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Coming Into View Diffusion tensor imaging map of the Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus) brain


The biomedical sciences program (BIMS) is an integral part of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Not only does it represent half of our college’s name, but BIMS students represent about 46 percent of all Aggies enrolled in our veterinary school. After its recent seven-year academic review, we observed an interesting phenomenon—the BIMS program is, as one faculty member recently put it during a forum at which we discussed the program, “bursting at the seams.” With close to 2,400 students, almost a thousand more than in 2011, the year of the last academic review, the BIMS program is more popular than ever. It is the largest degree-granting program at Texas A&M and is helping to fulfill a crucial need in the state of Texas—that of more medical professionals. Looking at the BIMS program on the outset, it’s easy to connect it to the concept of “Science without Boundaries.” The program prepares students for a wealth of career paths, from the traditional, medically oriented professions to the less-traditional areas of health care administration or occupational health and safety. Our students are entering the veterinary profession and also are gaining admission to medical and dental schools at rates significantly higher than the national average. They’re going to graduate school and earning their master’s and doctoral degrees. And then they’re going out into the world and making an incredible impact on society. Walking around the halls of the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) or taking a peek

into the Biomedical Sciences Office, especially during advising periods, you can see the theme of “Science without Boundaries” playing out among the people themselves. Whether it’s the countries represented by the faculty, staff, and students, or the destinations they visit through the BIMS program’s active research and study abroad programming, the opportunities for BIMS students to expand their cultural horizons and gain new context about the impact they can make are limitless. But even more than that, while the BIMS faculty are certainly invested in the science behind biomedical sciences, through both their research and their teaching, they also prove that they are invested in guiding students who are more than just scientists, but who also are citizens of the world. In our BIMS Magazine, we hope to show you how the BIMS program embraces “Science without Boundaries” philosophically, expanding beyond what one might traditionally consider a biomedical sciences education. The faculty, renowned and highly respected in their own right, work hard to break down the “boundaries” of science in the groundbreaking research they conduct, but also of what science education means. You will see over and over in these articles that our faculty are teaching more than genetics and physiology; they’re using genetics and physiology to encourage innovation, ingenuity, and creativity, focusing on the importance of communication, art, social awareness, and compassion. By correlating those topics with the biomedical sciences fields, students see the myriad of opportunities available to have an impact on, or be impacted by, communities around the world. Simultaneously, they’re developing themselves as people through the classes they take, the research with which they assist, and the countries to which they travel. It truly is an amazing time in our college.

Eleanor M. Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine


BIMS alumnus Scott Echols is revolutionizing the field of medical imaging.



Colorful Lines

The image on the cover is a Diffusion tensor imaging map of the Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus) brain. This specialized MRI technique elucidates the location, property differences, and orientation of white matter tracts. The same technique can be applied to muscle and other fibers within the body. Each colored line represents a brain tract. The different colors represent the change in direction of the nerve tract in the x, y, and z plane. The cerebellum is to the right and the cerebrum to the left of the picture. Special thanks to Dr. Ed Hsu and his bioengineering team at the University of Utah.



04.....BIMS History 05.....BIMS Faculty 06.....BIMS Infographics

LEADERSHIP 08.....A Conversation with Crouch 12......Dedicated to Student Success


Editor-in-Chief: Dr. Megan Palsa ’08 Managing Editor: Jennifer G. Gauntt Contributing Writers: Kasey Heath ’18 Rachel Hoyle ’13 Briley Lambert ’18 Callie Rainosek ’17 Chad Wootton Art Director: Christopher A. Long

14......Hitting the Right Notes 18......Having a Hand in Healing 22.....BIMS Board Focuses on Mentorship, Scholarships

Graphic Designers: VeLisa W. Bayer Jennie L. Lamb


Correspondence Address: CVM Today Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461

24.....Experiential Learning with Dr. J 28.....Into the Wild 30.....A World of Opportunities

SPOTLIGHTS 42.....Coming Into View 48.....Science-Driven Siblings

OUTREACH 54.....The 'A'mbassador Team 58.....Getting 'Organized'

CURRICULUM 60.....Designed to Inspire 64.....Quick Thinking 68.....Abby's ABCs 72......Program Expands to McAllen 74......Certificates 02 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018


Photographer: Tim Stephenson

BIMS: A Special Edition of CVM Today is published by the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences for alumni and friends. We welcome your suggestions, comments, and contributions to content. Contact us via email at A reader survey is available online at: Permission is granted to use all or part of any article published in this magazine, provided no endorsement of a commercial product is stated or implied. Appropriate credit and a tear sheet are requested.

CVM INFORMATION COLLEGE ADMINISTRATION The Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Eleanor M. Green Executive Associate Dean Dr. Kenita S. Rogers ’86 Associate Dean, Professional Programs Dr. Karen K. Cornell Associate Dean, Research & Graduate Studies Dr. Robert C. Burghardt Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education Dr. Elizabeth Crouch ’91 Associate Dean, Global One Health Dr. Gerald Parker Jr. ’77 Assistant Dean, Research & Graduate Studies Dr. Michael Criscitiello Assistant Dean, Hospital Operations Mr. Bo Connell Assistant Dean, Finance Ms. Belinda Hale ’92 Interim Dept. Head, Veterinary Integrative Biosciences Dr. C. Jane Welsh Dept. Head, Veterinary Pathobiology Dr. Ramesh Vemulapalli

College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University | 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461 Dean’s Office & Administration 979.845.5051 Admissions 979.845.5051 Biomedical Sciences Program 979.845.4941 Development & Alumni Relations 979.845.9043 CVM Communications 979.845.1780 Continuing Education 979.845.9102 Graduate & Research Studies 979.845.5092 Global One Health 979.845.8612 Public Relations 979.862.4216 Veterinary Integrative Biosciences 979.845.2828

Dept. Head, Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology Dr. Larry J. Suva

Veterinary Pathobiology 979.845.5941

Dept. Head, Large Animal Clinical Sciences Dr. Susan Eades

Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology 979.845.7261

Dept. Head, Small Animal Clinical Sciences Dr. Jonathan Levine

Small Animal Clinical Sciences 979.845.9053

Assistant Vice President for Development (Texas A&M Foundation) Ms. Chastity Carrigan ’16

Large Animal Clinical Sciences 979.845.9127

Chief of Staff Ms. Misty Skaggs ’93

Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital Administration 979.845.9026

Director, Texas Institute for Preclinical Studies Dr. Egeman Tuzun

Small Animal Hospital 979.845.2351

Executive Director, Communications, Media, & Public Relations Dr. Megan Palsa ’08

Large Animal Hospital 979.845.3541



by Jennifer Gauntt

Alvin A. Price was the dean at the time the BIMS program was founded. He was its director after his deanship from 1975-1989.


In 1972, the College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Alvin A. Price and others realized the need for an undergraduate program to fill gaps in the existing pre-veterinary program. Thus, the college’s first undergraduate program, in biomedical sciences (BIMS), was established. Initially focused on producing well-trained veterinary technicians— offering courses in surgical support, parasitology, and other topics required for that field—the program gained the attention of other professional schools, and administrators decided to broaden the program’s scope to include many pre-professional medical and health fields serving both humans and animals. The decision has had long-lasting effects for both the program and the college. In 2004, the name of the college was changed to the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), in part to convey the message that, in addition to training future veterinarians, the college is committed to educating future biomedical scientists at both the

graduate and undergraduate levels. Additionally, the initial enrollment of 10 students, which had grown to 913 in just three years, today stands at approximately 2,500 students who choose the BIMS program for the strong, four-year education it provides in the broad field of applied biology related to health and disease. Graduating approximately 400 students with bachelor’s degrees each year, BIMS is now the largest degree-granting program at Texas A&M; these graduates enter health and science related fields in research, hospitals, governmental agencies, and industry, as well as go on to professional schools for medicine, dentistry, nursing, and veterinary medicine, among others. The BIMS mission is clear— preparing students for futures in a changing world, while orienting and training themselves in areas of selected biomedical vocational interest, is the primary focus for the faculty and administrators who teach to the diverse, well-rounded student population. ■



Louise C. Abbott Sakhila Arosh Fuller Bazer Marvin Cannon Tamy C. Frank-Cannon Weihsueh A. Chiu Kevin O. Curley Brian W. Davis William L. Dees Dana Gaddy Barbara J. Gastel Sarah A. Hamer Yasha M. Hartberg Jill K. Hiney Sharman Hoppes Nancy H. Ing Gregory A. Johnson Larry Johnson William Klemm Gladys Ko Candice L. Brinkmeyer Langford Jianrong Li Erica R. Malone William J. Murphy Peter P. Nghiem Timothy D. Phillips Michelle D. Pine Weston W. Porter Terje Raudsepp Lynn M. Ruoff James R. Snell Robert J. Taylor Vijayanagaram Venkatraj Micah J. Waltz Christabel Welsh Michelle S. Yeoman

Kate E. Creevy Jennifer J. Heatley Sharman M. Hoppes William B. Saunders Erin M. Scott Joerg M. Steiner Jan Suchodolski Debra L. Zoran



LARGE ANIMAL CLINICAL SCIENCES Noah D. Cohen Dickson D. Varner Ashlee E. Watts



VETERINARY PATHOBIOLOGY Donald J. Brightsmith Walter E. Cook Michael Criscitiello James N. Derr Scott V. Dindot Maria Esteve-Gasent Sara D. Lawhon Linda L. Logan Albert Mulenga Jeffrey MB Musser Mary B. Nabity Mohamed T. Omran Susan L. Payne Sanjay M. Reddy Gonzalo M. Rivera David W. Threadgill Deborah S. Threadgill Ian Tizard Kenneth E. Turner Bradley R. Weeks

Guichun Han James D. Herman Katrin Hinrichs Ivan Ivanov Daniel H. Jones Glen A. Laine Charles R. Long Luke C. Lyons Alice R. Blue Mclendon Ken Muneoka Anne E. Newell-Fugate Christopher M. Quick Jayanth Ramadoss Stephen H. Safe John N. Stallone Larry J. Suva Shannon E. Washburn Jeremy S. Wasser

Dr. Sarah A. Hamer, director of the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center


VETERINARY PHYSIOLOGY & PHARMACOLOGY Tracy M. Clement Fred J. Clubb Amanda R. Davis Ranjeet M. Dongaonkar Virginia R. Fajt Michael C. Golding

Christopher Quick teaching his undergraduate students FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 05


BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES (BIMS) Texas A&M University offers a distinctive undergraduate program in biomedical sciences (BIMS) at the CVM. BIMS is a broad field of applied biology that is directed toward understanding health and disease. The curriculum provides a strong four-year education that emphasizes versatility of the graduate in the biological and medical sciences. A highly effective academic counseling program helps students develop individualized course packages that orient and prepare them for entry into the medical, allied health, or graduate program of their choice. Such an approach enhances their educational experiences, improves their placement in professional and graduate programs, and facilitates their entry into the biomedical science job market. The mission is to educate students who will create a healthier future for humans and animals through medical professions, biomedical innovation and discovery, global service, and outreach. BIMS is the largest degree-granting undergraduate program at the university, with an enrollment of 2,355 students in 2017–18.






96 out of 2,355 Students received scholarships


Differential Tuition Fund awarded

21 students

Received named scholarships

8 scholarships Given by BIMS Board members



First-Generation Students

Hispanic 27.8%

Male 31.4% Female 68.6%

Yes 27.4%

White 50.8%

No 72.6%

Asian 12.9%

Black 5.3% Other 0.6%

Multi-Racial Excl. Black 2.6%



of Aggie students who enrolled in medical school are BIMS majors


of Aggie students who enrolled in dental school are BIMS majors


of Aggie students who enrolled in veterinary school are BIMS majors



A Conversation with ELIZABETH CROUCH As associate dean of the CVM’s Biomedical Sciences undergraduate program, Elizabeth Crouch is devoted to ensuring students have a holistic educational experience that ties book learning with practical application. Story by Jennifer Gauntt


Our mission is to educate students who

will create a healthier future for humans and animals through the medical professions, biomedical innovation and discovery, global service, and outreach. - ELIZABETH CROUCH

As a Texas A&M alumna who started her career in research and teaching, what made you decide to move into administration? I think it was an “organic” move. I have always enjoyed the teaching aspect of my career, whether it was mentoring high school students in the laboratory, acting as a teaching assistant in graduate school, or teaching my own course. When I began to think about the layout of my career and where I would like to be, I was very drawn to the “people” aspect. Advising students was a way for me to directly impact a person’s education and to encourage them through both the difficult times and the celebratory times. My grandfather also put a very strong emphasis on education, which was passed to his daughter (my mother) and, subsequently, me. I feel it is a gift to oneself, and I enjoy being able to facilitate people’s educations and dreams. You’ve been involved with the BIMS program—as an adviser, director, assistant dean, and now associate dean— for a significant portion of your career at Texas A&M. How has the BIMS program changed since its early days? I have been a part of the BIMS program since 1987, minus the nine years I was completing a graduate degree and postdoc. I began as a freshman student at Texas A&M in the BIMS program. At that time, it was primarily premedical, pre-veterinary medical, and pre-dental studies. It was a bit odd that I would choose BIMS, knowing I did not wish to attend one of those three schools. It was also quite small. I think there were approximately 800 students, total, which is now the size of our freshman class—that may not be the official number back in 1987, but it is what I recall. We have also branched out significantly in the number of careers for which our major prepares students; we emphasize One Health and applied biology as it pertains to health and healthcare. I feel this has always been an attractive feature of the biomedical sciences program. Since its establishment in 1970, the program has become the largest degree-granting program at Texas A&M, with approximately 2,400 students. What makes BIMS different than other degrees that focus on the sciences or medicine? I feel that we have a strong track record of students entering professional programs after graduation, as well as a great number of graduate programs and careers in the life

sciences. BIMS’s flexibility, I feel, is attractive to prospective students. I also feel that our high-impact practices and emphasis on the clinical aspects of health and disease are attractive to students. Likewise, the program itself boasts significant success in helping students gain admission to medical school (39 percent of Aggie students who enrolled in 2018 were BIMS majors), dental school (41 percent of Aggie students who enrolled in 2018 were BIMS majors), and veterinary school (46 percent of Aggie Students who enrolled in 2018 were BIMB majors). What is it about the program, or about the students themselves, that makes them so successful? I feel that student success is multi-fold. First, we have very driven, high-quality students who excel not only in the classroom, but also in their activities. They volunteer in many people-centered activities and shadow in the biomedical environment, perform original research, and take advantage of studies abroad. Second, we have an advising office that is present to help and guide students from their New Student Conference through graduation. Our advisers interact with every major office on campus, participate in task forces and committees, and are very knowledgeable of campus resources. Third, our faculty are invested in teaching at the highest levels. They continually develop new content, integrate concepts between disciplines, team teach, and teach with technology. Further, they create rigorous learning laboratories, as well as have research laboratories in which our students participate. Our students learn from faculty from five departments because we are a program within the Dean’s Office. What are some of the components of the BIMS curriculum and programming that makes it stand apart from other programs across campus? As I like to tell our students and prospective students, our faculty only teach one way. In other words, they are rigorous because they also teach in our graduate and professional curriculum; they know what they expect a professional student to know on “day one,” and, therefore, they teach our students so that they will succeed in professional school. We are also unique in that we have an International Certificate in Cultural Competency and Communication in Spanish (Spanish certificate) FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 09

to teach students medical Spanish. Certificate students are required to study abroad and to shadow/work in the biomedical environment while using the Spanish language. Our Biomedical Research Certificate is also a strong component/option for students, through which they learn the scientific process; produce original research, which is often able to be published; and lead research teams. Our foundational courses: Biomedical Anatomy, Biomedical Physiology, Biomedical Microbiology, and Biomedical Genetics, emphasize clinical correlates, health, and disease. Three of the four courses also have a significant laboratory component, as do other electives our students take. Finally, the pedagogy in our classes is often creative. For example, Honors Biomedical Anatomy teaches students anatomy using visual arts, including drawing, painting, sculpting, and movement in front of green screens, in addition to the traditional laboratory. One of the things that Texas A&M is extremely proud of is its commitment to study abroad programming. BIMS students are also quite active in studying in other countries and the program offers courses and semester abroad in countries around the world. In your opinion, why is studying abroad important for a BIMS student? (READ MORE ABOUT BIMS STUDY ABROAD ON PAGE 30).

Last year, 30 percent of our undergraduates studied abroad. I feel that studying abroad is important on many levels. For some, it is their first time out of the state of Texas, as well as the country, at a time when students are, by definition of obtaining a college degree, expanding their horizons. Students who study abroad have opportunities to learn from professors who employ different pedagogies than those used in the states, to apply concepts in the field—usually literally—to live in a different environment— homestays, often—and to learn to do the basics in a foreign city—navigate shops, exchange money, and, in some cases, converse. I also feel that studying abroad gives students a new feel for the age of various civilizations as compared to the United States, as well as independence in a way that they may not have when in Texas. They are separated from their jobs, their resources, and their friends and, therefore, must stretch to function in a new culture. Likewise, there is a huge emphasis placed on undergraduate research. What benefits do both students and faculty gain from this kind of scholarly endeavor on an undergraduate level? Fifty percent of our undergraduates perform research prior to graduation. The benefit of undergraduate research to the professor is the opportunity to teach the next generation of researchers and to ignite interest in their specific field. Further, it gives professors help in the laboratories with performance of experiments and an avenue for mentorship for graduate students. For the undergraduate student, research is an experience that teaches them how to read 10 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

primary literature in their field; communicate, both written and verbally; work in teams; and create hypotheses and design experiments. Furthermore, students learn that science is a living, breathing subject that evolves with discovery and that discoveries are still waiting to be made. You’ve talked before about some of the non-traditional career paths that a BIMS degree sets students up for. What are some of those, and how do those career paths align with the needs of the state and country, in terms of job demand in those fields? The healthcare industry is in need of professionals in all aspects, particularly with the aging U.S. population. Additionally, research companies and universities must also replenish scientists and entrepreneurs continually in order to advance medical discoveries. So, alternative career paths to medical, veterinary medical, and dental school fill some of those niches, such as scientific research, allied health sciences (nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, etc.), and health care administration, to name a few. What would you want students who are considering BIMS as a major, and their parents, to know about the program? The biomedical sciences degree is a rigorous, applied biology degree with a focus on health and healthcare. Our mission is to educate students who will create a healthier future for humans and animals through the medical professions, biomedical innovation and discovery, global service, and outreach. We teach from a One Health perspective, as human, animal, and environmental health are interconnected. With respect to preparation for our major, students should take as much math and science as possible in high school; should not skip senior-year math in high school and should take an advanced science, such as AP biology or AP physics, as well. Students should also realize that this major has six semesters of chemistry: two of inorganic, two of organic, and two of biochemistry; thus, adequate preparation in chemistry and math are essential. Moving back to you, as the BIMS leader, what do you see as your biggest accomplishment during your tenure working within the BIMS program? What has been your biggest challenge? It is difficult for me to say what my biggest accomplishment is because we are very much a team in BIMS. One area that has expanded over the years that I feel I had a role in promoting in the early 2000s is study abroad opportunities, as well as the Spanish certification. We have outstanding faculty in the CVM who have designed unique and challenging studies abroad for our students; they drive the expansion of our programs. And we have two advisers and our director, in particular, who advise our study abroad and certificate students, facilitate their experiences, and process paperwork: Leanne Burck, Kaitlin Hennessy, and Dr. Henry Huebner (our director).

I would say the biggest challenge on our plate these next two years is the initiation of the Biomedical Sciences Program in McAllen. It is amazing to me the number of people it takes to coordinate the building, the facilities, the student services, academic offerings, advising of students, etc. Our first class of students begins this fall. (READ MORE ABOUT THE BIMS PROGRAM IN MCALLEN ON PAGE 72).

Outside of your biggest accomplishment, what are you most proud of? Last spring, I received the Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Achievement Award for “Individual Student Relations.” I am extremely proud and humbled by this award, as I feel that undergraduate advising and teaching are my places to make a difference in the world. I decided to devote my career to undergraduate education because I am continually amazed by our young people; they are intelligent, people-centered, outreach-oriented individuals. They are curious and excited about their future. I have found that I like and tend to be good at guidance and problem-solving. I value learning about individuals and their gifts and enjoy seeing students blossom as they discover their strengths. If I can be of help in that process and help to create an environment in BIMS that facilitates their growth, then I have accomplished my job. Being an administrator can often mean that your exposure to students decreases drastically. How do you stay connected to the BIMS students? I actually still see quite a few students through the advising office. I also teach a course every spring, give the dean’s talk at New Student Conferences, fill in for the prospective students’ talk when needed, and give a large number of the change-of-major meetings. Therefore, I find there are still many ways in which I interact directly with our student population. One of the things, ironically, that I have always told my bosses as I moved up was that I didn’t want to lose contact with the students; they are the source of my excitement about the job and by interacting with them, I find I can be creative about programming ideas, etc. I also love the teaching aspect of my job because my Ph.D. is in genetics and I truly love trying to pass along that particular passion to the next generation of teachers and learners. Drs. David Busbee, Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni, Jane Welsh, and Van Wilson were on my graduate committee and all are outstanding educators and mentors. As you moved up the ranks in the BIMS program as director and dean, you became the first woman to hold a director position in the BIMS program’s history. What was that like for you? Has that shaped how you have chosen to lead? I have had very good mentors and role models for leadership, both male and female. My mother was ordained an Episcopal priest in the mid-’80s, when there were very few female priests. I also had the benefit, as a female

scientist, of the generations who went before me and paved the way for women in the sciences. So, from the standpoint of it feeling novel to me, I would say it did not. However, I do think that the older my daughters get, the more I empathize with college-aged students and I feel that the Biomedical Sciences program’s staff practices a type of advising where we are attempting to not only help students navigate academic waters, but where we are also attempting to refer them properly, should they have general questions about Texas A&M, employment, and the skill sets required to be life-long learners and professionals. Texas A&M and the CVM really embrace diversity. Do you have any thoughts on diversity within the BIMS program? What does the college and your program do to encourage diversity? The BIMS program has two student representatives on the Council for Diversity and Professionalism that Dr. Kenita Rogers (CVM executive associate dean) chairs for the college. They have made some suggestions for making students feel at home and integrating creative activities into their semesters that we would like to pursue. Also, we are just under (the ratio of) 1 in every 2 students (48 percent) identifying as ethnically diverse; therefore, we have a wonderful opportunity for students to enrich their lives in our major and study with their future colleagues. Additionally, since we teach from a One Health perspective, our pre-veterinarians are studying with our pre-medical students and our pre-pharmacy students, etc. They will run into each other in life and hopefully those bonds will remain. Finally, we have a diversity of ways students can get a BIMS degree: as freshmen on the College Station campus, as freshmen on the McAllen campus, and as transfer students, many of whom come from our 2+2 community college agreement schools, a significant legacy of our former assistant dean, Dr. Frank “Skip” Landis. Looking into the future, what goals do you still have for the BIMS program? Are there any trends within biomedical sciences that you see the program working toward in the future? I think our biggest goals, broadly speaking, are to continue to design creative classes that capture our students' imaginations in order to provide them an exciting education, and to continue to embrace our diversity and to capitalize on the cultural resources we have to make students feel welcome and want to continue in our college.


For more information about the BIMS program, visit















With a background in research and training in toxicology, Dr. Henry Huebner understands the rigorous requirements of the biomedical sciences (BIMS) undergraduate degree program. Huebner earned three degrees at Texas A&M University: a Bachelor of Science in agronomy, a Master of Science in soil science, and a doctorate in toxicology. He started what has become his 25 years of service in the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) as a Technician II in the Department of Veterinary Anatomy & Public Health— now called the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS). In 2002, after finishing his doctorate, he continued working with Dr. Timothy Phillips as an assistant research scientist, working on environmental and mycotoxinrelated projects, and as an editorial assistant for the Journal of Food Additives & Contaminants. 12 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

In 2006, Huebner accepted a position allowing him to be more active in counseling students and helping them focus on their career objectives and goals. He began working in the BIMS program as a senior academic adviser and lecturer before being promoted to director in July 2014. Huebner grew up in the small town of Schulenburg, Texas, where his family was involved in teaching in public and private schools. They also were active in farming and agriculture, raising cattle, sheep, and chickens and harvesting hay, pecans, fruit, and vegetables. Looking back, he feels that his background instilled in him the importance of family, hard work, service, teamwork, and responsibility. “The BIMS program’s attributes that impress me the most include the quality, spirit, and determination of the students in our program and the excellence and service of our faculty, staff, and administration,” Huebner said. “One


of the main responsibilities I have is to assist the associate dean with keeping program operations on course. I assist with developing/revising office policies and implementing improvements to enhance operation efficiency.” Throughout the year, he assists Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, the associate dean, with strategic planning and preparations for future student enrollment challenges. “I continue to advise students regarding academic schedules, course planning, and selections and also approve degree plans, course substitutions, add/drop, Q drops, withdrawals, and changes of curriculum,” Huebner said. “I monitor student probationary terms, perform senior degree audits, verify completion of degree requirements, and assist in graduation functions. I am the instructor of BIMS 484, a field experience elective course offered to juniors and seniors.” Huebner has represented the program in the University Freshmen and Transfer Student Recruitment Committee, Office of the Registrar’s Compass Advisor User Group, Biomedical Sciences Undergraduate Scholarship Review Committee, and University Advisors Council Executive Committee. He currently serves on the Texas A&M Scholarships and Financial Aid Advisory Committee,

Admissions Appeals Committee, and New Student Conference Committee. “Dr. Crouch and I have the same vision and goals for the continued success of the BIMS undergraduate program. Student success in academics and life is a goal all of us in the office share,” Huebner said. “There are many stories of student successes and accomplishments; each person’s story is unique and special, whether it is broadening one’s intellectual and personal horizons through a study abroad experience, acceptance to a professional school, embarking on a career in research, industry, or community service, or simply graduating with their A&M degree.” Huebner said he feels that the BIMS program provides students with a high-quality undergraduate experience. “Our faculty, administration, and office staff are sincerely interested in helping our students, and we are dedicated to serving our students’ needs,” Huebner said. “We take pride in seeing them develop educationally and on a personal level, and we applaud them in their accomplishments in attaining their career goals.” With their academic preparation and training, he feels that BIMS students will continue to become leaders in the medical professions, research fields, government, and industry; he also believes that alumni can play a significant role in determining the future and continued development of a program. “Of course, monetary donations can help support scholarships for deserving students who are short of funds,” Huebner said. “Not only economic support but the volunteering of time or giving in other ways can also help someone else in their pursuit of a quality education.” Huebner expects the BIMS undergraduate program will continue to develop in the future, while maintaining a high standard of education and teaching excellence. ■ Dr. Henry Huebner mentoring a BIMS student


Hitting the

Right Notes As a BIMS alumna on track to become a physician, Hayley Rogers hopes to make an impact through the art of medicine. Story by Dr. Megan Palsa

A large part of Hayley Rogers’ life, even from a very young age, was music. She played the clarinet in the high school band, in small groups while at Texas A&M, and currently plays in a community band at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). She confesses that the experience introduced her to lifelong friends, as well as gave her an opportunity to take on leadership roles. “Unfortunately, clinicals in medical school now keep me from playing my clarinet as much as I would like to,” she said. Medicine, however, is an art in itself and having a background in activities outside of the sciences and humanities has helped Rogers become a more wellrounded individual. “Music transcends the barriers that keep people apart; music is also a huge stress relief for me, helping me cope with the rigor of medical school,” she said. “I am 0 percent athletic—much to the disappointment of my mom (Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences executive associate dean Kenita Rogers), ha ha— but I did do marching band throughout high school. “My closest friend and the person who has made the largest impact on my life outside of my family is my longterm boyfriend,” she said. “We actually met in high school in band!”

Volunteer work

Rogers has a certificate in hospice and palliative care from an extensive volunteering program. She spends time on fundraising opportunities to help local LGBTQI+ organizations with clothes and medical supplies. She is also involved in the Blackwell Osler Student Society and the Big Sib/Lil Sib program at UTMB. “My passion is medicine and helping people through the art of medicine,” Rogers said. “I have always been active in the community, hoping to make a small change 14 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

in the lives of underserved individuals. I was drawn to medicine because of the ability of physicians to make remarkable improvements in the lives of their patients and communities. “There is nothing more precious than the trust a patient shares with their physician. This bond is incredibly important to implementing holistic healthcare, and I hope to work with other providers to incorporate the full identity of the patient into their care,” she said. “It's incredibly important to bridge the historic distrust between the LGBTQI+ population and providers.” Laying a new foundation of trust, according to Rogers, is essential to improving health outcomes in the underserved population. She has long been active in diversity education, so the transition into healthcare education was natural for her. She created an organization called Allies in Medicine, which trains others in culturally competent LGBTQI+ centered healthcare, and through this organization, she hosts a variety of educational events and provides rainbow lapel pins to those who have been trained in an effort to show a more visible representation of support by healthcare staff.

Family ties

Rogers said there is no doubt in her mind that being around a hospital/medical environment at a young age influenced her passion for medicine. “I think the biggest thing I learned from my mom (who also is director of diversity and inclusion at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences) is that I can do anything,” Rogers said. “I believe it is really important to see women in medicine and in leadership roles. “(Because of my mom) I never doubted that I could pursue a career in medicine or that I could be a woman in charge,” she said. “She is constantly working hard; if you know her, you know she is anything but lazy. I like to

H AY LEY ROGERS LAT. 30.628 ° N / LONG. 96.3344° W

“The BIMS program allows you to hone in on your interests and gives you classes that actually prepare you for your future career.” - HAYLEY ROGERS


think that some of that work ethic has rubbed off on my sister and me. “Our mom has always been supportive and encouraged us to pursue our dreams,” she continued. “Nothing was unrealistic for us, nothing out of reach. This mentality made pursuing medicine not so much as if, but a when.” Sibling rivalry has always been alive and well in the Rogers household. She and her sister, Callie, a second-year veterinary student at Texas A&M, have always been competitive, especially in school. “We didn’t get along well as kids, but now we are very close and have bonded over our shared experience of becoming doctors. We will call each other multiple times a week to de-stress and talk about our lives,” Rogers said. “I know I can always rely on her when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed because she gets it. I am very excited that we will be Dr. Rogers together.”


Struggling with a decision between going to Rice and/ or Texas A&M was real for Rogers. She did not take the choice lightly. She scheduled a meeting with Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, the associate dean of undergraduate education in the biomedical science program at Texas A&M, and their conversation helped her to decide that the BIMS program at Texas A&M would be the best choice for her. 16 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

“I knew I wanted to go into a program that had advisers who cared so much about the program that they were willing to meet a high school student to talk them through their decision,” Rogers said. “At that point, I already knew I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, and the BIMS program had a good curriculum that was directed toward this goal.” Rogers said she would tell students that if they want to go to professional school (dental, veterinary, medical, etc.), the BIMS program is ideal. “The BIMS program allows you to hone in on your interests and gives you classes that actually prepare you for your future career,” she said. “Many universities do not offer specific pre-professional majors, and I think this is a major draw to Texas A&M.” She went on to explain that the people in the program are excellent. “The advisers, faculty, and staff are dedicated to making sure you reach your dreams and are successful,” she said. “I received a lot of support within the college, and I know this is part of why I was so successful at Texas A&M. “The curriculum allows you to customize your undergraduate journey to best suit your interests,” Rogers said. “If you are interested in animals, there are lots of electives in animal topics.” This flexibility also allows students to prepare themselves for the future, as well as to have fun with

exciting electives; it was one of those electives that led her to double major in entomology. “The rigor and subject matter of the classes have really helped prepare me for medical school,” Rogers said. “One particular example I have is the anatomy class we took in the BIMS program. In my medical class (at UTMB) all of the students from Texas A&M had a head start in our anatomy lab, since we had already done a mammal dissection; the two classes were very similar, with a lot of overlapping content. I enjoyed the structure of the program, which helped me get my medical school prerequisites, while also allowing me to have diverse elective experiences.”

The ‘grind’ of medical school

Rogers jokes that medical school is like a love-hate relationship—on one hand, she sometimes hates the tests and the constant grind, but on the other hand, she loves working with patients and learning the art of medicine. “I absolutely am sure I made the right decision to go into medicine and I am constantly grateful I have the opportunity to do what I love,” she said. “The rigor and stress of med school has allowed me to make some of the closest friendships I have ever had. The shared experience of going through something this demanding really brings people together.”

Impact on society

Lofty goals about improving society through improved healthcare is a common desire for medical students, according to Rogers. Similarly, she has always wanted to leave a positive impression on others and feels it was her calling to serve others through medicine. She includes herself in the growing number of medical students with the desire to improve healthcare on the institutional side through public policy—and she has worked to do so by being active in the Texas and American Medical Associations— as well as on the local side by helping to relieve the suffering of each of her patients. Through these organizations, she has written and successfully passed several pieces of AMA legislation, including policy on inclusive medical documentation for LGBTQI+ patients and access to public facilities for trans individuals. She was also instrumental in helping UTMB attain status as a leader in LGBTQI+ health care through the Human Equality Index.

She did travel to Qatar on a spring leadership exchange experience through Texas A&M, during which students from Texas A&M at Qatar come to College Station for a week, and she went there for a week with that program. “It was an amazing experience, and my first time abroad,” she said. “In medical school, I am part of the global health track, so I traveled to Peru for six weeks for research and for an intensive field epidemiology course.”

Looking into the future

Identifying students in need of a scholarship and giving back to the BIMS program is one of Rogers’ passions. She has a heartfelt passion for the LGBTQI+ community and students with disabilities and would like to help them succeed. Beyond money, she said that she would love to mentor potential future physicians in their journey to medical school. She finds mentoring rewarding for both parties involved, and she has found several mentors in medical school who have supported her through her journey. She hopes to be able to spend her career in medicine helping others, whether it be through public policy and advocacy or directly through health care of individual patients. Her immediate goal is to graduate from medical school, but her overarching goal is to be happy. “I have spent a really long time in higher education now, and one thing I’ve realized is that the medical field is hard, and I will be constantly challenged, which is something I also really enjoy about the field,” she said. “Because of that, I need to make sure to take care of myself and spend my life doing what I love. I am fortunate that I am able to pursue a career in something that I love.” ■

Bucket list

Also among her goals are having her own dog and travel, which top her “bucket list.” “I haven’t seen much of the world; I really want to see more of it, especially Asia,” Rogers said. “There are so many places and cultures I haven’t seen or experienced. I hope to travel after I match into residency next March.”

The Rogers family with their dog Journey FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 17


Having a Hand

in Healing Alumnus Jason Jennings ’95 has invested in College Station through hard work and dedication that has led from the first Baylor Scott & White hospital in the area to a hospital that offers specialty care. Story by Dr. Megan Palsa

Pictured: (left) Dr. William Rayburn, CMO for the College Station Region, (middle) Jason Jennings, (right) Amber Reed, RN, CNO for the College Station Region

Jason Jennings

hose who know Texas A&M biomedical sciences alumnus Jason D. Jennings will tell you he is a humble man with deep convictions and a passion for helping others to live happy and healthy lives. The chief executive officer (CEO) of Baylor Scott & White Health: College Station region, Jennings directs the day-to-day operations of two hospitals and nine regional clinics in the College Station area and was a critical component in the planning and preparation for the first hospital built in College Station. Baylor Scott & White Health in College Station was a $200 million investment for the community and today has a successful open-heart program, an ICU, a neonatal ICU, neurosurgery, cancer care, endoscopy, 20 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

and specialty services. His hard work and leadership in executing medical strategies in the College Station region is evident in the satisfaction of patients and clients in the community. Prior to becoming the CEO of Baylor Scott & White in College Station, Jennings was the chief operating officer and senior executive vice president for the Hillcrest Health System and Scott & White Healthcare. He has also served as an operations and quality specialist for Tenet Health System, the director of rehabilitation for Bowie Memorial Hospital, the clinical programs coordinator for Good Shepherd Health System, and a practicing physical and senior therapist. In each of these positions, he has helped to expand the capacity of hospitals and clinics, reduce costs, recruit strong employees, and

influence the community in which each hospital functioned. While Jennings has had success throughout his career, he credits the degree from Texas A&M for getting him started in the right direction. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical sciences from the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Jennings went on to receive a Master of Science degree in physical therapy from the University of Texas Medical Branch and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Tyler. “The BIMS degree that I received from Texas A&M provided me the strongest foundation to build upon for both my future education and career advancements,� Jennings said. Jennings also credits many of his professors not only for their teaching but for their compassion for students.

“Many BIMS students cringe at the thought of taking organic chemistry. I took both of my organic chemistries from Professor (John) Hogg, and while the class was extremely difficult, Dr. Hogg’s class taught me about hard work in school, proper balance of priorities, and the joy of achievement after the work is put in,” Jennings said.

Jennings is committed to giving back to his community, including through his membership on the executive council for the American Heart Association and the Wounded Warrior Program, as well as through his volunteering with Mobile Meals, to name a few. He is a guest lecturer at the Texas A&M University Mays Business

School, a previous board member of the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce, a board member with Blinn College, and a proud member of Grace Bible Church. He enjoys hunting, fishing, and playing soccer, as well as spending time with his wife, Jennifer, and daughters, Reagan, who is 16, and Taylor, who is 12. ■

The BIMS degree that I received from Texas A&M provided me the strongest foundation to build upon for both my future education and career advancements.





2018-2019 BIMS Board with Development Staff Members

As the new president of the BIMS Board in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Mark Vara ’83 and ’87 (DVM), and chief executive officer of the San Antoniobased Vanguard Veterinary Associates, is dedicated to working with and for students in the CVM biomedical sciences program. When the board met for the first time under Vara’s tenure in April, the group “laid the groundwork” to increase mentorship opportunities between board members and BIMS students, as well as scholarship funds for undergraduates. “As we move forward, we want to engage everyone and make this an active board,” Vara said. “We’re going to try to increase our exposure to the students by making ourselves more available to them, including mentoring from our home cities. “We want students to have our contact information, so they can reach us 24/7, every month of the year,” he said. “Different board members will be in College Station at different times, for events like game weekends, but we also want students to reach out to us anywhere in the state; if you’re from Dallas, and (board member) Dr. Steve Ruffner’s in Dallas, and you can get in touch with him. We’re just trying to be a lot more accessible.” Members are also working to take more “ownership” of the board by dividing into committees for mentoring, fundraising, and marketing, as well as by establishing a new mission statement—“To provide support as ambassadors, both financially and through mentorship, to undergraduate students and programs in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.” Part of supporting BIMS students financially includes a fundraising goal

of $3 million over five years, which they hope will help offset the cost of undergraduate education. In the past two years, 16 unique scholarships of $1,000 to $4,000 have been awarded from the BIMS Board. The board also hopes to bring more BIMS students to their quarterly meetings to discuss topics that are of importance to them. The BIMS Board comprises 24 biomedical sciences alumni who are dedicated to supporting the college by working to increase current and former student engagement, student scholarship opportunities, and job and internship placement opportunities. “We (board members) get more enjoyment out of helping the kids than getting any awards, or anything like that,” Vara said. “We’re always looking for alumni to join us. There is a time commitment, and there’s a financial commitment; this is a board that’s very engaged. We want to walk the walk.” ■

If you or someone you know would like more information on being part of the BIMS Board, contact assistant director of development Jordan Kuhn at 317.502.3204 or



“We give them an opportunity to be creative, and an audience, tools, and training on how to lead a group of people.” - LARRY JOHNSON

As a histology professor and coordinator for the CVM’s Peer Education Program, Dr. Larry Johnson exudes a joy for teaching and mentorship that inspires students’ creativity, emboldens their confidence, and stirs their passion for science. by Kasey Heath


olorful drawings, miniature skeletons, and models of the human body fill Dr. Larry Johnson’s office. He displays thank you notes from students on all of his shelves—one with drawings of animal lungs from an elementary school student, one designed in the shape of a microscope from an undergraduate student. These students express the discovery, the joy in learning, and the inspiration Johnson aims to incorporate into his teaching. He reads from them and smiles, visibly moved as he recalls how his students remember him. “The drawings in cards always have me wearing funky ties,” Johnson said. “I am known for my ties, because I wear a different one almost every day.

Students always draw me wearing my histology-themed one.” As principle investigator of PEER, the Partnership for Environmental Education and Rural Health, and professor of histology in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Johnson empowers and inspires each student he interacts with to become leaders and educators in the various fields of science they go into. In turn, students impact Johnson’s life and help bring joy to his teaching. Johnson leads a team of professionals and students interested in science and public education through the PEER Program, which aims to educate youth about complex science topics in a way that is engaging and relatable.

“We trick the kids into learning,” Johnson said. “They think they are just having fun but they are learning and they don’t even know it. The PEER Program makes biomedical sciences and becoming a veterinarian more accessible than youth would have thought otherwise.” Current veterinary and biomedical sciences (BIMS) students create journals and pamphlets that are based on STEM-related topics for teachers in schools around the country. The materials can be tailored to the teacher’s curriculum and are designed to meet state educational requirements. PEER also provides a weekly educational webcast and creates classic games, such as medicalthemed "Medopoly," that are life science related. FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 25

Dr. Larry Johnson displays his thank you notes from his students.

Johnson applauds the creativity of his students. “They design all of these materials themselves,” Johnson said. “I am always amazed by what they produce.” Undergraduate students also help develop lesson plans for teachers who have requested materials through the “Teacher Request Resource” page on the PEER website. Students who are interested in the requested topic develop the materials, which get reviewed by CVM faculty and area teachers before they are implemented in school curriculum. Johnson said when a student has a passion for a given a topic that makes it easy to teach about it. “That’s what elementary and middle school students want,” Johnson said, “somebody who loves their subject. Students want to love a subject as much as the person teaching it.” 26 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

Aside from PEER, Johnson teaches histology (VIBS 243), a veterinary integrative biosciences course for undergraduates and provides experiential learning opportunities. This is possible because the major

They design all of these materials themselves, Johnson said.

I am always amazed by what they produce. instruction for the course is via histology lectures on Johnson's YouTube channel, which has over 10,000 subscribers. This course is unlike any others students take—undergraduates who take the course have a chance to

become teaching assistants (TAs) for the course the following year and subsequent years when they take on more leadership in the TA training. Johnson said the TAs provide mentorship for students currently taking the class, which helps Johnson in his instruction. “TAs put together review sessions before exams, come up with extra credit opportunities and run a help desk to answer questions students may have,” Johnson said. “The TAs come up with these ideas themselves to make the course more effective. A lot of times a student won’t tell an instructor about a problem, but they’ll tell another student. And if there is a problem, I want to fix it if I can.” Johnson said the TAs sometimes provide more insight into the course than he himself can give. “The TAs provide tricks on how to remember terminology and concepts

because they have been through the class before,” Johnson said. “That’s something I would never do, but the TAs tell the students, ‘Let me tell you how I remembered that,’ and it’s much more meaningful. They know how to view it from a fresh and new perspective. High-performing and active VIBS 243 students are asked to be TAs for the following year. TAs gain elective credit, with every credit earned requiring two hours of work toward the course each week, whether through help desk assistance or providing insight at an exam review. Johnson said being a TA or PEER educator provides a unique experience that allows students to gain a variety of skills, from thinking creatively, to leadership, to enhancing

communication skills, and even gaining the confidence they need to educate the public when they graduate, which can be beneficial no matter which biomedical sciencesrelated career field a student selects. “We provide the students with an opportunity they wouldn’t get otherwise,” Johnson said. “We give them an opportunity to be creative, and an audience, tools, and training on how to lead a group of people.” They are skills students cherish; one student expressed how much Johnson inspired her. “She wrote, ‘Dr. J, I loved watching your enjoyment as you spoke with students and I want to be able to do the same thing one day,’” Johnson read. “She said she wanted to feel the same joy of being so passionate.”

Johnson expressed how the PEER program and VIBS course not only educate students, but also empower them to be successful. “The most important thing they can be is a role model,” Johnson said. “This gives them the confidence to educate the public about STEM topics in the future.” Browsing all of his materials, Johnson becomes overwhelmed by emotion, showing how he loves what he does, not because of personal achievement, but because of how successful his students become. His enthusiasm and love for the subject clearly is infectious and the funky ties, a visual representation of the joy he finds in teaching. ■

Dr. J shares with incoming BIMS students a clip from his YouTube channel. FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 27


In her “living, outdoor laboratory,” Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon teaches BIMS students the intricacies of working with exotic animals; in turn, her center benefits greatly from the students, who are able to apply those lessons by contributing to the center’s success. by Rachel Hoyle

The Winnie Carter Wildlife Center is a research and teaching facility that houses wild and exotic animals as part of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Just about a mile from the CVM complex, the daily scene is one from another world: ostriches perform mating dances, a serval lounges in his enclosure, and 100-pound tortoises munch on their veggies. The center was founded in the 1980s by J.D. McCrady, a former head of the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP), who saw the need for a wildlife-exotics animal program. Thanks to him and generous donors—including Winnie Carter, after whom the center is named—students can work with animals from all over the world without leaving the campus. Currently, the center is home to such animals as peacocks, two parrots, ostriches, llamas, emus, desert tortoises, a serval, and the world’s first cloned white-tail deer, Dewey. It is run by Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, a VTPP clinical associate professor, who is proud of the center’s uniqueness. “It’s very rare to have a program where students can get this kind of experience on the campus without having to travel,” she said. “That’s a huge advantage that we have here at the veterinary school.” One of those advantages is a directed studies class (VTPP 485) through which students can get experience with “cool animals”—as Blue-McLendon calls them—for as many as four hours of course credit. “This experiential learning program is designed to give undergraduate students experience with nondomestic animals,” Blue-McLendon said. “Students help with all aspects of animal husbandry and get some experience with medical procedures and research; it just depends on what’s happening when the students are here.” 28 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

As one of the largest directed study courses offered on campus, VTPP 485 has grown since it was first offered in the 1990s. When the class was inaugurated by BlueMcLendon’s mentor, Dr. Jim Jensen, only six undergraduate students took advantage of the unique experience; today, there are 25-30 registered students per semester. In the “living, outdoor laboratory”—a description coined by Blue-McLendon—students gain hands-on experience through a variety of opportunities, including being responsible for an animal and its enclosure, which allows the student to become familiar with animal-specific care and behaviors; or, as needed, bottle-feeding baby deer or de-antlering an adult deer. At the end of the semester, students are expected to complete a project that promotes animal enrichment, which is an important part of the animal’s overall wellbeing. “When it comes to taking care of animals,” BlueMcLendon said, “it’s far more than just giving the animal food every day; their environment and enrichment is also important. The animals really benefit from the students being here, and students really help us run this facility.” The students also benefit from the mentorship of BlueMcLendon, who gets to know each of them; enjoys helping them make decisions about veterinary school (something she knows a thing or two about as a veterinarian, herself); and keeps them focused on their aspirations. “One of the best things is that I have the pleasure of mentoring students before they get into vet school, and then I see them again in vet school because I teach professional curriculum,” she said. “It’s great to watch people’s careers progress; some of them even become lifelong friends and colleagues of mine.” Although the majority of students who participate in her directed studies class are focused on pre-veterinary

My motto here is that good students never go away Alice Blue-McLendon

studies—Blue-McLendon estimates that these represent about 75 percent—the VTPP 485 program is open to all majors and attracts students with a variety of interests: aspiring zookeepers, animal behaviorists, and even premedical students. This shared interest brings students together to not only work with “cool animals” but also to develop skills for success. “For Wildlife Center students, I see some of the characteristics that are important for helping people be successful: I see a student’s work ethic, motivation, communication skills, and their ability to work as a team more than I would see in any other type of course or lab,” she said. “Some of these ‘soft skills’ are important for success in professional programs, like vet school.” It seems, then, that the labor-intensive nature of the course promotes personal growth as well as the development of good working relationships. Students depend on each other to complete assigned tasks, many of which require multiple sets of human hands. “It is not uncommon for students to become friends, roommates, or even colleagues,” Blue-McLendon said. These added benefits might be among the reasons students return to the center as volunteers after completing the course. “My motto here is that good students never go away,” Blue-McLendon said. “One of our students who graduated in the spring had been here for five semesters. That tells me that they’re having positive experiences here.”


Those who come back are given additional responsibilities, such as training and mentoring new students, a benefit to everyone. “Repeat students and volunteers are some of our best assets here; they are really valuable in helping train incoming students,” Blue-McLendon said. “Mentoring is really important for the repeat students—they get leadership skills and empowerment. The students feel that they can really have an influence and make a difference.” ■



by Jennifer Gauntt, Kasey Heath, & Briley Lambert

Every year,

hundreds of biomedical sciences students journey around the world to learn about other cultures and their medicine,

but what they end up learning the most about is




Students participating in the 2017 Barcelona Global Health program take a day trip to Sitges, Barcelona, Spain, to learn about architecture and summer residence during the XIX and XX centuries.

Spending several weeks over the summer, or even an entire semester, in an idyllic setting, earning class credits with views that are world-renowned—what could be better? For the hundreds of undergraduates in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) who study abroad each year, a semester overseas means more than just coursework. By choosing one of the plethora of biomedical sciences (BIMS) classes held in countries around the world, students bring into focus the concept of global one health, get a hands-on education by working with a country’s population, and, perhaps most importantly for the professors teaching those courses, gain a whole new perspective of the world around them.

“The study abroad experience makes no sense if it isn't transformative for the students, principally, but, frankly, also transformative for the faculty who are engaged; a really good study abroad program changes everyone it touches in ways that we can see and in ways that we can't necessarily see,” said Dr. Jeremy Wasser, an associate professor who has led the study abroad experience in Germany for 15 years. It’s a sentiment echoed not only by the other professors who teach abroad, but also is reflected in the writings students do about their experiences—a rising awareness of the importance of being citizens of the world transcends the course material, proving study abroad isn’t about physiology, environmental health, or veterinary medicine. “It’s really about everything,” Wasser said. FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 31

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While in Costa Rica, Texas A&M students get some hands-on experience working with animals.

A major bonus of the program is that students have the opportunity to fulfill 16 credit hours of coursework from the time they land in Costa Rica until the end of the semester.


‘Waking Up’ in Costa Rica

The classroom takes to the jungles of Central America for BIMS’ Costa Rica study abroad program, where Texas A&M University’s Soltis Center for Research and Education houses students for a unique, semester-long experience. Designed to give upper level pre-medicine, preveterinary medicine, and other pre-health students the chance to learn and travel while keeping up with their rigorous coursework, the program offers a “one health” focus that gives students a holistic core curriculum education in human, animal, and environmental health in the context of Costa Rican and Latin American culture. Associate professor Donald Brightsmith said the combination of these three subject areas, plus the invaluable international experience, gives the students a one-of-a-kind study abroad opportunity. “We really try and create an integrative program across many of the courses,” Brightsmith said. “This study abroad helps fulfill basic core requirements for these students. It’s like being on campus, but with toucans flying by. We hop on a bus and we go on fun and educational excursions.” Formal education is a vital component to the study abroad, but Brightsmith noted how much students get to experience outside of the classroom lectures. “Students have the chance to explore national parks, hike through the rainforest, tour a banana plantation, ride a zip line, swim in hot springs, and ride a trail on horseback,”

Brightsmith said. “We tour a hydroelectric facility and hospitals, medical clinics, and veterinary clinics. There are a variety of educational experiences and fun outings.” A bonus of the program is that students can fulfill 16 credit hours of coursework from the time they land in Costa Rica until the end of the semester. Courses include “One Health and Ecology in the Tropics,” microbiology, genetics, writing, and Spanish communication. Brightsmith said this puts many students at an advantage, because being able to complete a full class schedule while abroad keeps many on track to graduate. “I’ve had more than one student of mine return and tell me they get to graduate early because of the program,” Brightsmith said. “Students also have the opportunity to gain internship and shadowing credits.” In addition, students complete a semester-long research project related to the broad subject of health and how human, animal, and environment challenges overlap in Costa Rica, the United States, and abroad. For the project, students must employ their problem-solving skills to propose a mitigation strategy, or what they think would help reduce the threats from this risk. A large part of the coursework includes the exposure to Spanish culture and language. While the three-weeklong Spanish courses are largely responsible for teaching students the basics of the language, Brightsmith said the majority of the learning and application takes place during the students’ home stays with Costa Rican families. Students in Costa Rica

Students in Costa Rica

“Culture and language are a super important part of the program,” Brightsmith said. “I’ve had people say they’ve learned Spanish more and how to use it better in those three weeks of home stays than they have throughout all of the education they’ve had related to Spanish.” While educational growth takes place, Brightsmith said transformative personal growth also takes place in the students, which is evident in the field journal entries students are required to record throughout the semester. Brightsmith said the journals help document how the cultural and social experiences alter how students think throughout the trip. “Because I read all of these journals, I get to see the evolution of these students, and they change throughout the semester,” Brightsmith said. “In many cases they grow, and I get to track that growth, which is really cool.” Brightsmith said the biggest lesson he hopes students take from this experience is to stop, look around, and truly learn from the people and world around them. “An important mantra for my program is ‘No sleepwalking,’” Brightsmith said. “It is so easy to float through life without really analyzing and learning from what is going on around you. “At the beginning of the semester, many of the students are not really accustomed to thinking critically about where they are and what is going on around them,” he said. “However, by the end of the semester we have a group of students who are keenly aware of both how they are impacting the environment around them and how this environment is impacting them. It is an incredible to watch this transformation.” ■ FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 33

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Students in Germany

Taking a ‘Hero’s Journey’ in Germany Alexa Mendoza rides a bike on the island of Norderney, Germany, during a semester abroad.

“Our job has been to create programs that give students this extra something, an opportunity for transformation that makes investing in a study abroad worth taking the chance.”


“How is the coursework different? Why is it different? Why not just teach the students on campus?” Associate professor Jeremy Wasser responds to those questions frequently in regards to study abroad programs. “Transformation,” Wasser said. “Our job has been to create programs that give students this extra something, an opportunity for transformation that makes investing in a study abroad worth taking the chance.” Wasser directs the Germany Biosciences Semester in Bonn, the longest-running, semester-long program in the CVM, designed for biomedical sciences, life sciences, and biomedical engineering majors. More than 500 students have traveled to Germany with Wasser since 2004, including 147 who have participated in the semester abroad. Wasser attributes the program’s success to its ability to motivate change in everyone in the program, from the students to the faculty, and even the German hosts. The program’s high-impact coursework was designed with this in mind. Students work toward general education credits-typically a 13- to 14-credit-hour course loadduring the program. All students take the “History of Medicine” course with Wasser; the remaining credits are major-specific, including physiology and genetics for BIMS students and circuit analysis and device design for bioengineering majors. Students also get opportunities that cannot be experienced in a classroom. One such example is the collaborative project with the German Biotech company enmodes GmbH, which manufactures medical technology,

actually change a student’s world view. “This is about giving the students an opportunity to realize there are multiple ways to do things,” Fait said. “Not everything we do is always right and we can all learn from each other.” As part of the “History of Medicine” curriculum, students learn about neurophysiology and music with lecturer Micah Waltz. Waltz said his lessons begin with neural circuitry basics and expand into teachings about the auditory system as a whole; he teaches how the brain processes sound and produces an emotional response to music, and even about the political and historical context of music. (READ MORE


specializing in cardiac and pulmonary devices such as total artificial hearts and lungs. The company presents students with a project employees are currently working on and the students work together to create a solution for the problem. At the end of the project, the student group pitches that solution. Wasser said the diverse group dynamic of bioengineering and BIMS students creates a unique environment for a real- life project pitch. “enmodes is a particularly good match for us because they love the two different groups in this project,” Wasser said. “The company never said the biomedical sciences or bioengineering students don't have the skills to contribute; they actually say, ‘We want them involved in this.’” Wasser said the project teaches students more about themselves than about technical concepts. “They’re not just learning physiology and engineering, but how to work together, how to work at the interface of disciplines, how to design and be creative, and the pains and pleasures of creative work,” Wasser said. “They come away with incredible confidence. You have to teach them; you have to show them they’re capable.” Students also gain an international perspective on pharmacology through a course taught by clinical professor Virginia Fait, who devotes lectures to the differences between the U.S. and German medical systems, including in drug approval, how each country treats psychological conditions, and what one can buy at a pharmacy in Germany but not the United States, or vice versa. Fait said this course does more than just inform—it can

“Before we take students on an excursion to Vienna, I talk to them about the three composers who defined the classical music period—Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn— and what they were doing in Vienna—how they interacted, what was going on politically, how they were involved in the political structure because music was incredibly political at the time,” Waltz said. “We talk about that and then as students actually go and walk through the city, they can see why the musician had their perspective.” Wasser said the content of the “History of Medicine” course, which is only taught abroad, takes on a whole new meaning when paired with a transformational experience. “I give a lecture on bioethics, and then we visit places like concentration camp memorials and museums of German history, and the impact amplifies tremendously,” Wasser said. This transformation sticks with the students long after they return, as there is a noticeable difference between those who traveled to Germany and their peers, according to Waltz. “I wind up with them in writing courses in the next year or two before they graduate and they're different people,” Waltz said. “They're little epicenters of change. The way that they approach problems is different; the way that they think about concepts is different,” Wasser added. Wasser credits the transformation to their experience traveling abroad. “The experience of being in Germany—of being ‘the other,’ the foreigner, the non-German speaker, the one who doesn't know the history and culture of this country and surrounding countries—that experience changes a student’s perspective on others unlike him or her,” Wasser said. “For a doctor or a veterinarian, any professional, any human being, this is a critical life lesson. “I call it the ‘hero’s journey.’ They are crossing the thresholds, accepting the call to adventure, dealing with trials and tribulations and coming out on the other side transformed and with a gift, a gift of self-knowledge, selfawareness, and growth.” ■ FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 35

LAT. 30.5595° S / LONG. 22.9375° E


High-achieving BIMS students in their second year who have a pointed interest in exotic wildlife medicine and plan to attend veterinary school are eligible to apply for the South Africa study abroad experience. 36 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

Students in South Africa

Going ‘Wild’ in South Africa

“Even in untouched lands, there is a need for animal medicine,” Dr. James Derr, professor in veterinary pathobiology at Texas A&M said. During the two-week South Africa Conservation Medicine study abroad program, wildlife conservation is key, as students live the life of a practicing South African wildlife veterinarian, working with big game including lions, Cape buffalo, eland, and rhinos. “Africa is home to 20 times more species than the United States, including some big, iconic species, some never see in real life,” Derr said. “It is the center for wildlife.” High-achieving BIMS students in their second year who have a pointed interest in exotic wildlife medicine and plan to attend veterinary school are eligible to apply for the South Africa study abroad experience. The combination of BIMS and the second- and third-year veterinary students they join makes for an exceptional classroom culture, according to Derr. “The two complement each other very well,” he said. “This gives us a unique dynamic, and everyone is challenged in a good way. The two groups learn from each other and want to make each other better.” In previous years, the program was based outside of Kruger National Park, but this year’s group worked at a location along the border of Botswana, in the Limpopo Province, spending time at a ranch owned by a Texas A&M alumnus and at a national park in Southern Botswana. Derr had high expectations for this year’s trip. “Students got to experience what southern Botswana is like, and it is absolutely gorgeous,” Derr said. “We tackled big projects with large game animals such as eland and Cape buffalo, and the facilities are outstanding.” Each day was packed with invaluable clinical experiences, including tracking down and caring for rhinos and other big game alongside practicing wildlife

Students in South Africa

veterinarians. Lecture components informed students of the procedures used prior to the clinical practice. Derr said the hands-on experience prepares students for the clinical practices in veterinary school. “I think it does give undergraduates a big advantage when applying to veterinary school,” Derr said. “They already have this clinical experience, whereas some of their peers maybe do not.” In the past, students implemented the skills learned in lecture, such as calculating drug measurements, to assist wildlife veterinarians in properly caring for big game, such as the Cape buffalo. “We went to a place where there was a 100-head Cape buffalo herd,” Derr said. “The owner said his herd bull has a large abscess on its shoulder. “The herd bull was really valuable to him, and he couldn’t afford to lose him. So, we worked with local veterinarians to dart and track the herd bull down, maintain its vitals, clean out the abscess, and reverse the sedative,” Derr said. “Within 30 seconds of reversal, he was standing up and back in action. The students had a hand in all of that before 10 o’clock in the morning on the first day.” Derr also said students who go on the trip are sometimes inspired to pursue research on a topic they explored while spending the two weeks in South Africa. “One of my past students is now a graduate student in public health,” Derr said. “She was interested in diseases that animals and people can both get, and her experience in Africa helped her explore that. “Another student was studying the genetic diversity of lion populations to determine whether they warrant a

higher level of protection. Both students worked with a lot of veterinarians in all of southern Africa.” Derr ensures that students get experiences that will positively impact their education. Most of the students are wanting to work with big game in wildlife medicine, and Derr said he wants them to realize the materials they work with and the animals they care for are no small matter. “These animals are predators, and even some of the hoofed animals are dangerous,” Derr said. “Any of these animals can hurt you, and we’re also dealing with drugs that are incredibly dangerous. So, we take every precaution we can and we educate the students on what they can and can’t do.” Derr said the networking opportunities with South African veterinarians is a mutually beneficial opportunity. “All these students have the opportunity to become colleagues with the veterinarians,” Derr said. “It is also beneficial for the African wildlife veterinarians to have contacts that are veterinarians in the United States. It’s a two-way street. There are ties between the professionals in Africa and our students that last a lifetime.” Derr said there is something about Africa that draws him, and many of his students, in; previous students have returned to Africa to pursue internships and summer educational programs. “Whenever you’re in Africa, you’re planning your next trip to get to Africa,” Derr said. “The people are just incredible, and if you enjoy wildlife, then Africa is the place that you want to be.” ■


LAT. 40.4637 ° N / LONG. 3.7492° W


Students in the 2017 Barcelona Global Health program hike around the beautiful island of Montserrat during a day trip.

Meeting a Need for ‘Medical’ Spanish

The program aims to provide students with training through a one health perspective, offering bilingual shadowing and research experience at the University Pompeu Fabra or the University Autonama in Barcelona. 38 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

Each summer, undergraduate students interested in both human and veterinary medicine embark on a fiveto 10-week study abroad program in Barcelona, Spain. Unlike traditional study abroad programs, the Barcelona Global Health program is supervised direct enrollment, not faculty-led, so students experience a true immersion into the Spanish culture and language, as well as the medical profession in Spain. The program aims to provide students with training through a one health perspective, offering bilingual shadowing and research experience at the University Pompeu Fabra or the University Autonama in Barcelona. All students take classes for the first five weeks of the summer and then are given the option to stay another five weeks for an internship. Assistant professor of veterinary pathobiology Maria Esteve-Gasent said the program was originally established in 2014 to fill a gap in the BIMS program. “There was a lack of internships offered for the BIMS program’s Spanish certification program, so students would complete all of the coursework but then they would have trouble finding a safe space to practice their Spanish that wasn’t just a front desk somewhere,” Esteve-Gasent said. (See page 67 for more on the Spanish certificate), “After talking with students, talking with Dr. Elizabeth Crouch (associate dean of undergraduate education), talking with the Spanish department, and feuding for a year and a half about how to fill this gap, we set up this program.”

Since its inception, the program’s enrollment has grown from 10 students in the first year to 23 students this year. “Students are attracted to the fact that they’re going to be in a Spanish-speaking country in a safe environment, and at the same time, they are going to be shadowing, which is a way for them to practice their Spanish,” Esteve-Gasent said. As the Spanish-speaking population in Texas continues to rise, the need for medical professionals to speak more than one language also rises. While in Spain, students learn conversational Spanish and, most importantly, medical Spanish, which will ultimately prove to be beneficial in their professions. “You might expect that most of our students speak English, but we do have Hispanics who know Spanish,” Esteve-Gasent said. “Their problem is that they can speak Spanish in conversation, but they have had zero Spanish in their higher education, and none of their medical terminology or science terminology is in Spanish. “We’re in Texas, and Spanish is like the second language here, so there’s a lot of effort in having the medical community, both veterinary and human medicine, aware of cultural diversity and the fact that some patients might be more comfortable talking in Spanish when they’re sick or when their animal is sick,” she said. Before their departure, Esteve-Gasent meets with the students several times, and for the most part, the students’ Spanish is far from developed. Once the students are in Spain, she visits them for one week. After the fifth week, she begins video chatting with

them on a weekly basis. This is when Esteve-Gasent says she notices the biggest expansion of their Spanish. “When I meet with them on week five or six, they are fluent in Spanish,” she said. “They can communicate in Spanish about what they did in the hospital and about what they experienced.” While in Spain, students are exposed to a different health care system than the one we have in America. Esteve-Gasent hopes that this exposure will have beneficial implications for the future of American health care. “I’m planting a seed. I’m telling them, ‘Look, it’s not perfect, but it’s another way of doing things. Just look, explore, experience it, and learn from it,’” she said. “I’ve had students come back and tell me, ‘Wow I have learned so much. I never thought it could be like this.’ They’re shocked. When they go out and experience the hospital and see the patient treatment, they’ve been very impacted by it.” Esteve-Gasent said she believes the Barcelona Global Health program is more than learning Spanish and earning credits—it’s about personal growth and cultural awareness. “It’s how you grow, how you push boundaries, how you step outside your comfort zone, how you learn from other cultures, and how you open your mind to other ways of doing things,” she said. “Just by being with these families, trying to speak a language, being taught by professors in another country, and mingling with students in another country—it’s transformative. They change completely.” ■

Students enjoy the view from the top of the mountain in Montserrat during the 2017 trip.

Barcelona Global Health program participants get a magnificent view of the famous Monastery of Our Lady of Montserrat (XII century) during the 2016 trip. FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 39

LAT. 15.8700 ° N / LONG. 100.9925° E


Undergraduate student Stephen Levert at the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Conservation, medicine, culture, and adventure collide in the Texas A&M Thailand Case Studies in Global One Health study abroad program


Creating Your Own ‘Journey’ in Thailand

Conservation, medicine, culture, and adventure collide in the Texas A&M Thailand Case Studies in Global One Health study abroad program, during which students gain a broader perspective on issues related to public health, conservation, and medicine. “Instead of just reading about global one health, I want students to experience it, be able to explain to others what it looks like on the ground, and apply what they’ve learned in their futures,” said veterinary integrative biosciences lecturer Michelle Yeoman. In its inaugural year, the 10-week, faculty-led program functioned as a hybrid course that offered students of all majors a minimum of three credit hours. Students spent four weeks in Thailand, and during the remaining six weeks, students completed an online, writing-intensive module that could be fulfilled in Thailand or back in the United States, if students chose to return. A key feature, according to Yeoman, is that students customize their experience to fit their public health or veterinary medicine interests, gaining hands-on experiences with elephants and other species while learning about global one health in Thailand. They also travel to four distinct regions in Thailand: a rural village, an elephant sanctuary, a major city, and a small beach island. “In Surin, we participated in a community development project,” Yeoman said. “We stayed with Thai host families while learning about the role of elephants in their community. Students also gained skills in veterinary medicine and provided care for cats and dogs in the village.

Students and faculty visited the Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Yeoman said that students were most excited about the chance to learn about Thailand’s most protected species— the elephant. “We spent a week in Elephant Nature Park, which is a world-renowned elephant sanctuary. There are about 100 rescued elephants on site,” Yeoman said. “The students feed and care for the elephants; cut food; clean out their enclosures; and also provide veterinary care. Many of the elephants, unfortunately, had land-mine injuries. While shadowing an elephant veterinarian, students provided veterinary care to these elephants and learned about elephant anatomy and physiology.” Medicine is only one part of the global one health education students experience in Thailand. Yeoman said students gain an environmental perspective through marine research and restoration. “When we went to Koh Tao, which means ‘sea turtle island’ in Thai, they spent a week gaining scuba diving certification and conducting marine conservation,” Yeoman said. “We did a lot of marine research, conducted marine surveys, and helped with coral reef restoration.” Yeoman said this part of the trip drives home the interconnectedness of the global one health concept. “As in so many countries, the intersection between human, animal, and environmental health is much more obvious when you're on the ground,” Yeoman said. “Koh Tao is a beautiful beach island, but the coral reefs are dying, which is definitely going to hurt tourism—an

industry many Thai people rely on financially—in the long term,” she said. “That provides a great opportunity to talk about what it looks like when we have one piece of that global one health puzzle break down and how it happened. We also talk about how Thailand as a country deals with those global one health issues.” Students also experience cultural interactions almost daily, especially in the city of Chiang Mai, which is a center for unique Thai cultural heritage and adventure. “Thailand is called the ‘land of smiles.’ The city of Chiang Mai has a lot of fun things to experience,” Yeoman said. “We visited temples and museums; experienced meditation with a monk; went hiking, white water rafting, and zip lining; and we also went overnight trekking, stayed in a deluxe resort cabin, and visited a hillside tribe the next day.” Yeoman said these cultural interactions help students understand how culture impacts global one health issues. “Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, and because of these beliefs, the country is somewhat like a no-kill shelter for animals. As a result, there are a lot of strays on the streets,” Yeoman said. “What's interesting is Thai people tend to think of the strays differently than we do in the United States. Strays are fed by the local community, but the problem then is that few individuals take them in for veterinary care. Students see these impacts in the villages and cities.” Yeoman hopes one of the biggest lessons students learn from the program is to be more aware of cultural differences they encounter in their personal and professional lives. “I hope to make more global citizens,” Yeoman said. “This transformative learning will set the stage for what they do in the future and will help them when interacting with people from different cultures—not just international cultures, but cultures of communities. That can be a culture at Texas A&M or a rural culture versus an urban culture.” ■ Undergraduate student Emily Bensema earning her advanced scuba diving certification in Koh Tao, Thailand.



Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus)

This picture is the first African Grey parrot perfused with BriteVuÂŽ. The bird had a terminal brain disease and the owner donated it to my research in the hopes that he (the bird) would be able to teach us more about anatomy of these amazing animals. This bird marked a turning point in the development of an experimental product that ultimately became BriteVuÂŽ.




BIMS alumnus Scott Echols '93 and '95 (DVM) is revolutionizing the field of medical imaging, giving doctors a clearer vision of both human and animal anatomy. Story by Jennifer Gauntt & Dr. Megan Palsa

ew captivate an audience like Dr. Scott Echols as he presents his latest innovative approach to imaging. He has professionals in both veterinary and human medicine taking a second look at what is known about the body. In early spring, Echols presented at the Veterinary Innovation Summit (VIS), hosted by the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) at Texas A&M, where he held an audience of nearly 500 at bay for almost an hour. A 1993 graduate of biomedical sciences (BIMS) and a 1995 graduate of veterinary medicine (DVM), Echols’ passion for avian medicine took flight as an associate at a private practice in Oakley, California, where he completed a residency and was certified as a diplomate in avian practice.

The evolution of that passion has led Echols to open a number of businesses, including an avian mobile service that provides phone and email consultation and traveling surgical services worldwide, and Avian Studios, which is situated in Salt Lake City and provides video production services to create educational media. But it is his latest venture— the product he developed as founder, chief executive officer, and president of Scarlet Imaging—that is revolutionizing thoughts on imaging in both human and veterinary medicine. That product, BriteVu®, is an easy-to-use, high radiodensity intravascular contrast agent that penetrates to the capillary level. Better still, BriteVu® is non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Echols also is working on several other projects, including one that has the potential to

change the way screening is done with X-ray; another that improves a technique for nerve staining that will allow a better understanding of nerve and brain injuries in animals and humans; and another to develop a means to measure bone density through radiographs, which is critically needed in all animals, including humans. To be forward-thinking isn’t enough for Echols; over the years, he has developed a strong desire to share his passion for the veterinary profession via collaboration and volunteering, all to improve the care of veterinary patients. Echols has been invited to Australia, Europe, South America, and Asia to discuss avian medicine and imaging technology, and he is currently collaborating with entities around the globe, including NASA and the U.S. military,

Dr. Scott Echols (center) with his wife, Layle (right), daughter, Alaina (middle), and parents 44 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

“As a veterinarian, I am blessed to be a part

of the greatest profession on earth.” - DR. SCOTT ECHOLS

MRI of a Parrot Brain

T2 scan of a grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus) taken on a 7T MRI at the University of Utah. As a component of the Grey Parrot Anatomy Project, new techniques in advanced imaging are being used to non-destructively peer into the brain and spinal cord of numerous small animals. The techniques are being used both for clinical cases and research. The eyes are at the bottom of the screen and are connected via the ‘X’ that makes up the optic chiasm. Special thanks to Dr. Ed Hsu and his bioengineering team at the University of Utah.

Human (Homo Sapiens)

The first human cadaver head perfused with BriteVu® ( and CT scanned. Performed by Dr. Bruce Wainman at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. This profile view gives viewers only the superficial vessels immediately within and under the skin. Deeper views of the same donor show intricate blood vessels coursing throughout the brain. Models such as this offer researchers the opportunity to see and study blood vessels non-destructively, teach anatomy, train surgeons, and more.


to share his expertise, products, and services in imaging. His latest research is the Grey Parrot Anatomy Project, a collaboration between the University of Utah’s departments of Bioengineering, Anatomy, Biology, and its Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, along with more than 20 other institutions around the world. “A singular, distinguishing feature of Dr. Echols’ career, and contributions to our profession and the scientific world as a whole, has been his selflessness, honesty, and openness to collaboration,” a colleague said. “These characteristics are special, unique, and embody the goodness of what I hope we all can aspire to as professionals, scientists, and health care professionals.” Among his accolades, he has been honored with the TJ Lafeber Avian Practitioner of the Year Award, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association’s 2007 Non-Traditional Species Practitioners of the Year award, and he was twice a finalist for the prestigious international Wellcome Images Award 2017, which recognizes images that

communicate significant aspects of health care and biomedical science. He has been an animal lover since a child and has worked with or cared for many species of companion, private collection, endangered wildlife, and zoo animals. When he’s not working, his interests include playing guitar, artwork, and just about any other outdoor activity. Scott, his wife Layle (also a veterinarian), and their daughter Alaina share their home with animals including Italian greyhounds, a cat, budgies, and an African grey parrot. “I have always been someone who becomes deeply engaged in my interests and has an undying curiosity to understand and learn more. This drive often translates into long hours,” Echols said. “To me, it is not work; it is what I do, and I enjoy many of the challenges life presents to me.” Layle and Alaina, who endure his long absences, support his ambitions, and continually show him love. “My parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and more have guided and encouraged my ethics and efforts

to be the best I can be,” Echols said. His experiences at Texas A&M— through his undergraduate studies, veterinary school, and ongoing interactions as an adjunct professor— also have had a profound impact on his life. “The early years gave me an educational foundation second to none. My veterinary school professors were inspirational and helped foster my curiosity that would ultimately take me around the world to work on projects I would have never imagined as a young man,” he said. “As a veterinarian, I am blessed to be a part of the greatest profession on earth.” “Now I am privileged to be able to contribute to A&M by sharing ideas, working with colleagues and teaching students,” he continued. “Every time I visit Aggieland, I feel the same spirit and enthusiasm I did when I was a late teenager stepping foot on campus for the first time as a student.” More than an education, Echols adds that he has gained some of his best friends from his Aggie undergraduate class of ’93 and veterinary school class of ‘95. ■

"Now I am privileged to be able to contribute to A&M by sharing ideas, working with colleagues and teaching students," - DR. SCOTT ECHOLS

Dr. Scott Echols with Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine after receiving the 2018 Outstanding Alumni award FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 47


Stephanie Karam Whitmer ’13 & ’15 and Wade Karam ’16 are following their dreams in medicine…thanks to the BIMS program. by Callie Rainosek

It is not uncommon for brother-sister duos to have a classic case of sibling rivalry—especially when both are pursuing similar career goals. Stephanie Karam Whitmer and Wade Karam, however, are the exact opposite, passionately supporting each other’s dreams in the medical field as they work toward advanced degrees together at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB). Their journeys to succeeding in the medical field began during their time at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Stephanie, the oldest child, and Wade, the youngest, are both graduates of the Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) program at the CVM. Even though medicine doesn’t run in the family, the duo fell in love with the medical field at a young age and knew that the BIMS program could help them achieve their goals. In fact, the two recall watching medical shows— not cartoons—on Sunday mornings with their father, an immigrant from Lebanon who works as an engineer. “Our dad experienced difficult circumstances when he came to this country,” Wade said. “But if he could do things over with a gold bar in his pocket, he’s always told me that he would’ve gone into medicine.” “Even though our dad isn’t a doctor, he was always really passionate about medicine,” Stephanie added. “It kind of just stuck with us for our whole lives.” 48 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

hasing Dreams

(above) Stephanie Karam Whitmer at work in the Level II Trauma Emergency Department at Baylor Scott & White Regional Medical Center at Grapevine


Stephanie, who originally planned on becoming a doctor, experienced a lifechanging event as an undergraduate that helped her realize nursing was her calling. “I was thinking that I wanted to be a physician at the time, and then at the end of my sophomore year at A&M, I got very, very ill, and I was hospitalized for a serious condition,” Stephanie explained. “The nurses came and sat with me. They read magazines with me and my mom. After that, I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. I wanted to be a nurse.” While Stephanie chose to change her career plan within the BIMS program, her brother’s mission to become a doctor has never wavered. “I knew from about the age of 6 that I wanted to become a doctor,” he said. “I had a few mentors growing up, as well as my parents and siblings who supported me every step of the way. Stephanie and my other sister Samantha always joked, teased, and called me Dr. Wade.” At Texas A&M, both Stephanie and Wade found support through challenging times through a dedicated academic adviser, Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, who, then, was director of the BIMS program and is now the CVM associate dean for undergraduate education. “Dr. Elizabeth Crouch was absolutely critical in keeping us sane, healthy, and pointed in the right direction,” Wade said. “When I got sick, I cannot tell you how amazing she was,” Stephanie said. “Obviously, that was the worst time in my life. I missed so much school. It was not easy coming back from that, but she made it tolerable and she talked to my professors for me. She helped me through that horrible year and there was never any judgment.” Crouch played a critical role in helping Wade, too. During his sophomore year, he was trying to decide whether to pursue an opportunity to try out as a walk-on to the Texas A&M track team. With her encouragement and support, Wade tried out and made the team, and he credits Crouch for helping him balance his course load with the work that went into competing in the 800 meter. “It was a pretty big decision for me because I knew that track and field was not my endgame; I wasn’t going to be a professional

runner,” Wade said. “While it was something that I loved and it was something that I wanted to do, I was very hesitant to put my education in jeopardy because I didn’t want to hurt my dream of being a doctor. “And, so, I had some meetings with Dr. Crouch, just kind of getting her gauge on the situation,” Wade said. “She said, ‘Why are you asking? It’s what you want to do. You need to do it. It’s going to help you with medicine. It’s not going to hurt you. All it’s going to do is solidify your work ethic, teach you what it means to work hard at multiple things at once, and it’s going to be a great experience.’” Wade went on to earn the 2016 Brad Davis Community Service Leader of the Year Award, which is awarded by the Southeastern Conference to one male and one female student athlete a year.

(above) Wade Karam running in the Aggie Invitational indoor track meet


Our family has a lot of history with Dr. Crouch and the BIMS department, in general.

I have to say, our success in medicine is attributable to BIMS, our own work ethic, Dr. Crouch’s guidance, our family, and, of course, our faith in God. - WADE KARAM

“Our family has a lot of history with Dr. Crouch and the BIMS department, in general,” he said. “I have to say, our success in medicine is attributable to BIMS, our own work ethic, Dr. Crouch’s guidance, our family, and, of course, our faith in God.”

amily is forever

Although Stephanie and Wade express a lot of gratitude to Crouch and the BIMS program, they are most grateful for the gift of family. They both say that without family support their lives would be much different today. 52 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

Their father immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and went to school in West Virginia, where he met his wife, a West Virginia native. The hardworking couple instilled a strong work ethic into all of their children. “The role that my parents play in our lives cannot be overstated,” Wade said. “They are the two most amazing people I could ever dream to have as role models. And I’ll say that forever—my parents are the most important people in my life.” Their sister Samantha is a graduate of May’s Business School at A&M and is a marketing associate in Austin.

All three siblings talk every day, even if it’s just to make Samantha feel squeamish from medical talk. “We are all very close,” Stephanie said. In 2016, Stephanie married Ryan Whitmer, a former Aggie football player who is now a resident at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, where the two live. Ryan, who comes from a family of doctors, was working toward applying to medical school when he met Stephanie, who directed him to their lifelong friend—Elizabeth Crouch—for guidance. Crouch recommended Ryan apply to the BIMS master’s program, from which he graduated after a year and was then admitted into medical school. When Ryan and Stephanie hosted a gender reveal party for their first child in July, Crouch was on the guest list.

ooking to the future

Now a level II trauma nurse, Stephanie has decided to begin an online nurse practitioner degree in family medicine at UTMB, from which Wade will graduate in 2020 with his Doctor of Medicine degree. As he enters his clinical year, he is uncertain what specialty he will choose, but if he had to pick today, he

would pick orthopedic surgery, which seems more than appropriate because of his athletic background. “For a long time, I didn’t want to be that typical former athlete who wanted to do orthopedic surgery, but then I shadowed some orthopedic surgeons and fell in love with it,” he said. “I’ve had two torn ACLs, MCLs, and meniscus surgeries; I’ve broken my finger and had to have surgery; I’ve torn my hamstring; and I’ve had two stress fractures in my foot. “I put my body through a lot of miles and injuries over the years, and the orthopedic surgeons are the people who would patch me up and get me back on the track,” he said. “I love the idea of taking something that’s broken, a person in this case, and fixing it.” The future promises even more success for Stephanie and Wade. But no matter what, both brother and sister will always remember their time at A&M in the BIMS program. “We really owe a large part of our lives to Dr. Crouch and the BIMS department at Texas A&M,” Wade said. “She is the most amazing person, educator, professor, dean, everything, every title you could give her. She is the pinnacle and the standard that others should be held to.” ■



Caitlin O'Conner and fellow BIMS Ambassador alumna Chau Dong

I have really loved what A&M, as a whole, has done for me, but also what this college has done for me; I got to learn and grow so much in BIMS. - CAITLIN O’CONNOR

by Jennifer Gauntt

Every day as guests enter the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC), they are greeted by a friendly face and a warm “Howdy” that emanates from behind a large desk just to the left of the entrance. Sitting behind that desk is one of the CVM Ambassadors, a group of undergraduate biomedical sciences (BIMS) majors and veterinary students whose job entails more than just rolling out the welcome wagon. As their name suggests, they are the ambassadors of the college, sharing their love for the CVM, Texas A&M, and the Bryan-College Station area with visitors from all over the state, country, and sometimes even world. Because of this, they are information gatekeepers, offering directions and other general assistance; interacting with guests; providing daily tours that provide an overview of the college; explaining our academic programs; showing off the facilities; and sharing their experiences.

The impact they may make is immeasurable, but the numbers don’t lie—in 2017, the first full year the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) was open, the ambassadors gave more than 470 tours, accounting for almost 5,000 college visitors. And those numbers continue to grow as more alumni and other guests hear how aweinspiring the new complex is; this past spring, from January to April, alone, the group of 25 students gave 188 tours to 2,114 people. For many ambassadors, that interaction with prospective students, parents, alumni, and other visitors is the best part of their job. “When I get to give a tour or answer somebody’s questions about the school, it just really reinforces why I chose to be an ambassador,” said Caitlin O’Connor, a BIMS alumna who became an ambassador at the beginning of her sophomore year. “Being able to show off the school has been really special; hearing visitors respond during tours FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 55

CVM Ambassadors

with, like, ‘Wow! I love this building,’ or 'I love this school,’ or 'This program seems really cool.’—that’s always really gratifying because it is really cool, and I want other people to see that.” Each BIMS ambassador approaches the job with a similar enthusiasm, but it is their unique backgrounds and the experiences that come with that that make each tour different from the next. O’Connor, who is from Dallas, knew she wanted to be a veterinarian from a very young age, even shadowing at a family friend’s veterinary clinic when she was a pre-teen. Now a second-year veterinary student in the CVM, O’Connor is able to share her experiences as both a BIMS student and in the veterinary program during the hourand-a-half long tours. She also shares her love of Aggie football, the experiences she had in her sorority, and her family connections to Texas A&M—her grandfather and five of his children attended A&M. “I have really loved what A&M, as a whole, has done for me, but also what this college has done for me; I got to learn and grow so much in BIMS,” she said. “It’s a great program, and I really love getting to show it off to people, to be able to say, ‘This is where I took physiology as an undergrad.’ or ‘This is what our anatomy lab looks like.’” Alex Casas, a recent graduate of the University Studies with a concentration in biomedical sciences program who entered the Master of Public Health program in the Texas A&M School of Public Health in the fall, has his own unique connection to Texas A&M and the BIMS program that informed his approach to guiding guests on tours. A native of the border town Edinburg, Casas grew up with parents whose first language was Spanish. He had originally planned to attend the University of Texas at Dallas, but after his father passed away from complications related to diabetes, his plans changed. “My senior year, I took a trip with some of my friends here, to Texas A&M, and they really reinforced the university’s whole family feeling,” Casas said. “I picked up 56 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

on that—I just connected with that part of the school—and so I decided to come here.” After a year at Texas A&M, Casas learned about the BIMS ambassador program and decided it would provide him with a good opportunity to earn a little extra money while representing the college and university. “I was really engrossed in the whole A&M-family thing—that you’re an Aggie for life—and I wanted other people to be able to experience that like I had, to get that feeling; I liked the idea of being able to present those types of values to future students,” Casas said. “So, I looked into the job a little bit, it sounded cool, and I applied.” Likewise, while the Aggie core value of “selfless service” played a huge role in O’Connor applying to be an ambassador, she also knew that being an ambassador would align with her goal of getting into veterinary school at Texas A&M. “I felt like being an ambassador would help me get to know the school a lot better, so that was an aspect when I was applying to the ambassador position, that it was another way for me to be able to get to know faculty and administrators around the school better,” she said. After a combined six years of serving as ambassadors, Casas and O’Connor said the position exceeded the expectations of what they thought the job would be, if for no other reason than the personal growth they experienced as ambassadors. “Before I got this job, I was really quiet and I wasn’t very well-spoken,” Casas said. “So, now, when I hear from others that they think I’m well-spoken, it’s is a pretty big deal. Even some of my family members have commented on that when I go back home. They’re like, ‘Oh wow, you’ve really come out of your shell.’ “I think kind of in the way a communications course might teach you how to speak in public, this job—in having to learn to speak to larger groups and special guests—made me more confident in terms of speaking to others.” O’Connor agreed that during her three years, and counting, of being an ambassador, she has sharpened her skills in thinking quickly, improvising, and speaking, in general. And those are just some of the things she’s learned she could do well since becoming an ambassador. “Walking backwards—that was definitely one of them,” she said, with a laugh. “I think one of the biggest changes in me that happened as an undergrad was that I went from being introverted and not really wanting to interact with people to just realizing that I am a pretty big extrovert and that I really like people. “The ambassador program helped shape me, because when you give a tour, it’s not like you are just walking backwards in silence—you want to have a conversation with people and get to know them because they’re interested in this school,” she said. “It’s just really cool to get to know people from all different walks of life; so, it helped me kind of shape my ability to get to know people better.”

Despite the challenges of balancing the rigorous BIMS— and, for O’Connor, the veterinary—curriculum with other obligations, including other extracurricular activities, both said they are glad they chose to serve as an ambassador. “I decided to stay on through vet school just because the program makes me really excited, and I love showing that off to people,” O’Connor said. “Going through the first year of the new DVM curriculum gives us second-years the unique opportunity to talk about that experience. And I think it’s really cool that I was able to see what the vet school used to be (before the new complex opened) and what it has become in the past three or four years.” “I think being an ambassador really grants you a good perspective in terms of how to appreciate what we have here and the opportunities we’re given within this program and within this college,” Casas said. “When you’re a student, it’s one thing to see things from the inside out, but as an ambassador, I think you get to see things from the outside in, because you’re constantly walking around the facilities and seeing the students study on their own or study together; you have these prospective students who get to see everything for the first time, and sharing everything you see with them is really exciting. It helped remind me what the ambassadors provide here.” ■

Alex Casas - BIMS Ambassador alumnus

GETTING TO KNOW A GUIDE: Questions for Alex & Caitlin What has been one of your favorite experiences as an ambassador? Alex: I got to give a tour to a man who graduated from our school and now works in engineering. He had started a company and then developed a scholarship fund for our university. It was really interesting to meet someone who’s helped so many students get through their time here, financially. What’s your favorite place on the tour route? Caitlin: I really like the Anatomy Lab because the lab is really cool. There are a lot of features that people aren’t really expecting—just how big the room is, in general, or all of the bones sitting in plastic tubs along the wall; people are always just so amazed by it. And anatomy has been one of my favorite classes that I’ve taken in undergrad and in vet school. And so, it’s just really fun to get to show off that room. Alex: Recently, I think I’ve enjoyed our new educational complex, just because of how nice it is. I also really like the Large Animal Hospital in a general sense, just because growing up I had no experience with large animals. Everyone has experiences with dogs and cats to a degree, but I’d never been around horses or cattle. Have there been any special moments that stand out for you? Alex: When I saw camels for the first time, that was as exciting for me as it was for the guests. I was just walking through the hospital…and there were some camels; I didn’t know why they were there, but I decided I was going to present them as if I’d been around them my entire life. That was pretty different. I was later surprised because I actually heard a clinician say that we see camels fairly often. Eventually you get used to seeing those kinds of animals, but it’s always kind of cool to see the unusual ones. Caitlin: There have been a couple. One was giving tours this year to the students interviewing for vet school. They were so blown away by our new facilities, by the classes that they would be able to take, and all of the really neat aspects of vet school that were new to them. It was really rewarding to be able to end the tour and have them just be in awe of the program, because that’s what I’m like every day. Then, in April, one of the people on one of those tours came in to shadow a class because she was curious as to what it was like. When I recognized her, it was like, ‘Oh wow! I gave you a tour. How’s it going?’ That was a really cool moment; it just speaks to that ‘people’ aspect of the job.



GETTING 'ORGANIZED' Biomedical sciences-affiliated student groups give undergraduates a multitude of experiences that complement their coursework and move them closer to their career goals. by Briley Lambert

Biomedical Sciences Association

Students involved in the Biomedical Sciences Association (BSA) at Texas A&M graduate feeling confident in their abilities to apply to professional school and begin their careers. The BSA welcomes new members each semester who are enrolled in a science major and are interested in a career in either human medical fields or veterinary medicine. With goals that are similar to those of the Biomedical Sciences Program (BIMS) and College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), the BSA aims to guide students through their undergraduate years and prepare them for their careers after graduation. Daniela Martin del Campo—a senior BIMS major who became involved with the BSA as a freshman, served as a human medicine general officer as a sophomore, and is the current president of the organization— has seen first-hand the multitude of opportunities that the BSA offers its members to boost their resumes and prepare for applying to professional school after graduation. “We want our students to feel prepared by the time they graduate and to be sure about how they want to use their BIMS degree after their undergraduate years” Martin del Campo said. “Our officers are always 58 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

available to guide younger, and older, students as they maneuver their way through the BIMS program and prepare for their futures.” Along with offering support and guidance to its members, the BSA is involved with several volunteer activities throughout the year. “BSA is very involved with serving the community and we offer countless service events such as volunteering with the Brazos Valley Food Bank, Bryan Animal Center, and hosting blood drives each semester,” Martin del Campo said. “We also take part in Replant in the fall and Big Event in the spring. This year we added some new service events, such as partnering with the Ronald McDonald House and the Hudson Creek Alzheimer Center.” A large component of the BSA’s service activities are their philanthropies. Martin del Campo believes that the amount of money the BSA raises for these philanthropies is one of their most important accomplishments thus far. “We have two philanthropies, Project C.U.R.E., which sends medical supplies to developing countries, and Long Way Home Sanctuary, which provides a safe home for unwanted or abandoned animals,” said Martin del Campo. “We raise money for these philanthropies by partnering with

restaurants in the College Station/ Bryan community to host profit shares. Last semester, we were able to raise $600 for each of these philanthropies.” The BSA’s accomplishments do not stop at their philanthropic fundraising efforts. Martin del Campo credits the BSA’s current and former members' successes at Texas A&M and in their careers as the biggest accomplishments of the organization. “BSA members are some of the hardest working individuals, as they balance school and extracurricular activities with jobs, shadowing, and a million other things,” she said. “Each year we have numerous members accepted into professional programs. I cannot think of a better accomplishment than reaching goals you have placed for yourself.” Through the organization’s numerous volunteer activities and accomplishments, Martin del Campo believes that the BSA has had a great impact on the university and maintained its positive reputation among students and faculty. “At the end of the day we are all a part of the Aggie family,” she said. “BSA has been able to be involved on campus, with service and our socials, and has remained a well-respected professional student organization at Texas A&M.”

Biomedical Sciences Association affiliated students with Dr. Mark Vara

Veterinarians Without Borders

As an organization that focuses on community service and the role of veterinarians internationally, Veterinarians Without Borders provides A&M students with service opportunities both locally and abroad. Just as the CVM and BIMS program work to prepare students for careers in an ever-changing world, Veterinarians Without Borders aims to mold their members into well-rounded veterinarians and individuals. Marshal Covin, a senior BIMS major from San Marcos, is president of the tight-knit organization. In addition to being a member of the B-Company in the Corps of Cadets and a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, Covin has volunteered with Veterinarians Without Borders for the last four years. “We volunteer locally each weekend with a number of different organizations, including the Reptile Hospice and Sanctuary of Texas, Haven for Horses, and a local rescue group for dogs in the Brazos Valley,” Covin said. “As volunteers with these organizations, we help care for lizards, snakes, and turtles; we help train horses so that they may be used as therapy animals for the disabled; and we help care for rescue dogs that will soon be adopted.” Veterinarians Without Borders also sends students abroad each summer to volunteer in unique settings.

“Countries we have visited in the past include Thailand, where we worked with an elephant rehabilitation group; South Africa, where we volunteered at a small animal shelter; and many other places,” Covin said. “Our volunteer activities give our members opportunities to gain experience in exotic, equine, and small animal care, which increases their personal growth and understanding of veterinary medicine.” With goals that run parallel to those of the BIMS program and CVM, Veterinarians Without Borders provides its members with valuable personal and professional skills, including communication skills, which Covin believes is one of the most valuable skills students learn through the organization. “Communication is arguably one of the most important attributes for future veterinarians,” he said. “Veterinarians Without Borders members are able to get a head start on developing this skill through service activities, frequent interactions with the community, and leadership opportunities.” Although the aspects of the organization are beneficial to its members, Covin believes that Veterinarians Without Borders has had an equally as positive impact on the CVM and the entire university. “We are able to represent Texas A&M through our community service activities, and we help to set students up for a successful and impactful career in veterinary medicine,” he said. “I think that it is great seeing our members give back to the community and make a difference for the lives of so many animals. I feel even prouder when I consider the impact of our international work each summer.”

Through biweekly meetings and monthly socials, members of this group have the opportunity to expand their circle of friends, as well as their professional network. “We host CVM faculty who are able to broaden our understanding of service, awareness, and veterinarians’ international roles,” Covin said. Many of our speakers, for example, have applied their veterinary degrees to public health, wildlife conservation and rehabilitation, veterinary pathology, education, epidemiology, public policy, national defense, international food security, laboratory research, and much more. “These individuals are able to advise and encourage our members, thereby setting them up for success in their future career.” Veterinarians Without Borders is always welcoming new members. The organization is open to Texas A&M students of any major who may be interested in veterinary medicine. ■

For more information on Veterinarians Without Borders, email vetswithoutborderstamu@ or visit their Facebook page, Veterinarians Without Borders-Texas A&M.




The biomedical sciences curriculum includes more than just chemistry and anatomy— undergraduates can choose from electives that stimulate their minds and allow them to explore the possibilities of a BIMS education. by Jennifer Gauntt, Briley Lambert, & Dr. Megan Palsa

While the BIMS program prepares its students for a future in a medical or health care-related field through science-heavy courses, some BIMS classes take a less conventional approach to student learning. Among the catalog of these classes are “Great Diseases” and “Neurophysiology of Music,” which are designed to introduce undergraduates to intimidating subjects such as microbiology or physiology in a more accessible way. The popularity of those classes shows that creatively exploring course objectives can have a huge impact on students, while offering professors the opportunity to show the diverse possibilities of a BIMS education.

Hear ye! Hear ye! David Threadgill, a distinguished professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB), has one of the brightest minds in the field of genetics—he never stops thinking about research. While golfing with friends in Scotland or having dinner with his wife and daughters in College Station, research is always on his mind. If all conversations centered around research, life would be close to perfect for him. As such, Threadgill’s work in areas that range from how environmental

factors such as lead exposure can affect humans, to how genetic factors can impact diet response or a soldier’s response to infectious disease, have been featured in the most renowned academic journals and have graced the pages of the most prestigious news outlets around the world. So, bringing a class titled “Genetics in the News” to the BIMS program required little mental effort. “I heard about a similar class at the University of Wisconsin from the head of genetics who was teaching it,” Threadgill said. “At Wisconsin it was taught to genetics majors but I decided the concept could be adapted to underclassmen to hopefully excite them about genetics. The class studies and discusses contemporary genetic discoveries that are reported by the national press. “I felt it important for students to be able to critically think about what was being reported and more importantly, how the discoveries were likely to be made and their long-term consequences for society,” he said. “Additionally, it was a way to teach genetics to students who had not yet had a dedicated genetics course.” Students who take the class are required to write a new article from a research paper of their choosing. They also prepare a talk about genetics that interests them in the format of PechaKucha (20 slides, with 20 seconds on each slide). In addition to learning more about genetics and, in turn, teaching their peers what they have learned, the class is a great way to gain skills in public speaking cadence.

“Each semester students seem to have increased interest. I can see that by the numbers of students who want to register even after the class fills,” Threadgill said. Seeing the students beginning to grasp the concepts, applying the material to their work, and coming “out of their shell” is what makes Threadgill appreciate the opportunity to teach the class. “As freshmen and sophomores— most of whom have only had large science courses—start to actively engage in the discussion, I begin to see impressive, positive signals that this is beneficial and will hopefully impact their future in this work,” he said. “Having a small Socratic-style course is initially challenging for many students, so watching the after-effects of this class take flight by seeing my students engage so wholeheartedly…it makes this old, crusty scientist smile.”

‘Infecting’ the Mind with Microbiology Whether bacteria-, protozoa-, or virus-induced, the infectious diseases to which humans and animals are susceptible are caused by microscopic invaders of our bodies. Diseases such as the plague, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria have had life-changing impacts on many species in the animal kingdom, which is why Ian Tizard, a distinguished professor of VTPB, has dedicated an entire class to exploring those “Great Diseases of the World.” Launched as a hybrid microbiology course in 1995, VTPB 221 was created as a means of rejuvenating interest FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 61

in the subject among freshmen-level students by exploring the history of diseases while delving into the science behind their outbreaks and treatments. “We work through the major diseases, give the historical highlights and try to make them relevant to modern medicine, so we discuss things like why, for example, the plague is so lethal,” Tizard explained. “For years it was the rat that was thought to spread it, but, in fact, recent data analysis shows that it’s actually spread primarily human to human. It’s the reanalysis of some of the historical data we have that really changed our view of some of these diseases.” Lecture-based and writingintensive, the class requires students to complete multiple research-based papers throughout the semester, including a term paper over a selected disease, and two intensive essay exams. Since the class was introduced, Tizard has expanded the focus from covering only one disease to several that connect the past to the present. “We’ve got a lot of emerging diseases coming out that we try to talk about to keep things current,” he said. “We work through the major diseases and then connect them back to present-day medicine.” Although there are now 300 students enrolled each semester, microbiology was not always this popular; Tizard, who was head of microbiology when he created the course, thought a class like “Great Diseases” might make the subject more approachable and exciting. “Students were avoiding microbiology because they had a bad introduction. I thought, ‘Why not give them the cool bits, a section of what I think is the most interesting and gross stuff?’ Students love gross stuff,” Tizard said. “So, that’s what we did. We started off by talking about the major diseases that killed millions of people and influenced world history.” When Tizard’s own children were students at Texas A&M, he realized how difficult it can be for freshmen to enroll in courses they want to take, 62 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

which motivated him to both offer his as a 200-level class and then welcome all who are interested. “I would hear my students say things like, ‘I’m going to take this really great course. Oh, never mind, it’s full,’” he said. “That’s when I decided, if the classroom will hold them, I will take them.” As enrollment increased, Tizard also noticed an increased interest in microbiology among his students. This newfound interest has led to a steady supply of students wanting to get involved in microbiology research. “Students now come up to me, introduce themselves, and tell me what they’re interested in, and I send them to my colleagues; that’s worked out very well,” Tizard said. “There are a lot of opportunities for students, if they are interested.” While Tizard’s evolved style of teaching has increased interest in microbiology, he attributes much of the course’s success to the importance of the material. “One of the things that makes the course so successful is that it’s all relevant. There are a lot of current events that help the course; things like Zika or Ebola are great for our enrollment,” he said. “I don’t have to justify infectious diseases to the students. They see why we’re doing this, and they intrinsically interested.”

Listening to the Brain Many people conflate music history with the history of the musicians who created those renowned pieces, but Micah Waltz, a lecturer in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS), is here to tell undergraduate biomedical sciences and engineering students that it’s much more than that. “Music history is also the context of what was happening globally, what was happening politically,” Waltz said. In his VIBS 447, “Neurophysiology of Music” course, a writing-intensive class that is part of the Germany Biosciences Semester abroad program, students explore the deeper context

of some of the world’s most famous musical works by visiting the sites important to a composer or song. Those excursions also provide an opportunity for students to apply the science behind some of the principles they’re learning—such as neural circuitry and how sound gets to the brain—in a variety of environments. “On one excursion, we wound up in a fort in Koblenz, and the students were standing in this dome-shaped structure; no matter where you stood, you experienced perfect reverberation,” Waltz said. “They began discussing the physics behind this. They asked questions like, ‘How do we get all sound waves equally at the same time?’ “When they went into museums, I would hear them say, ‘Oh, wow, I’m talking and it’s really muted—what’s going on?’” Waltz continued. “It got them to think critically about the space around them. They have those conversations and they really think about what they’re learning.” This aspect is reinforced in the course’s final project, which asks students to use concepts they’ve learned to design a system in which sound can change an environment. “I've had pre-med students talk about redesigning maternity wards so that sound isn't echoing through and stimulating babies; I've had them go through and do that,” Waltz said. “It really is a great chance to push them to apply the content.” The response to the class has been positive, and as a writing instructor who often teaches the same students in other writing courses, Waltz said he also gets to see the impact the course makes on those students. The nature of the course gives students a perspective of history that they otherwise wouldn’t get; it also highlights the power the humanities can have on BIMS students when combined with hard science materials. “Music is a form of communication that transcends language,” Waltz said. “It is used and appreciated around the globe; you don’t have to be a musician to appreciate the sound.





Distinguished Professor and Director of the Texas A&M Institute of Genome Sciences and Society Department: VTPB

Distinguished Professor Department: VTPB

Lecturer Department: VIBS

Lecturer Department: VIBS

“This class helps students see beyond themselves, past the edges of the scientific disciplines they study—it acts as a bridge between the neural aspects of hearing sound and the joy of experiencing music.”

Thinking like a ‘Bioterrorist’ When BIMS students in VIBS lecturer Colin Young’s “Global One Health” course responded extremely favorably to a guest lecture on aspects of bioterrorism, Young did what any scientist would do—he conducted an “experiment,” surveying his students’ interest in creating an entire class devoted to the topic. Two semesters, 600 questionnaires, and a 95 percent approval rate later, BIMS 289, “Aspects of Bioterrorism,” was born. Offered as a series of lectures presented by specialists, “Aspects of Bioterrorism” explores historical perspectives, environmental health and global security, infectious diseases, and vaccines. Speakers include CVM associate dean of Global One Health who shares his experiences creating biodefense and biosecurity policies for the federal government; Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory staff, who share their biosurveillance experiences in cases such as foot-and-mouth disease; and leaders who discuss bioagent dissemination via zoonotic transmission and the genetic engineering of microbes in cases such as anthrax.

These personal perspectives are fundamental, highlighting for freshmen the career possibilities within Global One Health and allowing students to learn from speakers’ successes and mistakes. “A lot of what it’s about is problemsolving; that’s where the speakers’ personal angle comes in, because they’ve been involved in problemsolving for each of these specific areas,” Young said. “They know the ins and outs, all the hiccups, what happened, what didn’t happen, how they messed up, and why they got the positive result in the end.” Though most students were born after 9/11, and have, therefore, never lived in a world where the United States wasn’t fighting a war on terrorism, the topic of bioterrorism is still “eye-opening” for many of them. “I think one of the things that they are made aware of is that the cost of bioterrorism is minuscule compared with other forms of terrorism. That’s a big eye-opener,” he said. “You always think bombs, chemicals, nuclear proliferation, or other. And if you look at the amount it costs per square mile, bioterrorism is by far the most cost effective of the lot. “One of the questions I always pose to students is, ‘if you were to do bioterrorism, would it be more effective to primarily infect humans with, for example, the plague—is that going to be of any use to anyone? Or would it be much more effective

to use agriculture to infect crops or livestock?’” Young said. “My personal view would be agriculture and livestock are by far the more important possible bioterrorism threat than the human angle.” Young said it’s important for students to think this way because it removes the normal “gut reaction,” or emotional response, we generally have to terrorism and forces students to think more pragmatically. Thinking like a bioterrorist, after all, can help prevent bioterrorism. “Everyone thinks of bioterrorism as people dropping bombs with the plague, but that may not be. One instance is sufficient to prick everyone’s mind,” he said. “The anthrax event in this country was sufficient to scare everyone, but it was a small episode. Four people died. It just shows you how effective bioterrorism can be.” Close to two years later, Young is now expanding the course, creating an upper-level version, again, at his students’ request. But not before doing the proper research, again via survey. “It’s a very unusual course, one students won’t find anywhere else,” he said. “And it covers a great deal. The class is rewarding and interesting.” ■



Through Christopher Quick’s “research-intensive communities,” hundreds of biomedical sciences students, and others across Texas A&M University, are gaining confidence and leadership skills by conducting student-driven, team-based research projects. by Jennifer Gauntt


hen Christopher Quick began working with BIMS students approximately 15 years ago, he wanted to give them more opportunities in an area he had difficulty permeating—that of undergraduate research. But what started as a way to engage undergraduates as a new faculty member has evolved into three programs that impact hundreds of BIMS students in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM)—and even more students across Texas A&M. Now a professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP), Quick manages a summer research program, the Biomedical Research and Development Certificate, and the Aggie Research Scholars Program. Each born of necessity, the three programs share a goal—to introduce research in a way that is true to how science is done in the real world.


What makes these programs so popular is the less-traditional approach Quick has taken to managing undergraduate researchers. Through a model Quick calls “research-intensive communities,” students are brought together to conduct projects in groups rather than receiving individual projects. “Everyone has different skills and interests and perspectives, and all of that becomes very helpful when you're trying to work on a collaborative project,” Quick said. “So, this model is team based, community based. It's like how real science works—you have a lab and you bring people in and as some people get more experience, they do some of the teaching and training. It's very student centered.” As more and more students became interested in working in these teams, Quick realized that other opportunities would allow even more students to interact. That’s when he developed a summer research

program, which went on to attract undergraduates from across the country to come to Texas A&M to work together. “The first time I did this, I had 12 students. Then the following semester, it went up to 25, then to 30, then to 36, then to 60, because it's efficient and it actually produces research,” Quick said. “Instead of having time to research on one side and time to do teaching on the other, I could do both at the same time.”

Certifiable Research

One might think coordinating a growing number of students would be the biggest challenge Quick was facing; instead, Quick viewed his challenge from the side of the student and their research. “One of the problems I saw when students were doing research is they could only receive so many research credits. You have the biggest impact on students who begin research

Christopher Quick

Undergraduate students participating in Christopher Quick's research class

early in their academic careers, but then they use up their three, six, or nine credit hours and they're done,” Quick said. “The problem is, that's right when they start becoming exceptionally productive and begin to like it; they begin to see if research is something they want to incorporate into their careers or if they want a different career path with the opportunities research can give them.” In response to that, Quick created a research-based course, at first incorporating undergraduates into his graduate physiology class. “My undergraduates did better than my graduate students. They were very motivated because they didn't have an opportunity to do real research,” Quick said. “Then I brought in freshmen and sophomores and they did even better. They were even more motivated and more interested.” Working with other VTPP faculty, he created a class structure that allowed freshmen to enter a researchbased course, through which they 66 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

could generate real ideas and conduct actual research, and then follow that project into their sophomore and junior years. Their senior year, they complete a capstone class that integrates research and service. Students who followed this plan became eligible for a new Biomedical Research and Development Certificate in one of two tracks—an experimental path that allows students to design an experiment, test it, and report their findings, or a mathematical modeling path that allows students to explore and make predictions about physiological functions. “I teach mathematical modeling of the cardiovascular system and analysis of data. The BIM students seem to enjoy that,” Quick said. “If you ask them, they hate math, but when you can apply it to something, it becomes a lot more real. “The types of research we get involved with is clinically relevant: heart failure—how does the heart adapt? Kidney function, shock,

hemorrhaging, intracranial pressure increases with stroke,” he said. “It's something they're engaged with, but it connects the basic science with something that is relevant to them.” Today, the certificate program is the only of its kind on campus and while its enrollment mostly comprises BIMS students, students from across the university participate. “It's challenging to run, but the students have really good ideas that turn into papers we can present at conferences,” Quick said. “I have students working on manuscripts in their sophomore year because it helps clarify their direction; it allows faculty and other students to see it and give feedback. It takes a long time to write a manuscript, but we start early and we work on projects that have a good chance of getting published, so we have a lot of work going on right now.”

Creating a Scholarly Community

The thought of having hundreds of research-curious students who

are looking for a project can be overwhelming from a coordination standpoint, but out of that need came the Aggie Research Scholars Program. Through the program, which utilizes Quick’s research-intensive communities model, experienced undergraduates, graduate students, and post-doctoral students create their own research teams to complete projects of larger scope. Many BIMS students participating in the research certification program are among those who become team leaders. “The idea is that team leaders get mentoring, research management, and leadership experience; these leaders convert one-on-one research into team-based research,” Quick said. “After all, I'm a faculty member, and I do things in teams; I don't have all the skills to do everything alone. That's just the way it works. That's how science works.” Students are matched when team leaders post about their projects and the skills they are seeking in prospective team members on the Aggie Research Scholars Program website ( Through this, Quick says, students learn the value of diversity in teams.

Undergraduate student showing off her research poster to Christopher Quick

Undergraduate Research Launch Poster Day

“We talk about diversity very broadly. It's not just ethnicity, but how everyone's different perspectives— and, even broader, personality types— can be very powerful. If everyone on a team is organized, it may be hard to generate new ideas; if everyone on a team is more like me, scattered and thinks outside the box, you may not get anything done. You need different people with different backgrounds and experiences. “When we talk that through and other team leaders tell new leaders that this a real thing, that diversity makes a team strong, it's generally believed,” he said. “Well, not always, but after a semester, they'll learn. They see.” Project leaders also participate in the Aggie Research Leadership Program, which brings them together to receive weekly reports generated

through member surveys or to talk about mentoring or problems they may be encountering within their teams. “The particular problems in their research are different, but leaders find that the difficulties and the challenges of mentoring a team are amazingly similar,” Quick said. “Those meetings help team leaders do things better; they share experiences about recruiting, interviewing students. The surprising thing they learn from those who've done it before is that when students align their goals and the leaders’ goals, they're most effective. So, the team leaders can learn from each other; they can solve problems better than I can.” While Quick’s three programs provide the experiences that make research more accessible to undergraduates, perhaps the most important opportunity his programs foster is personal growth. “When you get to work in a team, you get a student who's at first quiet but, through work on that team, just begins to flower,” Quick said. “I see exceptional qualities in these students all the time because these teams are about finding what you're good at. Sometimes it takes a couple of years and then you find the right group, the right chemistry, the right skill set, it gets diverse enough so that they can now solve all kinds of problems and then, wow, they just launch. “Every day I go in and they're asking a question I never realized was a question. They've analyzed some paper, sometimes my paper, and has insight that I did not have,” he said. “It's happening all the time, so I'm rather humble about the whole thing.” ■



Alumna Abby Spiegelman was able to fully realize her passion for public service and public health through the CVM's smaller second major. by Kasey Heath


hen Abby Spiegelman began her college career, she was on the path to pharmacy school as she pursued her degree in biomedical sciences. But after graduating in December 2017, Spiegelman found a position with Texas Rep. Kyle Kacal, proving that the opportunities are endless with a Bachelor of Science in University Studies degree with a concentration in biomedical sciences (USVM) from the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). The smaller of the CVM’s two undergraduate majors, the university studies degree is a flexible, 120-hour degree program that enables a student 68 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

to combine a biomedical sciences concentration, two minors, the core curriculum, and electives to create a comprehensive degree that aligns with the student’s professional interest. The two minors must be chosen from an approved list and cannot be biology or biomedical sciences. “When I realized I didn’t want to go to medical school, I transitioned to university studies my second year,” Spiegelman said. “I liked the flexibility in my education within the USVM.” USVM students are required to take 43 credit hours of core curriculum and 21-24 credit hours in the biomedical sciences area of concentration. Both minors require 15-18 credit hours each, and the program is rounded out

with 17-26 elective credit and science prerequisite hours. Spiegelman, a College Station native, chose to minor in business and history, and later added a Public Health Entomology certificate. Her diverse education and the policy experience she gained as an intern in the office of U.S. Rep. Bill Flores have allowed Spiegelman to combine her passions for public service and healthcare in her current full-time position with Rep. Kacal. “Health care policy is a huge deal, and people in healthcare kind of speak in their own language,” Spiegelman said. “Through the USVM program, I got so much practice talking to researchers and writing about health

With this work, I see how my university studies degree has provided me with the foundation I needed to interact with such an eclectic group of people—from farmers and ranchers, to elected officials, to college professors and high school teachers—on any given day.

Abby Spiegelman speaking with a constituent


topics. This experience helped me write healthcare legislation memos for Congressman Flores. I had fun because I talked to doctors and researchers, and learned to simplify complex health topics to communicate with lobbyists and constituents. “As the district director for Rep. Kacal, my job is to go out into the community and represent the representative; I listen to constituent concerns and conduct casework with state agencies when necessary,” she said. “With this work, I see how my university studies degree has provided me with the foundation I needed to interact with such an eclectic group of people—from farmers and ranchers, to elected officials, to college professors and high school teachers—on any given day. I would never have been equipped to communicate so freely with such a wide array of people if I didn't have such a flexible education.” Spiegelman said she made the switch to USVM after a presentation in an introductory biomedical sciences course that brought in professionals

Congressman Bill Flores and Abby Spiegelman 70 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

from different areas of life sciences careers. The professionals spoke about their experiences and taught the class about the routes students can take with a degree in biomedical sciences. Hearing about all the opportunities showed her that pharmacy school was not her only option. “That class inspired me to look at how to apply my major in different ways,” Spiegelman said. “Once I realized all of the opportunities and landed my internship with a politician, which helped me discover my love for politics, I wanted a degree program that was more flexible. University Studies allowed me that flexibility.” Upon graduation in December, Spiegelman’s academic career took another turn, and she was accepted into an online master’s program through Georgetown University in emergency and disaster management. “I liked the high-stress scenarios in public health I was exposed to through the courses I took (at Texas A&M) to complete the Public Health Entomology certificate,” she said.

Spiegelman said she sees endless career opportunity ahead of her. “I would love to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a policy analyst,” Spiegelman said. “But I could also use my congressional background and work with lobbyists. My master’s degree specializes in bioterrorism, which deals a lot with pre-disaster solutions. I have a bunch of different ways I can go. “I like to say that my undergraduate degree was a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none,’” she said. “I really feel like I have a lot of options.” Spiegelman said the diversity of the education through USVM can make any student more mentally flexible and able to adapt to many different environments within the biomedical sciences world. “What I love about the university studies program is the broad education it provides,” Spiegelman said. “I feel like some students tend to ‘pigeon hole’ themselves into one area, and when they graduate, they don’t realize they will have to deal with many different

My degree helped me with my flexibility of thinking, and that is important in any position. - ABBY SPIEGELMAN

types of people and they won’t know how. USVM exposes students to more than one avenue of thought, which will invariably help any student in their chosen field of study. “My degree helped me with my flexibility of thinking, and that is important in any position.” Something Spiegelman said she really enjoyed about the USVM program beyond the education was the opportunity to meet other people in

different programs all over campus. “I like to think that I will know at least one person in every building I go into on Texas A&M’s campus,” Spiegelman said. “That was my goal.” Spiegelman encourages others to see the benefit of a broad education through university studies programs and internship opportunities. “I tell people to try to get internships in different fields and dedicate time to talk to people outside

of their field of study; it gives them new perspectives that they maybe wouldn’t have ever thought of,” Spiegelman said. “For me, it completely changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my life, and I am so thankful for the wide range of options I have to shape my future career.” ■



by Chad Wootton

Students in South Texas who want to take classes in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) undergraduate biomedical sciences program now have to travel no further than McAllen to earn their degrees. The CVM’s Bachelor of Science Biomedical Sciences degree is one of the distinct degree programs formally approved to be offered at the recently completed Higher Education Center in the Tres Lagos master-planned community in Northwest McAllen, built in partnership with the City of McAllen and Hidalgo County. BIMS classes were introduced this fall at the Higher Education Center at McAllen, which celebrated its official grand opening on Oct. 25. The BIMS program at Texas A&M provides students from the Rio Grande Valley with a choice of programs, 72 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

as the Texas A&M version will be animal focused, consistent with our College Station-based programs, while other biomedical programs in the region focus on human health. “I am truly excited to be able to offer biomedical sciences as a degree option for students at the Texas A&M McAllen Higher Education Center,” said Elizabeth Crouch, CVM associate dean for undergraduate education. “Our office has looked forward to welcoming these new BIMS students with our next class of Aggies.” Texas A&M worked with the region’s industry leaders, kindergarten through 12th-grade education officials, workforce service providers, and the institution’s own legacy of academic strengths to offer fully accredited degree programs approved for the Bachelor of Science Biomedical Sciences, Bachelor of Science Food

System Industry Management, Bachelor of Science Interdisciplinary Engineering, and Bachelor of Science Multidisciplinary Engineering Technology. These complement three existing degree offerings: the Bachelor of Science Public Health, the Master of Public Health, and the Bachelor of Science Nursing, all of which are currently offered at the Texas A&M educational site on South McColl Road in McAllen. The formal announcement follows the completion of two years of the rigorous Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approval processes required for the formation of a Higher Education Center, extension of existing degree offerings, and negotiations with other regional higher education institutions. â–

Applications for admission are now being accepted. Students interested in these programs and courses of study at the Texas A&M University Higher Education Center at McAllen should review criteria and deadlines at Promotional materials have been sent to all school districts in the Rio Grande Valley, and individual student consultation is available at the Texas A&M University Prospective Student Center at 5277 North 23rd St., McAllen, Texas, 78504.




Research Certificate Prepares Students for Life-Long Learning by Briley Lambert

For Maryam Vessalpour, a senior biomedical sciences (BIMS) major, receiving the Biomedical Research and Development Certificate was a vital step toward achieving her career goals. After graduation, Vessalpour plans to attend professional school and, eventually, to work as a physician in a hospital where she can conduct her own investigations or be a part of a research team. “Any specialty in the medical field of study is researchbased now, and I wanted to get the research certification because research is how we expand our medical knowledge,” Vessalpour said. “It’s important to get the most updated information and understand the new strategies or advances utilizing new research resources.” The research certificate, offered by the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology (VTPP), provides students with the opportunity to gain advanced training in biomedical research. Students in the program gain a broader understanding of the creation, evaluation, and dissemination of new knowledge while performing publishable, original research within a research-intensive community. Students pursuing this certification can follow either the modeling or experimental path. The modeling path allows students to utilize a computer to examine the relationship between several variables in physiological systems, before developing equations to characterize these relationships. Students who choose the experimental route design a protocol, perform in vitro experiments, and then report their findings. Those enrolled in either path begin the program by taking introductory courses to get a feel for what research is and what type of investigation they want to do in the future, followed by courses tailored to each student’s interests. The program requires at least 18 credit hours in designated courses, each of which include engagement in inquiry-based research. As another requirement of the certification program, students must participate in Texas A&M’s Student Research Week (SRW), which recognizes and celebrates student research at Texas A&M. Vessalpour credits the research certificate for her multiple successes at SRW. “Because of the research I was conducting and the

opportunities I was given by the research certificate, I placed in the top two for the Human Health SciencesUndergraduate Division both times that I participated in SRW,” she said. Vessalpour is thankful she decided to pursue the certificate and recommends the program to anyone wanting a career in research. “Although these certifications were a lot of work, going into my senior year, I feel more prepared for any research opportunity,” she said. “The skills and knowledge I have gained will be a valuable asset for my future.” ■

BIMS Communication Certificate Speaks to Students in Medical Professions by Briley Lambert

As a future Latina physician, Arielle Rodriguez, a senior biomedical sciences (BIMS) major knows the value of a bilingual health professional. So, when Rodriguez learned about the BIMS program’s International Certificate in Cultural Competency and Spanish Communication, she decided to pursue the certification for a multitude of reasons, including Latina roots and past experiences. “I know the importance of speaking Spanish, especially in Texas, in order to treat my patients’ illnesses more efficiently, as well as give them the dignity they deserve,” Rodriguez said. “Oftentimes, patients who do not speak English well are overlooked or not well understood, and as someone who comes from a family of people like that, I understand how frustrating it can be for both parties,” she said. “Therefore, I made it a priority to better my Spanish fluency, my medical terminology, and overall communication skills with patients in order to make it a better experience all around.” The BIMS Spanish certification is designed with that in mind. By graduation, students enrolled in the certificate program will be capable of speaking fluent Spanish in a medical environment. Started in accordance with Texas A&M’s Quality Enhancement Plan, students who complete the BIMS Spanish certification will be functionally bilingual and FALL 2018 \\ BIMS MAGAZINE | 75

employ attained language skills in a culturally sensitive manner in both social and formal settings. Students enrolled in the program are required to pass six hours of beginner-level Spanish courses, three hours of upper-level Spanish courses, a medical Spanish course, and a three-hour “International and Cultural Diversity” course. They must also participate in a study abroad program in a Spanish-speaking country and complete 90 hours of shadowing in a medical setting where the primary language is Spanish. Rodriguez credits her spring break study abroad trip to Costa Rica as her most influential experience. “I was absolutely astounded by how much I learned from the culture, people, and at my Spanish growth while I was there,” Rodriguez said. After graduating from Texas A&M, Rodriguez plans to attend medical school, with the hopes of becoming an orthopedic or neurological physician. She values the skills and life-lessons she learned while completing the certification and believes it is an essential tool for students pursuing a career in the medical field. “The certificate is a great alternative to anyone who doesn’t want to pursue a Spanish minor but values Spanish as part of their education. It’s great for pre-medical students since it is tailored more toward proficiency in the medical field than a minor might be,” she said. “I would definitely recommend this certificate for anyone who understands the value of being bilingual in the medical field or is interested in learning. Plus, who doesn’t love having to go on a trip in a beautiful Spanish-speaking country?” ■

Capstone Project Combines Education with Service by Briley Lambert

As a freshman at Texas A&M, Callie Nance was searching for a way to expand her volunteer experience, enhance her leadership skills, and challenge her academic abilities. After applying for organizations that would fill this desire, Nance was selected to be a part of the University Honors Program, through which she began her journey with the Undergraduate Scholar Service Capstone. “I saw the service capstone as a great way to turn my creative ideas and passions for community service into 76 | BIMS MAGAZINE // FALL 2018

actual events,” said Nance, who is now an alumna of the Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) program. “I knew the capstone was a great fit for me because it would benefit the volunteer organization I was passionate about, and the extra academic challenge was exactly what I was looking for.” The Capstone project is a two-semester experience that combines community service and self-reflection to enable students to see how their values, education, and career goals coincide with real-world problems. At the beginning of the capstone, students must present a service project idea to the honors program faculty that benefits a population of people. After the presentation, they submit a detailed schedule of how they will spend their senior year completing the project. For Nance’s service capstone project, she partnered with Bryan’s Meals on Wheels program, which works to deliver hot and nutritious meals to senior citizens and adults with disabilities in our local communities. “I became involved with Meals on Wheels my freshman year and fell in love with the volunteers and the participants in the program,” Nance said. “As a volunteer, I would deliver meals to a set route of people once a week. Sometimes, I was the only person the participants would see in a day, so I loved to talk to them and ask how they were doing that week.” “I decided I wanted my project to benefit the appreciative participants I have grown to love by having a donation drive for personal hygiene products,” she said. “Many of the participants are homebound and cannot get these necessary items for themselves.” To add a personal touch and remind the Meals on Wheels participants that they are cared about, Nance used a Valentine’s Day theme and had donors make a handmade Valentine’s card to go along with the items. Because there were 400 area Meals on Wheels participants, Nance partnered with other A&M organizations and took to social media to ask for donations from the community. “It was moving to see how many people wanted to help people they didn't know. It doubled as a good public relations experience, as well, because I advertised for Meals on Wheels at the same time and many people told me they wanted to volunteer,” Nance said. “On Valentine’s day, the bags were delivered to the participants. Hopefully, they felt the love on the holiday of love.” As part of the service capstone project, students are asked to reflect on their process and update the program’s advisers on any changes that are made to their project. Students must also partner with a community leader who will aid and supervise them throughout the year. “Having a community leader there to guide you throughout the duration of your project is an invaluable resource because they have so much experience and knowledge to share,” Nance said. At the end of the program, students present their

progress to the program’s director. Nance presented her project through a blog she maintained throughout the year that showed her progress from beginning to end and shared what she learned about community service, and herself, along the way. Now in medical school at the University of North Texas, Nance leans on the knowledge and experience she gained through the service capstone as she furthers her education and career. “I plan on using the knowledge I learned through the capstone to continue volunteering with the organization that I was involved with during the program,” Nance said. “Throughout medical school, I will have to participate in even more volunteer activities, so I know the leadership skills I developed while planning my own community service event will ultimately prove beneficial.” ■





Communications, Media, & Public Relations Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University, 4461 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4461

Dr. Sarah Hamer, director of the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center, and her African Grey parrot, Togo.



BIMS: A Special Edition of CVM Today  

This edition of the semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Med...

BIMS: A Special Edition of CVM Today  

This edition of the semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Med...