May 2009


Graduation Reflections

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The pomp and circumstance of a graduation ceremony provides an interesting moment to take a “snapshot” of our college. Despite the unprecedented economic adversity we have faced, we are making important progress on a number of fronts. Our building plans are proceeding along very well. Getting underway with two important construction projects in 2010 will be a landmark step for us, and we badly need these facilities in order to support the growth of our instructional, research, and service programs.

We have developed a number of strategic alliances with the emerging Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. I am enjoying the opportunity I have to serve on the board of directors, and Drs. Lud Eng and Greg Daniel are playing a critical role in the development of the new medical school’s curriculum. Under Dr. François Elvinger’s leadership we are developing a new MPH degree program in conjunction with the school of medicine that will be based here in our college. All of these initiatives are building a relationship that I think serves as a laudable national model of how veterinary colleges and human medical colleges can work together to foster the “one world, one health, one medicine” concept. Building this rapport between veterinary and human medicine will be essential as we confront emerging infectious disease threats and conduct the biomedical research that must be done in order to deal with the substantial healthcare challenges of the 21st century.

We are also reminded at graduation about the superlative quality of our faculty. Over the past 10 years, VMRCVM faculty members have been recognized as the national veterinary college professor of the year on three separate occasions. Considering the thousands of different faculty members employed at the nation’s 28 colleges of veterinary medicine, this makes a powerful statement about the quality of our faculty, their commitment to teaching, and their dedication to scholarship and academic excellence.

Under Dr. Bill Pierson’s leadership, we are making important progress in “retooling” our Blacksburg-based Veterinary Teaching Hospital for even greater levels of success in the years ahead. Economic pressures and changing specialty practice dynamics have created a new operating environment for the nation’s veterinary teaching hospitals. We are working more closely than ever with our referring practitioner base to develop new ways to align our services with their practice needs, and we have recently initiated important conversations with the West Virginia veterinary practice community. We have also taken steps to fortify our operations at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.

We also worked closely with the Virginia and Maryland legislatures on two important issues this year. In Maryland, SB 78 codified and refined the role Maryland veterinary practitioners can play in training our DVM students. In Virginia, House Joint Resolution 730 provided a legislative director for our college to conduct a study that examines the shortage of food animal veterinarians in Virginia. Both of these initiatives have brought the college very important visibility in these legislative bodies.

Despite the adversity of budget cuts, our college has had a good year. I thank you all for helping us achieve what we have and look forward to the excitement and progress that awaits us in the 2009-2010 academic year.

Sincerely,

Gerhardt G. Schurig
Dean
 


VT Board of Visitors Expected to Approve New Masters in Public Health Program

Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors is expected to approve a new Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program that will be based in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and operated in collaboration with the Virginia Tech Carilion (VTC) School of Medicine during their spring meeting.

The State Council for Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) will now review the program and pending approval, students could begin enrolling by fall 2010, according to Dr. Francois Elvinger, a veterinary epidemiologist and professor in the VMRCVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

The nation is facing a critical shortage of trained public health professionals during a time that coincides with a period of substantially increased risks, according to Elvinger. These include food safety, food security, and environmental health issues, he said, as well as emerging zoonotic infectious disease agents such as currently circulating avian and swine influenza viruses.

“There is no doubt that acute public health workforce shortages need to be addressed in southwest Virginia, Virginia, the United States and beyond,” said Elvinger, who is working closely with Dr. Kerry Redican, professor of education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and Susan West Marmagas, assistant director for program development for Virginia Tech’s Public Health Program, on the development of the new program.

“In the United States, the public health workforce has been shrinking in the last decades, and an additional quarter-million public health workers need to be trained and deployed by 2020 to ensure appropriate capacity in public health,” he said, adding that the Association of Schools of Public Health stated in a 2008 report entitled “Confronting the Public Health Workforce Crisis” that the graduation rate must be tripled over the next 12 years to meet demand.

The 42 credit-hour program is expected to include concentrations in Public Health Education and Infectious Disease and will admit 40 students per class. Projected students include those seeking admission with a bachelor’s degree, medical students from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and veterinary students from the VMRCVM who can pursue the MPH conjointly with their MD and DVM degrees, and mid-career health professionals.

The curriculum will include coursework in biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, health services administration, health behavior and other areas. It is also expected to generate a number of instructional, research, and outreach partnerships between Virginia Tech and community health agencies.

“The development of this new degree program is another example of the growing collaboration between human and veterinary medicine,” noted VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig, who is a member of the board of directors of the VTC School of Medicine. “We live in an age where physicians and veterinarians must work more closely together than ever before in order to protect public health.”

In June 2007, the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling for greater cooperation between physicians and veterinarians, Schurig noted, and allied health professions such as human and veterinary medicine are beginning to embrace a “one world, one health, one medicine” concept as they take an integrated approach to controlling infectious and other diseases that reach across all species and the globe.

“We have many different areas of collaboration with the VTC School of Medicine,” he said. “In many ways the relationship between our two medical schools is a symbol of what is happening with the national and international professions.”

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Becvar Providing Needed Hoof Care to Cattle Locally and Around the World

Dr. Ondrej Becvar

Dr. Ondrej Becvar, a clinical instructor in the DLACS, demonstrates proper cattle hoof care. Becvar, a leading expert in his field, is working to improve bovine hoof locally and around the world.

When one considers lameness problems in large animals, horses are often the first that come to mind. However, cattle, specifically those on dairy farms, are also at risk for the malady that can result in poor milk production and significant economic loss for farm owners.

In the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Ondrej Becvar, a clinical instructor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, is working to provide proper hoof care to cattle locally and around the world.

Lameness can occur in cattle for a variety of reasons, according to Becvar, including claw disease, digital dermatitis, and foot rot. While a variety of preventive measures can be taken to help lessen the chances of these problems, including management of nutrition, housing, and the local environment, one of the mainstays is claw trimming. Becvar provides this service to local clients both in the hospital and on the farm through the use of a portable, manual chute and a selection of trimming tools.

“Trimming feet and working on lame cows is physically demanding work that requires knowledge of anatomy, a sense of geometry, mechanics, and a little bit of art,” said Becvar. “It is also mentally challenging to figure out why the cows are suffering from lameness and to then design a prevention plan to reduce the risk of the problem occurring again the future.”

Becvar’s interest and commitment to this world-wide problem led him to help establish the Claw Trimmers Association in 1999 in the Czech Republic, where he is originally from. The association’s mission is to help hoof trimmers and dairy farmers learn more about hoof care and lameness prevention. It provides several seminars, conferences, and training courses each year. Becvar has remained active in the association even after moving to Blacksburg to join the VMRCVM in 2003. He is also now a member of the North American Claw Trimmers Association and is working to build a link between the organization and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners.

“The North American Claw Trimmers Association is now working on establishing a certification program for professional claw trimmers like what is already established in several European countries,” explains Becvar. “My opinion is veterinarians, veterinary colleges, and veterinary organizations should be actively involved in this certification process since it will also add to the education and opportunities for our veterinary students interested in food animal medicine.”

Becvar also hopes to continue establishing a cattle hoof-health program at the VMRCVM which will not only provide service to local clients and patients and train the college’s veterinary students, but which will also have a strong research component that will benefit the whole industry and attract individuals interested in this field to the college.

“Dr. Becvar is one of the leading experts in this field. In only a few short years he has established a local, national, and international reputation in this critically important field of animal health. His dedication to his craft and to sharing his knowledge with others is obvious,” said Dr. David Hodgson, head of the DLACS. “Our college and hospital, and I am sure our clients, are very pleased to have his services.”

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Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center Restructuring to Capitalize on New Operating Environment

EMC restructuring

Several administrative and operational modifications have recently been implemented to help the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center operate more efficiently in a challenging economic environment.

Several administrative and operational modifications designed to help Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center operate more efficiently in a challenging economic environment have been implemented by Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM).

“The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is a vital part of the future of our regional college, and it is a major Virginia Tech facility in the National Capital Region,” said Schurig. “Our goal with these changes is to position the center to become more viable and more successful in the years ahead.”

According to Schurig, Dr. Nat White, the Jean Ellen duPont Shehan Professor and Director of the center, will retain overall leadership responsibility for the facility. However, Chief Operating and Fiscal Officer Richard Gargagliano will assume direct responsibility for the implementation of strategies designed to ensure that the center meets a series of revenue development and cost-containment goals that have been created as part of the restructuring effort. This element of the restructuring plan will provide greater separation between the business decision-making and clinical decision-making lines in the equine medical center’s administration.

“Despite needing to eliminate two clinical faculty-positions and four staff positions, our plan is to maintain and improve existing levels of service and quality,” said Schurig. “The equine medical center is a world-class equine hospital and it is very important for our clients and our referring practitioners to understand that our focus on excellence in around-the-clock clinical care will continue.”

In addition to providing advanced referral services for performance, pleasure, and show horses and conducting research, the equine medical center provides unparalleled training opportunities for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students enrolled in the VMRCVM. It also offers post-graduate internship and residency training programs for veterinarians who come from veterinary colleges based in the United States and around the world.

The equine medical center, like many university-affiliated veterinary hospitals, has been forced to contend with a number of changing circumstances in their operating environment. These include increased competition from board-certified equine specialists in the private sector, as well as deteriorating economic conditions that have affected the horse industry and reduced demand for equine healthcare.

“We’re confident that this enhanced business model will position the equine medical center for even greater levels of success in the years ahead,” said Schurig. “Through increased market development, superior clinical care, and exceptional levels of customer service, we believe that the center will continue to function as an integral resource for the regional and national horse industry.”

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VMRCVM’s 2009 Commencement

Dr. David Panciera

Dr. David Panciera, a professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, addresses graduates, dignitaries, and guests during the veterinary college’s 2009 commencement ceremonies. In keeping with tradition, the graduating class invited a favorite faculty member to address them during the ceremony.

Eighty-six new veterinarians were awarded diplomas from the VMRCVM during ceremonies on May 15 and 16 on the VMRCVM’s Virginia Tech campus.

In addition to the 86 DVM degrees, the college awarded seven Ph.D. and M.S. degrees and Certificates of Residency.

Featuring dignitaries from both Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland, the colorful pageant featured the presentation of diplomas jointly awarded by Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland at College Park, the administration of the "Veterinarian's Oath," the "Hooding Ceremony," and numerous awards and honors.

In keeping with tradition, the graduating class invited a favorite faculty member to address them during the ceremony. Dr. David Panciera, professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, regaled the graduates and their friends and families with humorous glimpses of college life and shared some advice for future success.

Dr. Tom Massie, president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, administered the "Veterinarian's Oath" and Dr. John Paul “Jack” O’Mara, president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, welcomed the new graduates into the profession on behalf of the organized veterinary medical community.

Dr. Lindsay Turnbull, the valedictorian of the class of 2009, was awarded the Richard B. Talbot Award, and Dr. Tanya LeRoith, was honored as the Outstanding Young Alumna.

On Friday, May 15, the college held its annual Graduation Awards Luncheon. Scores of students and faculty members were honored for their academic performance and teaching excellence during the ceremony.

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Dr. Tanya LeRoith Named Outstanding Recent Alumna

Dr. Tanya LeRoith

Dr. Tanya LeRoith (’99) (left) receives Virginia Tech’s 2008-2009 Outstanding Recent Alumni Award for the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine from Dean Gerhardt Schurig. LeRoith is currently an assistant professor of anatomic pathology in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

Dr. Tanya LeRoith has been named the recipient of Virginia Tech’s 2008-2009 Outstanding Recent Alumni Award for the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. LeRoith is also an assistant professor of anatomic pathology in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP).

LeRoith was a natural choice for this award, according to Dr. Ansar Ahmed, head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.

"Dr. LeRoith distinguished herself as a talented clinician, instructor and researcher during a relatively short period of time," said Ahmed. "We’re fortunate to have her as a faculty member in the department."

LeRoith received her Bachelor of Science degree in 1994 from the University of Maryland and her DVM from the VMRCVM in 1999. In 2005, she was awarded a Ph.D. in microbiology/pathology from Washington State University.

During the course of her education, she served as a summer student intern and PreIRTA fellow at the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health and as a Zweig Foundation Fellow at the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. From 1999 to 2005, she was a graduate student and resident in anatomic pathology at Washington State University. She joined the VMRCVM in 2005. In 2006, she became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.

LeRoith has been honored numerous times for her scientific achievements, including the Charles L. Davis Foundation Student Scholarship Award in 2004 and the Harriet B. Rigas Award for Outstanding Woman in Graduate Studies at the Doctorate Level in 2005. In 2006, she was one of the recipients of a Virginia Tech’s Advance VT Seed Grant for her research proposal that focused on the characterization of the protective immune response to the hepatitis E virus.

To be eligible for the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award, recipients must be graduates of the past 10 years and each should have distinguished him or herself professionally in his/her career or in rendering service to the university since graduating. The faculty of each college nominates and decides upon the recipient for their individual college.

LeRoith was presented with her award during the college's spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 9, 2009 in the Commonwealth Ballroom.

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Turnbull Named Outstanding Graduating Student Award Recipient

Dr. Lindsay Turnbull

Dr. Lindsay Turnbull (’09) has been named the Outstanding Graduating Student in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine for the 2008-09 academic year. The award is co-sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and the senior class.

Virginia Tech has named Dr. Lindsay Turnbull as the Outstanding Graduating Student in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine for the 2008-09 academic year.

During her time at Virginia Tech, Turnbull has participated in a variety of extracurricular activities and held a wide range of leadership positions.

Turnbull has excelled academically and earned recognition as a member of both Phi Sigma, a biological honor society, and Phi Zeta, a veterinary honor society. Among her honors and awards are the Dr. G. Daniel Boon Memorial Award for Excellence in Clinical Pathology and the Novartis Animal Health Award for Parasitology.

Turnbull is also involved in several extracurricular university organizations. She is a member of the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Student Chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She is also the fundraising chair for Omega Tau Sigma, a veterinary service fraternity.

The Outstanding Senior Awards are presented at the Student Honors Day Banquet each spring. These awards are co-sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and the senior class.

The purpose of the award is to recognize outstanding student performance in each college of the university. Students are selected on the basis of their grade point average (3.4 or higher on a 4.0 scale) and outstanding performance in several or all of the following areas: academic achievement, extracurricular activities, leadership positions, and contributions of service to the university and/or community.

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Dr. Kent Roberts inducted into Dalton Society

Dr. Kent C. Roberts

Dr. Kent C. Roberts (right) is presented with the veterinary college’s most prestigious honor, the John N. Dalton Award, by Dean Gerhardt Schurig (left) during the 2009 commencement ceremonies at Virginia Tech. Roberts was recognized for his lifetime achievements and contributions to the college and to veterinary medicine.

Dr. Kent C. Roberts was presented with the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s most prestigious honor, the John N. Dalton Award, during the college’s 2009 commencement ceremonies at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Roberts was recognized for his lifetime achievements and contributions as a successful private practitioner, a leader in the organized veterinary medical community, a founding faculty member of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and his generous donations as a philanthropist.

“History will view the role that Dr. Kent C. Roberts has played in the development of the profession of veterinary medicine in Virginia as one that is broad and deep, one that is steeped in service to people and animals, and one that is characterized by devotion to duty,” said VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig. “He has played a monumental role in the creation and development of our college.”

After service in the United States Navy in World War II, Roberts followed his father’s footsteps and earned a DVM from the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in 1951. Shortly thereafter, he established a private veterinary practice in Purcellville, Va. and operated it for almost three decades.

During this time, Roberts was elected and served as president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, served as a member of the board and eventually the president of the Virginia State Board of Veterinary Examiners, and he was appointed by the governor of Virginia to serve as a member of the Virginia Veterinary Medicine Study Commission, a group which was charged with assessing the need and considering the feasibility of the creation of a college of veterinary medicine for the State of Virginia. In 1974, the same year that VMRCVM founding Dean Richard B. Talbot was recruited from the University of Georgia to come to Virginia and build a new college, Roberts was named the Virginia Veterinarian of the Year by the VVMA.

Several years later, Dean Talbot contacted Roberts and invited him to come to Blacksburg, join the faculty and help build the school. Heavily involved with family and friends, deeply involved with community affairs and enjoying what he once described as being in “a comfortable rut,” he consulted his wife Shirley, who proclaimed: “Well if you’re ever going to do anything else, I suppose we better get on with it.”

Roberts joined the college and arrived in 1980, during the first year of college operations. He served as director of extension, helped establish the Southwest Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, created and edited the extension publication “Virginia Veterinary Notes” (which he directed for more than two decades), recruited private practitioners to participate in DVM student clerkships, and taught.

He served as an important ambassador for the college, establishing key relationships with the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders and other organizations. For years he stewarded the college’s continuing education program, organizing continuing education programs for practitioners and related organizations such as the Virginia Animal Control Officers’ Association. He also provided important leadership for the college as interim Veterinary Teaching Hospital director.

Roberts was also active on the national arena. He served as president of the American Association of Extension Veterinarians, and he played an important role in helping build what is considered one of the largest and most comprehensive veterinary continuing education events in the world: the North American Veterinary Conference. Roberts served as president of the NAVC in 1991. He has been active in many professional societies and has been a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association since 1951.

Roberts was accorded “emeritus” status by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in 1994 and “retired” from the college in 1995, although he continued to serve as a volunteer for many years afterwards.

In 2002, Roberts & his family endowed the C. R. Roberts Professorship in Clinical Veterinary Medicine in the VMRCVM, which is now occupied by Professor Michael Leib in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. The professorship was designed to honor the life and contributions of Kent’s father Clarence, a veterinarian who began as a hard-working dairy practitioner in upstate New York and went on to forge a career in corporate veterinary medicine, retiring as president of Sealtest, a division of Kraft Foods. Clarence was eminently proud of the contributions his own son Kent has made during in his own career in veterinary medicine and veterinary education, and the endowed scholarship is designed to recognize each.

Roberts is now “actively” retired, and he and Shirley spend much of their time at their home in Williamsburg, Va.

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Cep Earns Prestigious American Veterinary Medical Association Congressional Science Fellowship

Dr. Melinda Cep

Dr. Melinda Cep (’09) has been named a 2009-2010 AVMA Congressional Science Fellow. She will spend a year in Washington, D.C. serving as a scientific resource for members of the federal government.

Dr. Melinda Cep, a member of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2009, has been named one of two 2009-2010 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Congressional Science Fellows.

As part of this prestigious award, Cep, who completed the VMRCVM’s public and corporate veterinary medicine track, will spend a year in Washington, D.C. serving as a scientific resource for members of the federal government.

According to the AVMA, the fellowships are intended to help veterinarians gain a better understanding of the governmental process, gain insight into the future of science and the veterinary profession, and assist in creating the legislation and regulations that affect the nation and the profession.

“We are very proud of Dr. Cep’s fellowship,” said Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the veterinary college. “Over the course of her education, she has consistently proven herself to be an advocate for the importance of veterinary medicine in public health and this award is testimony to her hard work.”

Schurig also noted the importance of the college’s Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine in steering Cep and other students into careers in public, government, and corporate service. The center serves as the leading national and international resource for students and graduates interested in perusing this important, and underserved, area of the profession.

Cep’s fellowship will begin in August 2009 and run until August of the following year.

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Equine Medical Center to Host 25th Anniversary Open House

EMC 25th Anniversary

As part of the ongoing celebration of its 25th anniversary, the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is holding an Open House on Saturday, June 13 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

As part of the ongoing celebration of its 25th anniversary, the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is holding an Open House on Saturday, June 13 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Several demonstrations using live horses are scheduled. The center’s faculty will perform ultrasound exams, endoscopy tests, and will put a horse through its paces on the high-speed treadmill. Also, demonstrations will take place that show how acupuncture is performed on a horse, how horses get their teeth cleaned, and visitors can witness an equine “surgical procedure” (but the patient will be a stuffed toy horse).

In addition, two presentations on how to prepare a competitive application for veterinary college will be made and lectures on equine colic will be featured.

Those attending the open house can visit with a Clydesdale named “Forest,” along with several horses from the U.S. Army’s Caisson and Therapeutic Riding Program. “Bo,” a miniature horse that has learned behaviors and tricks through clicker training, will also be on hand to demonstrate his skills.

The open house will also include children’s activities, and refreshments will be available. For more information, visit www.equinemedicalcenter.net.

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Communications and Hospital Stores Work Behind the Scenes to Keep the VTH and College Running Smoothly

Hospital Stores

The staff of Hospital Stores includes Karolee Furrow (left) and Margaret Slusser (right). Together with Communications, they work behind the scenes to help keep the hospital and college running smoothly.

Although they may never actually see a patient, the staff members in Hospital Stores and Communications are hard at work making sure that the Veterinary Teaching Hospital runs smoothly, according to Dr. Bill Pierson, hospital director.

Margaret Slusser, who has been with the college 23 years, supervises the Hospital Stores staff, which includes Karolee Furrow, who has 12 years of service to the VMRCVM community. Slusser and Furrow are responsible for ordering medical supplies and special items needed for clinical care and research and distributing these items throughout the hospital and college.

They manage the cleaning and care of all of the hospital’s linens, including scrubs and lab coats, and receive and distribute all packages delivered to the college. According to Slusser, the number of packages received every year totals somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000. Once the college’s new security measures are all in place, Slusser and Furrow will also be responsible for monitoring the receiving area to make sure all proper protocols are followed.

Hospital Stores also has its own inventory control program that stocks a variety of products for offices and laboratories throughout the college. Slusser and Furrow sell approximately $50,000 worth of goods and supplies each month, including food for both outpatients and inpatients.

“By ordering items at the lowest possible price and getting them here quickly, we can accommodate orders that clients and researchers are in need of,” said Slusser. “The most rewarding part of our job is making sure we always have the materials needed to make our patients well.”

Just down the hall from Hospital Stores are Judy Hutchison and her staff in Communications. In total, the group of six has almost 74 years of service to the college with Hutchison leading the group at 33 years. Other staff members include Ted Smusz, with 28 years at the college; Terry Tawney, with seven years; Anne Swain, with five years; Jamie Goad, with almost one year; and Corey Howells, who serves as the after-hours lock-up officer, with one and a half years.

While clients may not have ever met these staff members, chances are they have spoken to them at least once or twice. That’s because they are responsible for answering the over 114,000 external phone calls that come into the college each year, many of them from clients seeking care for their sick animal.

“I like helping animals and clients get the help and care they need,” said Hutchison, who has been with college since its infancy. “It’s great when clients call back and are excited about how well their pets are doing and how much they are appreciate the care they received during their visit.”

All members of the Communications staff also count speaking to alumni of the college as another one of the favorite parts of the job.

In addition to the voluminous amount of telephone traffic handled by Communications, they are also responsible for many of the college and hospital’s day-to-day infrastructure and security needs including key and lock control, pager and cell phone distribution, and directories management. The office also provides the college’s telephone and Ethernet systems’ design, ordering, installation and repair, and compiles a nightly, 50-person hospital emergency on-call schedule to be used for after-hours emergencies.

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Veterinary Teaching Hospital Offers Full-Service Camelid Care

camelid care

Dr. Laura Lee (second from right), a resident in the DLACS, and fourth-year students pose with Molly the camel and her baby. Molly’s baby was recently brought into the VTH for treatment for meningitis. Camelids, like Molly’s baby, make up almost 30 percent of the hospital’s large animal caseload.

Molly’s baby was sick. She wasn’t eating; she was lethargic; and she had mild ataxia. The baby camel, also called a calf, needed specialized neonatal care, so her owners brought her to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Harry T. Peter Jr. Large Animal Clinic in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital where faculty members are skilled in providing care to camelids, like Molly’s baby.

Molly’s baby was brought into the hospital with her mother. Bringing babies in with their mothers is typical for all camelids, according to Dr. Laura Lee, a resident in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), as it reduces stress on the calf and the mother and also allows the baby to continue to continue to drink its mother’s milk.

After a physical examination and a round of tests, the calf was diagnosed with meningitis and a regimen of intravenous fluids, antibiotics, other supportive medications, and a plasma transfusion were ordered. Despite having a life-threatening illness, she responded very well to the treatments and, after nine days in the hospital, was able to return home.

“Molly’s baby’s long term prognosis is very good,” said Lee.

While camels may not be very common patients in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, other camelids, like alpacas and llamas are. Camelids make up approximately 30 percent of the hospital’s large animal caseload, according to Dr. David Hodgson, head of the DLACS.

“Alpacas and llamas are very commonly raised for their fiber and are of great value to their owners,” explains Hodgson. “Having highly-skilled faculty members with appropriate knowledge and a hospital with advanced treatment and diagnostic facilities to provide care for these animals is of great benefit to the animal, their owner, and the community.”

The hospital provides comprehensive specialist services in such areas as internal medicine, surgery, neurologic disease, cardiac disorders, ophthalmic evaluations, and nutrition consultations. The Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Radiology Center also provides the college’s veterinarians with the diagnostic imaging services necessary to perform a variety of non-invasive testing on the animals should they be needed.

Should it become necessary, state-of-the-art surgical suites are available where surgeons can perform everything from orthopedic and gastrointestinal procedures to caesarian sections.

The college’s Theriogenology team also offers complete reproductive service and consultations. The team can address such issues as male and female infertility, semen analysis, pregnancy diagnosis, and fetal wellbeing assessment.

“From pregnancy to birth and into adulthood, our hospital is ready to provide care to these animals,” said Hodgson.

Camelid owners who are interested in services are asked to call the hospital’s main line at 540-231-4621 to contact a clinician or to schedule an appointment.

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Dr. Grant H. Turnwald honored with emeritus status

Dr. Grant H. Turnwald

Dr. Grant H. Turnwald, professor of internal medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and former associate dean for academic affairs, has been conferred the "professor emeritus" title by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

Dr. Grant H. Turnwald, professor of internal medicine and former associate dean for academic affairs in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, has been conferred the "professor emeritus" title by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The title of emeritus may be conferred on retired professors and associate professors, administrative officers, librarians, and exceptional staff members who are specially recommended to the board of visitors by Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger. Nominated individuals who are approved by the board of visitors receive an emeritus certificate from the university.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1998, Turnwald served the veterinary college as associate dean for academic affairs from 1998 to 2009, led the college though important curricular revisions and updated the college’s professional curriculum. He developed new courses in Professional Foundations, Business Management, Career Development and Communication Skills. He also substantially expanded the college’s new DVM student orientation process and presided over the establishment of the “Mentor/Mentee” program with the Virginia and Maryland Veterinary Medical Associations.

A dedicated teacher, he was course leader and lectured in professional foundations, business management, career development and communication skills courses that provided veterinary students with the tools needed to become effective veterinary practitioners. He published 41 peer-reviewed scientific articles in scholarly publications, 17 book chapters, and 17 peer-reviewed articles focused on veterinary professional education in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.

A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Turnwald received his Bachelor of Veterinary Science (Australia’s equivalent to the DVM professional degree) from the University of Sydney and a master’s degree from Texas A&M University.

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Dr. Claudia True (‘86) Enjoying Equine Practice

Dr. Claudia True

When Dr. Claudia True (‘86) was a little girl, she used to day-dream about marrying a veterinarian. Instead, she grew up and became one. She was recently voted into the position of vice president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association.

When Dr. Claudia True (‘86) was a little girl, she used to day-dream about marrying a veterinarian. Instead, she grew up and became one.

Her shift in life plans symbolizes the gender shifts that have been occurring within the profession over the past few decades.

A self-confessed “academic gypsy,” Claudia studied at Ferrum College and George Mason before transferring to Virginia Tech and focusing on earning her DVM.

“A lot of things came second to me getting into veterinary school,” she recalled during a recent interview at the elaborate Woodside Equine Clinic in Ashland, Va., where she specializes in equine preventive medicine and dentistry. “I definitely had fun in school, but I always focused on how much studying I had to do to get the grades I needed to get in.”

Following graduation with her DVM, she conducted an internship at Texas A & M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, before returning to Virginia and affiliating with Woodside, now owned by Dr. Scott Anderson (‘84).

She’s professionally intrigued by recent academic research that illuminates the importance of equine dentistry, and spends about 85 percent of her time providing clinical services in that area. She was also active with the movement to refine regulations pertaining to registered equine dental technicians and is pleased to see 17 certified professionals in Virginia.

True values her close association with academic veterinary medicine and the organized veterinary medical community and believes that it helps she and her colleagues practice high quality medicine and surgery.

For example, following a presentation made by fellow alumnus Dr. Ray Kaplan (‘88) (now a professor at the University of Georgia) on the growing anti-parasiticide resistance problem during a CE presentation held at the VMRCVM two years ago, she and her colleagues decided to abandon traditional approaches to rotational de-worming and intervene on the basis of measured fecal egg count. The new protocols are helping combat the resistance issue and clients have been pleased with outcomes, she said.

Long hours and around-the clock emergency duty are one of the factors believed to be causing shortages in the food animal and equine practitioner segments of the veterinary profession, and True believes that one logical answer is for veterinarians to do a better job of balancing work/life issues and responsibilities.

She winces when she recalls the day a long time ago when a male classmate chided her for taking up a valuable DVM educational slot, believing she would eventually marry and disregard, or at least relegate, her career.

Anything but... She did marry -- and is the mother of a seven-year old daughter. But she also works 33 to 39 hours a week and holds down once-a-month weekend emergency duty.

“I feel like I do have a fairly balanced life,” said True, who enjoys gardening and running along with family time. “But I’m also very passionate about veterinary medicine.”

That commitment to her profession is evident in her involvement with the VVMA. She believes the VVMA is an effective voice for public policy development, and is pleased to see the progress of a number of VVMA/VMRCVM collaborative programs, especially the “Mentor/Mentee” program.

“The students I have dealt with in the mentor/mentee program have been very excited that we’ve been there for them,” she said, adding that it builds a student’s comfort level with the actual world of practice. “It’s really been able to help them out and give them a good look at what we do as veterinarians.”

She was recently voted into the leadership track of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and now serves on the executive committee as vice president. Those responsibilities have given her a broad perspective of the profession and she has some concerns.

Excessive student debt burdens are one of those worries, and True wonders how debt/salary imbalances are going to factor into long-term human resource issues for the profession. She’s also concerned about funding shortfalls and economic challenges facing the VMRCVM and academic veterinary medicine in general.

The public’s recent brush with swine influenza was an educational event, she said, and even though it hasn’t materialized into the pandemic killer that some feared it would, she believes society must remain vigilant. Key to preparedness, she says, is a healthy, economically stable veterinary profession.

“There’s [probably] something else in the pipeline,” she warns, “and we’re going to have to be ready for that.”

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Blacksburg’s Talbot Memorial Park Rededicated

Talbot Memorial Park

Blacksburg’s Talbot Memorial Park was formally rededicated during recent ceremonies hosted by the Blacksburg Rotary Club. The park was originally created in 1999 to honor the late Richard B. Talbot, founding dean of the veterinary college and former president of the Rotary Club, who died during an airplane crash in 1994.

Blacksburg’s Talbot Memorial Park was formally rededicated during ceremonies hosted by the Blacksburg Rotary Club on May 28, 2009.

Located on the Huckleberry Trail, the park was originally created in 1999 to honor the late Richard B. Talbot, founding dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and president of the Rotary Club of Blacksburg from 1993-94. Talbot died during an airline crash in 1994.

Developed by the Rotary Club of Blacksburg in collaboration with Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg, the park is an attractive wayside off the Huckleberry trail that consists of a gazebo constructed and donated by students from Blacksburg High School, several park benches, and a variety of ornamental plants and trees.

A Hokie-stone marker had been placed in the ground adjacent to the gazebo, but because it was imbedded flat in the ground it was difficult to see and often overlooked by cyclists and pedestrians.

Following the development of a more visible marker that was funded by Jane Talbot and her son Lee, the Blacksburg Rotary Club decided to hold a re-dedication ceremony.

During the ceremony, VMRCVM Communications Director Jeffrey Douglas presented remarks concerning Talbot and the veterinary college.

“Dick would be eminently proud to see that the college has become all that he dreamed it would be,” said Douglas. “He would be honored to see us all gathered today in his memory.”

The Talbot Park is located about a quarter-mile down the Huckleberry Trail from the Blacksburg Public Library. The site can be easily accessed from the southern side of the Virginia Tech campus by turning into the university’s Turfgrass Research Center from Southgate Drive and proceeding down a dirt road to the park.

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