists between people and their livestock and looked at the role it is playing as people continue to recover from the devastating Tsunami of December 2004.

Feldman Honored with National Public Health Award

Dr. Katherine Feldman Dr. Katherine Feldman, assistant director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, has been awarded the 2006 James H. Steele Veterinary Public Health Award.
Feldman was primarily honored for work she accomplished as a Centers for Disease Control Epidemiologic Investigation Service officer from July 2000 through June 2002 with the Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases in Fort Collins, Colorado.
She has conducted a number of important epidemiologic investigations and significant public health activities, including service as principal investigator in a landmark epidemiological study of primary pneumonic tularemia, which occurred in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. This outbreak was only the second pneumonic tularemia outbreak in the United States and it came during a time of heightened concern about the possible use of tularemia as a bio-weapon.
Dr. Feldman has also been involved with the epidemiological investigations of West Nile Virus infection in New York City, Tick-borne Relapsing Fever in Nevada, Britain's outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001, and the post-9/11 anthrax incidents in New York City.
The Steele award recognizes the outstanding contributions of current or recent former EIS Officers in the investigation, control, or prevention of zoonotic diseases or other animal-related human health problems.

Veterinary Memorial Fund Research Grants Awarded

The Pet Memorial Fund Almost $90,000 in clinical research grants have been awarded to six principal investigators in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) through the 2006-07 distribution of Veterinary Memorial Fund research grants.
Founded in 1984, the Veterinary Memorial Fund is a program jointly operated by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and the VMRCVM that helps bereaved pet-owners deal with their grief and raises money to improve the quality of healthcare available for future generations of companion animals.
Proposals were selected for funding on the basis of contemporary clinical importance by a committee comprised of veterinarians in private practice and VMRCVM faculty-members.
"This program serves as a good example of the translational medicine/research programs we are building throughout the college," said VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig. "Working closely with practitioners in the field to identify current animal healthcare challenges, we are able to focus the power of university research in a way that produces solutions. quickly and effectively."
Professors and grant requests that have been funded include the following:
Dr. Ed Monroe, professor, Department of Small Animal clinical Sciences (DSACS), "Effect of hypothyroidism on insulin sensitivity and the role of counter-regulatory hormones to insulin in dogs," $14,658.
Dr. David Panciera, professor, DSACS, "Efficacy and safety of iopanoic acid for treatment of experimentally-induced and naturally-occurring hyperthyroidism in cats," $21,680.
Dr. Jonathan Abbott, associate professor, DSACS, "Relationship between peak aortic velocity and echocardiographic indices of ventricular performance and geometry," $14,077.
Dr. David Grant, assistant professor, DSACS, "Laser lithotripsy of canine uroliths," $14,300.
Dr. Stephanie Berry, assistant professor, DSACS, "Cardiovascular effects of dopamine, dobutamine, and norepinephrine in hypothyroid dogs," $7,911.
Dr. Otto Lanz, associate professor, DSACS, "Biomedical comparison of LCP and LC-DCP in a metaphyseal gap fracture model," $14,734.
One of the principal benefits of the Veterinary Memorial Fund is the way it links community veterinarians around the state with college researchers in a way that directly serves animals and their owners, Schurig noted.
When a companion animal passes away, the practitioner makes a financial donation to the fund. The dean of the VMRCVM then sends a letter of condolence announcing the memorial to the bereaved.
Then a team of private practitioners and college researchers work together to identify the kind of research that needs to be done to address urgent veterinary healthcare issues in the field, proposals are evaluated and funded, and the work is completed, Schurig said.
Founded in 1984 by the college and the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA), the fund is one of the oldest such funds in the nation. Since it's inception, the fund has raised almost $1 million that has been used to fund more than 100 clinical research programs.

Research Symposium Focuses on Translational Research

Diagram of Translational Research Themed this year on translational research, the college's 2006 Research Symposium included opening comments from Dean Gerhardt Schurig and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies Dr. Roger Avery and a major introductory address from Dr. Franziska B. Grieder, director, Division of Comparative Medicine, National Center of Research Resources, National Institutes of Health.
During her keynote address entitled "Veterinary Scientists and Comparative Medicine- Their Role in Translational Research," Grieder discussed the growing importance of veterinary medicine in the advancement of biomedical research and commended the college's approach to the development of its research program and the importance of translational research as a "niche" for research conducted at veterinary schools.
During a presentation entitled "Translational Research: A Clinical Scientist Perspective," Dr. Linda Dahlgren, assistant professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), said there were many opportunities for clinically trained faculty with inquisitive minds to work collaboratively with basic scientists in problem-solving and discussed some of her work with tendon and ligament repair.
In a presentation entitled "Examples of research illustrating ways that 'Translational Research' can be implemented in our environment," Dr. Peter Shires, professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS), suggested that clinicians should play a larger role in setting the research agenda, called for more bi-directional communication between clinicians and basic scientists, and discussed some of his work with bone healing as an example.
Dr. Sharon Witonsky Dr. Sharon Witonsky was honored with the Pfizer Award for Research Excellence and several VMRCVM graduate students earned honors in the basic and clinical sciences awards competitions.
Dr. Witonsky, an assistant professor in DLACS, joined the faculty after completing a post-doc at the University of Tennessee and St. Judes Children's Hospital in Memphis. She earned the college's most distinguished research award as a result of work she is doing with the molecular mechanisms of Equine Protozoal Myelitis (EPM) and other work in immunology and infectious diseases.
The first place award for graduate student presentations in the basic sciences went to Undine Christmann; second was awarded to Oscar Peralta; and third place awards were presented to Nathan Beach and Alicia Feagins.
The first place award for graduate student presentations in the clinical sciences went to Graham Keys; second place went to Melinda Wood; and third place went to Heidi Baitis.
Two other awards were presented at the concluding ceremony. Barbara Wise was honored with the Research Staff co-worker Award and Steve DeHart was honored with the Outstanding Contributor Award.
Please click here to view a photo gallery of the 2006 Research Symposium award winners.

A Different Spring Break

Kelly Zeytoonian and Newfound Friends and Colleagues Class of 2009 student Kelly Zeytoonian traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula area of Mexico over spring break as part of a travel abroad program organized by Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine program director Dr. Bettye Walters in collaboration with Dr. Jorge Hernandez of the University of Florida. Kelly's account of her experiences shares some insights about the role of veterinary medicine in developing cultures.
By Kelly Zeytoonian
Class of 2009
When you think about College Spring Break, tropical destinations or ski resorts are the first things that usually come to mind; and to anyone who heard that I went to Mexico the trip would seem all too ordinary. I wasn't too far from "la playa" (the beach) and tour buses for Cancun tempted myself and the other students I was with. What made my trip so different you might ask?
I spent my week in Tunkas, Mexico with veterinary students from the University of Florida and the Escuela de Medicina Veteriandia y Zootecina at the University of Yucatan. These two schools have been partnering up for about the last 5 years to assist local medical doctors in rabies vaccinations for the town of Tunkas' dog and cat population. A student from VMRCVM was able to participate in the trip this year due to the collaborative work of our Dr. Bettye Walters and Dr. Jorge Hernandez from UF.
I was selected for the trip about a month before we were to leave and quickly began making travel plans as well as coordinating times to video conference with the UF group. The program involved three different efforts which each student would participate in at varying levels: an epidemiology study, rabies vaccinations, and spay and neuter surgeries.
The plan was for me to meet the UF Team at the hotel in Merida, Mexico on Saturday, March 4. My flight arrived in Merida earlier than the Florida group so I took the time to enjoy the beautiful outdoor courtyard, pool, and warm weather (it was snowing when I left Blacksburg, surprise surprise)! Once the group arrived we spent that night and the next morning touring downtown Merida.
Kelly Zeytoonian Assists a Neuter Procedure Sunday afternoon, we packed the bus and left to meet up with the Mexican students at Hacienda Teya, an old ranch that had been turned into a restaurant and event center. A majority of the American and Mexican students knew at least some Spanish and English, respectively, so communication was a little bit slower than usual, but not lacking. We arrived in Tunkas Sunday night and soon learned the importance of properly tying our hammocks to the wall. The homes we stayed in were provided by members of the community and scattered around the main town center. Meals were provided by owners of a local "restaurant."
Monday through Wednesday our schedule included the epidemiology survey in the morning, followed by door to door rabies vaccinations in the afternoon. The epidemiology study was the senior project for one of the first year Florida students (all students at UF have to complete a research project). The goal of her study was to measure egg production ability of a local breed verses a non-native species. I paired up with a Mexican student and we were accompanied by a Tunkas High School student, to the randomly chosen blocks of houses. At the end of the surveying, 4 homes were chosen and the birds were delivered. Their production ability will be observed over the next year. We were also accompanied by Tunkas students during rabies vaccinations. Vaccinations were provided by the local medical doctor. Conditions for vaccinating were not always the most desirable. There are a large number of stray dogs or just dogs that are allowed to roam during the day so we did our best to avoid large build ups. All the dogs had to be muzzled by the owner before we would work with them. We had 4-5 teams of vaccinators each day and I would estimate that we treated over 500 dogs in the three days of door to door work.
I was also able to assist in surgeries one of the days. The surgeries were performed in the central part of town in a covered plaza area. We had tables set up to handle 3 surgeries at a time. My primary responsibility was prepping the dogs for surgery (we used card tables) and observing their recovery (we rolled out bubble tape to lay the recovering animals on). Surgeries were performed by the 4th year Florida students and one resident from Yucatan, Dr. Nelson. I also assisted Dr. Nelson in a spay. We had an interesting case the day I was helping with surgery . . . One of the ladies whose home we had visited earlier in the week for surveying brought in her 15 day old lamb that had atresia ani. Dr. Isaza was able to perform surgery and fix the problem. The pressure definitely had to be on everyone performing surgeries, because there was always a large crowd of owners, veterinary students, and children of the village eager to see the surgeries.
Thursday, we split up into two groups and traveled to satellite villages to perform rabies vaccinations at a central location. We saw 50 animals that day. Many of the dogs in the satellite village were working or hunting dogs and their general condition was better than those I saw in main Tunkas (the main problems we observed throughout the week were very mangy dogs, fleas & ticks, and quite a few animals with transmissible venereal tumors). The Yucatan area of Mexico is known for its "cenotes" which are sink holes leading to connected underground waterways. I had expressed my interest in seeing one and the village we were in happened to have one so we took a break to see it. Historically, the cenotes served as a connection to the gods and goddesses of Mayan culture. Virgin girls were thrown into these cenotes as a gift to the goddesses.
Thursday marked the end of our time in Tunkas. We traveled to nearby Chichen Itza on Friday to see the Mayan pyramids and architecture. Our Saturday morning flights came quickly and I left the UF group for my long day of traveling home.
Throughout all my traveling I have never had an experience that I felt so immersed in a culture. The opportunity to share my developing abilities and learn from students, faculty, and staff at other universities was extremely beneficial to my experiences thus far in vet school. I would especially like to thank Dr. Bettye Walters and Dr. François Elvinger for making this opportunity available and me aware of it! I also hope opportunities like mine will become more prevalent so that VMRCVM will have more representation on a national and international level.

History Book Still Available

History in the Making The VMRCVM celebrated its recent "25th anniversary" with three major special events, several new communication programs, and of course, the installation and dedication of the magnificent "Running Together" anniversary statue. One especially enduring anniversary program was the publication of "Breaking New Ground," the comprehensive history that chronicles the founding and development of the college. Authored by former Dean Peter Eyre and founding faculty member Dr. Kent Roberts and designed by Biomedical Media Artist Terry Lawrence, the book's historic photographs and compelling narrative showcases the people, the circumstances and the events that have led to the development of our nationally recognized institution. A limited number of copies of this book are available free for any alumnus, employee, or friend of the college that would like to own one. If you have not yet received a copy and would like one, please email or telephone ( or 540-231-0465) the college's Office of College Relations and we will be glad to send you one.

Development of a Novel Avian Influenza Vaccine at UMCP

Two Avian Influenze a H5N1 Virions Interested in learning more about Bird Flu? One of the nation's leading research programs on Avian Influenza H5N1 is underway on the VMRCVM's College Park campus. Associate Dean Dr. Siba Samal recently summarized the vaccine development work underway on the campus for U.S. Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.
Development of a Novel Avian Influenza Vaccine at UMCP
By Siba K. Samal, PhD, Department of Veterinary Medicine
Influenza virus has two proteins on its surface - hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). When an influenza virus infects a human or an animal, the body produces antibodies against both of these virus proteins, but the antibody against the H protein provides better protection against the virus. There are 16 different types of H proteins and 9 different types of N proteins which are found in various combinations, e.g., H1N1, H5N1, H16N3, etc. All 16 H types of influenza virus are found in birds, but only H1, H2 and H3 have historically infected humans. Of all the 16 types, H5 is of greatest concern since it not only causes severe disease in chickens, but has now been discovered to infect humans. In the last 6 years, this virus has been jumping from birds to humans. Since humans have never been exposed to the H5 virus before, we do not have an antibody for it. All our current antibodies are against H1 and H3 viruses because the vaccines, or natural infections, are of these two virus types. H2 virus has not been detected in humans for many years, which is why none of our vaccines contain that virus.
Another interesting thing about influenza virus is that these H types constantly change due to mutations in the H gene as the virus spreads in the body. The virus does this so that it can evade the immune system and survive in the body. So, the H1-type virus that is causing all the flu this year is going to be slightly different next year. The flu vaccine made for this year's virus will not be very effective next year. That is why we make new vaccines each year incorporating the virus that we think is going to cause the flu next year, based on scientific data. In general, it takes many months to develop a flu vaccine.
Although we know that we (both humans and chickens) are facing threats of H5 virus, we cannot make an effective H5 vaccine now because we do not know exactly what kind of H5 virus will hit us. The best vaccine will be the one made from the virus that is causing the flu epidemic. Therefore, the challenge for us is going to be in how fast we can detect the first case of H5 virus infection and how soon we can make a vaccine against that H5 virus to protect other susceptible humans and/or chickens.
We have developed a method to produce an H5 flu vaccine for humans and chickens that can be made within a month. Our basic approach is to use a harmless poultry virus to produce the H5 protein of influenza virus. The poultry virus we are using is Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), which has been used to vaccinate chickens against NDV throughout the world for more than 50 years. We have developed a method of inserting the H gene of influenza virus into NDV. When this harmless NDV containing the influenza H gene is used as a vaccine on chickens, it produces antibodies against the H protein, which will protect against influenza virus. We have already made several experimental NDV-H5 vaccines; however, these particular vaccines may not be very effective against the H5 influenza virus that is going to cause an H5 epidemic. We will not know exactly what kind of H5 virus is going to hit us and our chicken industry until it happens. At the University of Maryland, we are ready to meet this challenge, should it occur. We can quickly take the H5 gene from the epidemic virus and insert it into our NDV to produce a vaccine for chickens. With our experience and based on our research data, we can make this vaccine in less than a month, and we are confident that it will be effective in controlling an avian influenza epidemic in chickens. Interestingly, NDV also infects humans, but does not cause any disease. In collaboration with scientists at NIH, we have found that NDV-vectored vaccines can be used in humans. Thus, our vaccine will also be useful for use against avian influenza in humans. To date, we have made several novel experimental NDV-H5 avian influenza vaccines for poultry and humans.

Is Computed Tomography More Sensitive Than Radiography For Diagnosing Middle Ear Disease In Dogs?

Computed Tomography Equipment Jeryl C. Jones, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVR Associate Professor, SACS
Middle ear disease (otitis media) is a common complication of chronic external ear disease (otitis externa) in dogs. When middle ear disease is diagnosed, bulla osteotomy and curettage are indicated. Radiography is currently the standard imaging modality for evaluating dogs with suspected middle ear disease. A positive radiographic diagnosis is based on presence of thickening or irregular margination of the tympanic bulla, or increased soft tissue opacity within the lumen of the bulla.
However, radiography has been found in a previous study to have low sensitivity for detection of middle ear disease in dogs. Computed tomography (CT) is a noninvasive technique that uses x-rays and computers to obtain slice images of structures. Advantages of CT versus radiography include elimination of superimposition, ability to display images in multiple planes, shorter imaging time, and higher contrast resolution. Disadvantages of CT versus radiography include higher cost and lower availability.
A Bone Window Transverse CT Image Demonstrating Left Otitis Media In a recently conducted prospective study, we compared findings from CT, radiography, surgery, and histopathology in thirty-one dogs with chronic otitis externa. All dogs were referred to the VTH for total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy. Three normal dogs served as controls. A total of 47 ears were examined surgically. A positive surgical diagnosis of middle ear disease was made in 29 ears and a negative diagnosis in 18 ears. Histopathologic severity of disease in right ears was significantly lower than left ears.
Both CT and radiography underestimated the presence of mild middle ear disease. For moderate to severe middle ear disease, observer performance was more consistent with CT than with radiography. Using surgery as the gold standard, the overall diagnostic sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive, and negative predictive values were greater for CT versus radiography.
These findings indicated that CT is more sensitive and reliable than radiography for detecting middle ear disease in dogs with chronic otitis externa, but only when the severity of middle ear disease is moderate to high. When severity of middle ear disease is low, diagnostic certainty for both modalities becomes more variable.